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Study: urban treasure hunting gaining popularity in Alabama


Urban treasure hunting has taken Alabama by storm. This type of treasure hunting is not the type shown on television with a map where “X” marks the spot. Instead, the pastime is done with a metal detector, smartphone or other piece of modern technology.

The organization LawnStarter just released its study on 2023’s Best States for Urban Treasure Hunting. The findings have Alabama ranked third in the nation for the number of metal detector clubs in the state. Participants in these groups use metal detectors to scan areas for the presence of metal found in things like vintage coins or jewelry.

Richie Bernardo, a managing editor LawnStarter, said metal detecting can lead to some amazing finds.

“Every now and then someone very persistent, gets lucky and finds actual gold, some old coins or even bullets if they go to the site of an old battlefield,” he explained. “In New Mexico, for example, a kid found a two-pound meteorite. And one metal detecting club even found an entire Ford Model T from 1913.”.

Bernardo said Alabama has many places that allow metal detecting, but he stressed that the activity should only be done in areas where it is permitted.

“At the time that we collected the data, there were a whopping 728 sites that had been identified by our data source,” he said. “But I also want to stress that people should use metal detectors only in places where they're allowed to do so because there are strict laws that protect federal and historic lands and artifacts,” Bernardo continued. “So always, always, always seek permission from local authorities before you start swinging your metal detector anywhere.”

Because of the number of metal detecting clubs that Alabama has, the number of pawn shops is also quite high. LawnStarter ranks the Yellowhammer State eighth in the nation when it comes to the number of pawn shops. The study identified more than 375 in the state.

Bernardo said these types of shops are popular because they are for profit. “They won't accept just any item like a thrift store would,” he explained. Bernardo said when someone who has been metal detecting finds items that have significant value, a pawn shop could accept them, and the individual could walk away with a decent profit.

Metal detection is not the only means of treasure hunting in Alabama. The study from LawnStarter has the state ranked tenth in the nation for the number of storage unit auctions.

“At the time that we collected the data, Alabama was listing 116 storage unit auctions throughout the state,” said Bernardo. “So, this is for people who like to see what other people used to own. More often than not, it's junk that people didn't want to have in your house. But every now and then, you can find some real treasures in there.”

To view the entire 2023’s Best States for Urban Treasure Hunting study, visit

Andrea Tinker is a student intern at Alabama Public Radio. She is majoring in News Media with a minor in African American Studies at The University of Alabama. In her free time, Andrea loves to listen to all types of music, spending time with family, and reading about anything pop culture related.

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