I recall, back in the 70's when we could find at least $20.00 a week, face value in change 'easily' just counting our silver! By the late 80's we felt that we were doing good to find a piece of silver each time we went out! What a difference! Today I talk to folks who have owned their detectors for two or three years and they are frustrated because that have yet to find any older coins.
This week I got a call from a young man from Detroit who was staying in South Haven for the weekend. His sister's family, from Chicago, were meeting up with him and bringing along his niece and nephew. He thought it would be fun to rent a metal detector for the weekend to play with.
I had sold most of my rental detectors last fall and it was time to replace them. I rented him a new Tesoro, Silver Saber. When he picked it up, I went over the best ways for him to run it. I picked this machine out because it is very light weight, has respectable depth, and it is almost too easy to run.
OK, in the back of my mind I am thinking "The South Haven side of Michigan is a far better place to spend a sunny weekend at the beach, but the Detroit side would be better for treasure hunting!" Let's face it, there seem to be more treasure hunters per- capita in South Haven than in Detroit. And the Detroit area was settled about 150 or more years before South Haven.
When he brought the detector back, I asked him how everything went. He told me that the kids didn't have the patience for it after digging several bottle caps and pull tabs. He kept encouraging them by suggesting that the next item could be a gold ring. When he gave me a run down of what they found, he listed the coins by date and there were actually some silver coins!
"Did you find these on the beach? I asked."
"No, we found most of the coins in the yard at the cottage where we stayed."
You have heard it before! The best places to hunt are the places that require permission. If you are a little shy about asking permission and feel that you must hunt in public places, like parks, at least hunt the unhunted spots. Most people look at the grounds and try to envision where the coins are hidden. They seem to be drawn to the comfortable areas by nature. It happens over and over again and as a result hunters are playing follow the leader without knowing it!
Look for the not so comfortable spots! One hundred years ago things could have been different! Those unkept areas with the brush and weeds are likely undetected. And what about that area full of trash? It caused you to wander off, just like it did everyone else! Go back! Be prepared to work, but don't overwhelm yourself! Pick out ten square feet, or less, and just do the best that you can right there. Forget about the rest of the park for today.
Here is the plan, but first you must pledge to remember to follow the Treasure Hunters Code of Ethics. Come prepared to dig the trash. Think to yourself, "Today, I am going trash collecting!" Also commit to removing every tiny piece of junk that you dig. Besides removing all the trash, remember to cover every signal hole. What you are looking for are the good targets that are just below the trash. The-tip-found-within-a-tip is this. Dig the junk out as neatly as possible, get it all, disturbing as little as possible.
If the park is old, the trash has been driving everyone else away! That's right the trash has been guarding the treasure! The only way to get the gold out of Fort Knox is to get past the guards. I've got a plan for that which we will cover in another issue.
I did this trash clearing plan myself in a very trashy section of a very popular old park in Kalamazoo. This old park has given up some very old coins from the not so trashy areas. These not-so-trashy areas were that way because they were not so busy. Do you get it yet? The trashy areas are the busy areas where people discarded more junk and lost more goodies!
The amount of non-coin items that I found, items that would have been discriminated out which were actually keepers, was pretty impressive! I remember that I got a small aluminum trade token, a couple nice Cracker Jack toys, some old kids jewelry items, a very old 1930 or 40's Chevrolet key --- some real keepers!
Here is another idea. I received an e-mail from a new treasure hunter who asked me about the value of a 1943-S dime that he found. I told him that a coin value guide would help him, then I tried to explain the different things that determine a coin's value.
My interest in finding old coins dates back before I saw my first metal detector in Fort Myers, Florida, in 1967. I think my interest in finding lost coins started when I was in Jr, High School. You have to blame my mother for this one! Every year my grandparents would spend the winter in Fort Myers. Before they would return in the spring, my mother would work her heart out getting their home ready for them.
