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Suppose I have had a gold coin picked out of my pocket (possibly among other things). Can I cast Locate Object to find that specific gold coin in order to track down the thief? That is, can the spell distinguish between this specific coin and any other similar or identical gold coins that might be closer to my current location?

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This is answered in the spell's description:

The spell can locate a specific object known to you, as long as you have seen it up close within 30 feet at least once, Alternatively, the spell can locate the nearest object of a particular kind, such as a certain kind of apparel, jewellery, furniture, tool, or weapon.

It doesn't require an intimate knowledge of the object - studying its every groove, every line, in detail - it just requires you to have seen it up close, within 30 feet at least once.

Therefore if you're looking for a gold coin that belongs to you, that you've seen up close within 30 feet at least once, in a pile of gold coins that don't belong to you and that you've never seen before then yes, the spell can locate that specific coin.

If you were just looking for any old gold coin then the spell would only locate the nearest one.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 'Up close' and 'within 30 feet' seem to contradict each other when considering the gold coin example. A lot of people would be hard pressed to even see a single gold coin from 30 feet away - are adventurers assumed to all have perfect vision? Or is it a combination of 'up close AND within 30 feet'? \$\endgroup\$ – Callum Bradbury Jun 26 '18 at 12:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Within 30 feet is the definition of "up close" given in the spell's text. In any case, the precise distance is irrelevant to this question. My coin purse and all the coins in it have certainly been closer than 30 feet to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Jun 26 '18 at 14:53
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Yes

From the description of the locate object spell:

The spell can locate a specific object known to you, as long as you have seen it up close - within 30 feet - at least once. Alternatively, the spell can locate the nearest object of a particular kind, such as a certain kind of apparel, jewelry, furniture, tool, or weapon.

The specific coin is known to you, you have seen it up close - it fits the requirement, you can use the spell this way.

Side note:

This spell can't locate an object if any thickness of lead, even a thin sheet, blocks a direct path between you and the object.

So the thief can prevent it somehow.

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Yes

From the spell:

Describe or name an object that is familiar to you. You sense the direction to the object's location, as long as that object is within 1,000 feet of you. If the object is in motion, you know the direction of its movement.

The spell can locate a specific object known to you, as long as you have seen it up close-within 30 feet-at least once, Alternatively, the spell can locate the nearest object of a particular kind, such as a certain kind of apparel, jewelry, furniture, tool, or weapon.

You can locate a specific object as long as you have seen it up close. Assuming you look at your change, you could locate the specific coin up to 1000 feet.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess my doubt comes from the part that says "describe or name an object that is familiar to you". Does this impose any sort of requirement that I must be able to describe the item in question specifically enough to rule out any similar object? \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Jun 25 '18 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson The spell doesn't say what level of detail is required, so mechanically there isn't any requirement. What your DM requires is obviously up to him, but from a RAW perspective something like "That gold coin I had a moment ago" is fine, although even that is just roleplaying. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Jun 25 '18 at 23:27
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I know I'm getting late to the party, since it has already an accepted answer, but I'd like to point that the answer is

No

At least, not in the example you are giving.

The spell can locate a specific object known to you, as long as you have seen it up close within 30 feet at least once, Alternatively, the spell can locate the nearest object of a particular kind, such as a certain kind of apparel, jewellery, furniture, tool, or weapon.

The wording of the spell makes clear that you must be able to tell this object from similar ones. If I take a coin from your purse and show you this coin alongside another nine coins like that, can you recognize what's yours?

The spell is meant to locate personal belongings you're familiar with, like bags or purses, clothes, jewelry or weapons. Nobody is familiar with coins, except in the sense "this is a roman coin".

Unless the coin was rather unique - special mint, permanent stains or marks, etc - the spell will work as the second part of the description: it will show you the nearest coin of the same type you are looking for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Second part of your question implies even if coin in question had unique trait and was seen by the caster within 30 feet, spell would search for nearest coin with similiar marking and thats just plain wrong reading. Spells do only what they say they do, caster is looking for a specific coin he has seen within 30 feet of him. \$\endgroup\$ – AntiDrondert Jun 26 '18 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AntiDrondert That doesn't makes sense. If the spell searches for the nearest coin with a unique mark, then it will find the only coin which has this unique mark. By definition of unique. \$\endgroup\$ – Rekesoft Jun 26 '18 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unless the coin was rather unique...it will show you the nearest coin of the same type you are looking for, these are your words, not mine. There is no such quality as rather unique anyway, it is either unique or not. \$\endgroup\$ – AntiDrondert Jun 26 '18 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think what @Rekesoft is saying is that when you cast the spell to locate a specific object, it is impossible to know whether the object is truly unique. Suppose I had a piece of jewelry stolen, which I believed to be unique. But it turns out it is a mass-produced piece, with many identical copies floating around town. Does this prevent the spell from finding my specific piece of jewelry? \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Jun 26 '18 at 14:58

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