The legal situation: What you need to know

In Germany, you do not need a license, search or investigation permit (NFG) from the state offices for the preservation of historical monuments to search for non-terrestrial or cultural monuments with a metal detector. The basic search with a metal detector is allowed throughout Germany (except in Schleswig-Holstein). Primarily, the owner's permission is sufficient to search for "non-soil or cultural monuments", such as modern jewelry or coins.

Some examples:

If you get a search request because someone lost their cell phone or a key, the target of the search is the cell phone or key - you don't need permission.

If you search for lost Euros in a sandbox at a playground, you don't need a permit for that.


"Investigations, especially excavations or the use of technical search devices (metal detecting devices) with the aim of discovering monuments, especially ground monuments, require the permission of the (highest) monument protection authority."

By ground and cultural monuments are meant, for example: castles, Celtic and Roman sites, burial mounds and other archaeologically significant sites.

Digging for cultural monuments or soil monuments on arable land, meadows, pasture, forest or other types of soil is subject to permission and is only allowed with a search permit. Searching for ground monuments without a search permit is forbidden and will be prosecuted in case of non-observance! It is not allowed to search for archaeological monuments in fields, meadows, pastures and forests without an excavation permit.

Searching and digging in nature reserves is generally prohibited. Also avoid seeded fields, plantings, and preserves.

Digging is tolerated at most public beaches, playgrounds, public sandy areas, public trails, parks, fairgrounds, lawns in and around swimming lakes, and in and around the ocean if you have permission from the owner.

Searching and digging on suspected areas where ordnance and munitions may be or are known to be present is prohibited (See also: Weapons Law and War Weapons Control Act).

Magnetic fishing of objects from bodies of water that fall under the Monument Protection Act also requires a permit in some states.

Make find documentation of possible archaeologically interesting finds - otherwise finds without exact location information lose their scientific value! Notes about your finds - where, when, the circumstances of the find, pictures etc. are very important! It is also very important to determine the location of your finds with GPS or a GPS-enabled smartphone.

Report all finds of historical interest to their museum. You are obligated to report all cultural-historical and archaeological ground finds to the responsible monument office. Treasure finds must be reported immediately to the historic preservation office.

Turn in all non-monument finds worth more than 10 euros per object to the responsible authority (municipality/police). If no owner comes forward, you will become the owner of the finds after six months, or you will receive the legally guaranteed finder's reward.

Always dig carefully and with caution. If you find ammunition / explosive ordnance during your search, leave it at the site where it was found:

Leave these absolutely at the place of discovery, without touching them further.

Keep your hands off objects that appear unknown or suspicious to you.

Never take found ammunition and weapons home!

Mark the place where they were found.

Call the police or the explosive ordnance disposal service (KMRD).

Anyone who takes possession of explosive ordnance without permission may be liable to prosecution.

If you come across human bones during your search, call the police!

Only allow children to search and dig up finds when accompanied by an adult with a metal detector.

Always close up dug holes to avoid accidents and trouble.

Collect the found garbage and throw it into a garbage can (active environmental protection through debris removal).

Protect yourself from health risks. In Germany, for example, there is a high risk of tick bites (Lyme borelliosis and TBE infections).

*In Schleswig-Holstein there is a general metal detector ban.

**Bavaria has no investigation permits.

Monument protection law and search permission

Each federal state has its own monument protection law. An overview of the existing monument protection laws in each state can be found on the pages: Protection

Look under the respective paragraph for "investigations" who is responsible for the so-called investigation permits. You write an application to this office by mail or e-mail.

How to deal with an archaeological find: The training program

Archaeological finds lose the important part of their significance about the history, if you are torn from their context, the ground. In addition, they are usually fragile and must be handled properly without delay, otherwise they are in danger of disintegrating. So, a prospector needs to know that he has discovered an archaeological find, how to handle it, who to report the find to, and much more. A probeist should first learn about archaeological monument preservation before he starts searching with his metal detector. Therefore, in some states there is a very helpful training program. Participation in these programs also determines the eligibility for a probe hunter permit. In Lower Saxony, for example, there is a training program in which participants follow a two-day theory course on the use of metal detectors to search for ground monuments. After an introduction to the concerns of archaeological monument preservation, legal basics and dangers of explosive ordnance in the ground, the cooperation of specialist archaeology and probe users is also discussed. Other topics include the handling of analog and digital maps, surveying, packaging and inventorying finds, and reporting finds. In addition, search strategies will be discussed and identification exercises will be offered. After participation in the theory course, a one-day practical course based on this is planned. The course ends with a certificate of attendance, which can be used to apply for a search permit.

A Historic Preservation Investigation Permit is an official written document. It contains essential components:

The exact designation of the search area

A map showing the search area

A time limit until which the permit is valid

The obligation to carry the permit with you when you go prospecting

Who keeps the finds?

Whoever finds things whose owner can no longer be determined may keep them. However, only half of it, because the other half belongs to the landowner. This is regulated in article 984 of the BGB. However, finds of great outstanding scientific importance can be retained by the state in individual cases. This is where the so-called treasure law comes into play. The finder should then receive a reward if he has acted in accordance with the legal requirements. The treasure shelf regulation is actually not often applied.

Link to the treasure shelf regulation:

The German Union of Explorer (DSU)

As a protective association of probe hunters, there is the Deutsche Sondengänger Union (DSU):

As of 03/2020. We have compiled this information after intensive research. However, laws and regulations can change at any time. Therefore, in case of doubt, please inform yourself at the local authorities or at the links provided.