Dad would get the water turned on and the furnace going, as well as clean the dead squirrel out of the toilet. The squirrels loved to slide down the sewer vent pipe and into the toilet. Until Grandpa finally put a screen over the vent, you could count on a dead walnut planter each spring. The water in the toilet was replaced with alcohol antifreeze so the rodent was well preserved. For years and years this never happened when anyone was at home, until one year when our whole family was visiting Grandma and Grandpa.
The squirrel timed his entry for maximum possible effect. My grandma was in the bathroom and positioned in just the right place when just below her appeared a very wet and terrified squirrel! The bathroom door was in view from the living room where we were all watching TV. Suddenly a blood curdling scream captured all of our attention! If the bathroom door had not opened in a flash, Grandma would have gone right through it! Grandpa snagged the critter in a bath towel without getting bitten and returned him to the outdoors.
As I said, Mom would do all the yard work before they got home and she would slave away at putting in a huge garden. That garden supplied more than enough fresh vegetables for our whole family.
When I was in elementary school, in Plainwell, Mom would load my wagon with tomatoes, cukes, peppers, summer squash and you-name-it, and I would sell it all around town. I used to sell a ton of vegetables! When I worked several blocks from home, Mom would drop me off on one end of the block, then drive the family station wagon, full of vegetables, to the other end of the block and wait for me there.
On one occasion she waited and waited but I didn't show up. Finally she took the car and back- tracked until she found my red wagon parked in front of one of the houses. A couple of dear old ladies lived there, and thinking back on it now, this was in the 50's, and they must have been nearly 90 years old at the time. They may have been little girls during the Civil War! Am I that old? Anyway, they purchased some of my produce then asked me if I had supper yet. Well, I was visiting and having supper with them when mom knocked on the door.
I'll have to ask mom if she panicked. I don't think society was so worrisome back then. I know that when we would leave home, nobody thought to lock the house door.
One spring when Mom was putting in the garden, she was walking behind the roto-tiller when she spotted a single, dirty-brown penny fly up with all of the tilled soil! Amazing! And it wasn't just any penny, it was an Indian Head Cent dated 1865! My first thought was that this must be a valuable coin because 1865 was a very important year in our American history. Our beloved President, Abraham Lincoln, was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Also, tens of thousands of slaves gained their freedom as the bloodiest war in American History came to a close.
None of these milestones added one bit to the value of the coin. In fact, this was one of those post-war coins where they minted millions!
Can you read between the lines here? Borrow or buy a cultivator and put a $10.00 ad in the Shoppers Guide announcing your roto-tilling service! Add to your service, "Free metal removal!" The lawn service that takes care of the Burger King next to my shop mows the lawn, trims the trees, and the restaurant owners think they are the very best lawn service because when these idiots are done mowing and trimming, they strap on some kind of jet backpacks, then blow dirt off the driveway onto the neighbors' business and everyone's car! All the while they do this with a brain dead smile! So, your free metal removal service is a better bonus than that! You are making your customer's garden bare-foot friendly by removing nails and other jagged metal!
I could tell you garden treasure stories galore! A quick one is about an old building near the Gun River that I knew they were going to tear down. I grabbed two detectors and took my youngest son over to the property. He started out OK, but after about an hour he started to get impatient with me and was fussing to go. By that time, I was on the garden side of the house and I was getting tired, too. That was when I pinpointed a real big target.
It was hot and the mosquitos were really getting the best of me. Since I only had a small digger, I decided that I would come back with a real shovel and dig it out on another day. It was almost two weeks before I could finally return. I carried my detector and a spade to the location of that big signal and it was gone! The treasure hunter, or family member, didn't fill in their hole and what I saw left me dizzy! There was a big pile of dirt and a hole that looked as if a large, square wooden or metal box had been removed! Yep, I will always wonder! Whatever it was, it was too good to leave any and there was no time to cover the hole.
If you see older homes for sale where the lawns are about to go to seed, the local real estate agent will be happy to let you mow it, trim it, and detect it. I worked with an agent in Plainwell and he called me to do several yards. It got to one point where I had to stop him! I made a bunch of great finds!
I hope this gives you a few ideas and I am sure there are some that you can share, right?