Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sidewalk Treasures

  The more I do this, the more I am approached by friends and strangers who have their own treasure hunting stories, from mystery objects found beachcombing to accidental discoveries like the used car coin collection I posted last month. Yesterday, I ran into my good friend Ronald at the new Owl and Turtle Coffee Shop, and he pulled out a little tattered blue coin purse. He plopped it into my palm and I was immediately impressed by its unusual heaviness. "Years ago, I lived in New York City," he said in his thick Dutch accent. "One day I was walking down the street and I found this little change purse just sitting on the sidewalk beside a trash can." 
  Inside, I found about a dozen medium sized musket balls, two larger walnut sized grape shot or musket balls, and forty or so heavily worn pewter buttons that were obviously of military origin. Many of them bore numbers on their faces and I assumed from my own past finds that they were Civil War relics. However, after talking with my friend and co-worker, Mark Becker, who has a pretty expansive knowledge of that sort of thing, and doing a little research online, I have determined they are actually Revolutionary War artifacts. They are made of pewter, with rusty iron loops on the backs, and some were probably silver plated, with the numbers representing the regiments. 
  I cannot imagine what this little purse was doing on the sidewalks of NYC. Perhaps some desperate individual stole it thinking it was full of money and disposed of it just as quickly when he or she realized it was just filled with worthless lead balls and nasty broken buttons. Little did they know, they were actually tossing aside an incredible little collection of important relics dating back to America's war for independence. I would be excited to find any one of these buttons, never mind an entire sack of them. Once again, it proves that "treasure" can be found anywhere, at any time, as long as you keep your eyes open.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Time Bandits

  I have tried in vain this week to find some new sites, but my leads have all been dead ends--either no cellar hole where there should have been a cellar hole, or posted land, or bad directions leading me to a lonely and injured and starved end somewhere deep in the forests of Mid-Coast Maine. Ultimately, I ended up back where I started, on yet another hunt at the downtown Camden cellar hole that has been so productive this Spring. It was pouring like a "bahstud", like a cow pissing on a flat rock, as my grandfather used to say, but Matt and I wrapped up our machines and hit it.
  We weren't out very long, but the finds were decent. (To be fair and honest, some of these items were from a hunt earlier in the week, and I just haven't gotten around to cataloging.). Almost immediately, Matt found an amazing hand carved brass printing plate emblazoned with an image of a man walking through the countryside, and bearing a date of 1913. I have yet to get a picture of this, but I will post it as soon as I do. Then the coins, starting with what appears to be a 1900 Indian Head penny. I ended up with a total of five wheaties, three Indians, a buffalo, a 1913 silver Barber dime, and a 1943 silver Washington quarter. There was also a funny little tin token of some sort, probably from an old game, that seems to have been skewered by some nails--maybe somebody nailed it to the winner. 
  I also found an assortment of clock and watch pieces, one of which bears an inscription reading "Bar Harbor", which someone, probably the watch maker, had etched onto a plate inside of a pocket watch, where I don't imagine anyone but him would have seen it. There was an interesting two-piece object that I think was some sort of time travelling device, which has an inscription that reads, "...The Century 1903", and the smaller piece turns within the larger when they are interlocked, causing the bearer to travel through time. There is an array of buttons, one of which has information on the rear that I have not yet taken a magnifying glass to. Maybe some of you can make it out in the pic. There is a cute little flattened child's ring with an image of a cow jumping over the moon, and a suspender buckle that bears the inscription "Depose, La Merveille Use". And yes, it's "Use" and not "USA", regardless of what your lying eyes might tell you.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Silver and Gold, Silver and Gold

  It was a busy week, but all my brief evening hunts added up to a nice little lot of booty. It started out with a visit to my favorite Camden cellar hole, where I found a fine copper 19th Century thimble, followed by the discovery of a matching child's thimble. This made me as happy as finding anything of obvious monetary value. Reuniting a mother and daughter possibly, 150 or 200 years after their earthly fires were extinguished. 
  The decorative copper Victorian jewelry piece with the woman's profile tossed around in my pocket for days and I would look at it intermittently, able to distinguish only vague intertwining vines and maybe some flower petals. It wasn't until this morning, when I cleaned it with a toothbrush, that the profile of a beautiful woman's face appeared before my eyes. I never cease to be impressed and amazed by that precious Victorian jewelry.
  Then the silver popped out into my palm! Hallelujah! Only my second piece of the year, and a gorgeous rare 1855 seated Liberty dime, a coin worth as much as 1000$ in very good condition. And this could only be topped by my first gold of the year! And honestly the first solid gold ring I have ever found. A big solid 10 karat gold vintage Elks Club ring inset with a purplish cut gem that I can only assume is an amethyst. I'll have to show it to Mr. Tim Whittier and get his opinion. I have to confess that the emotional surge I felt as I cleared the dirt away from that shining yellow metal was comparable to any I have experienced during those peak moments in I my life that are supposed to rank at the pinnacle of ecstatic joy. Exciting, indeed.
  Also, came up with a really battered, maybe beer battered, wheat penny and a fine clunky musket ball. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014


  I have started to work my way around the Camden cellar hole and the western yard has started to produce some coins. First, an 1888 Indian Head Penny. Then, a fine 1807 large cent! The first large copper of the year, and the second came just moments later and a few feet away. I can't make out a readable date on this one, but judging by the design on the rear, it probably dates from the mid 1800's.  The large "Success" button turned out to be a knob from an early nineteenth century oil lamp, made by the P.L. & B. company. I then found a nice large musket ball, also a first of the year, I think. A couple of little rusty steel buttons, some cool Victorian jewelry, one of which had a bright red "stone" that faded somewhat during cleaning, a great large brass button with a checkerboard pattern, and a tiny little belt buckle, probably from a Leprechaun. I find a lot of Leprechaun buckles.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hunting With Matt Pollis

  Well, my friend and fellow dirt fisherman, Matthew Pollis seems to be well on his way to out-hunting me this year. His dedication and perseverance is truly impressive, and his finds are proof of the fact. We both work a great deal and finding time to get out there can be a challenge. At times we are limited to basically hunting in the rain or after dark, and sometimes in the rainy darkness. But that's ok. We got out in the rain last weekend and had a good hunt around an old cellar hole near Hosmer Pond, which is where most of the stuff I have pictured here came from. And the other night we started hitting a cellar hole in a downtown Camden field, which is as much an unlikely anomaly as it is a metal detecting paradise. Thanks to our mutual friend Donny, we have permission to do so and have been hitting it when we get the chance. This is the place where I found the amazing Maine militia button featured in the last post, and also the place that produced the fine buttons featured in the last two pics of this post, both found by Matt. There definitely seems to have been something of the military order taking place there during the Civil War, judging by the buttons. Matt has also found a few interesting pins or medals, which I do not yet have photos of, that bear clearly Masonic symbolism, which makes me suspect that there was some sort of Lodge there, too. I will try to get him to send me some so I can share them.
  Some of my favorite finds in this lot are the Victorian jewelry, the pocket watch compass, and. the 1800's copper compact with the mirror still unbroken. I also included the worst selfie ever, which I had to take as proof for someone that I had actually found that button and not just plucked the pic from the web. Haha.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


  Strangers often approach me while I am hunting and one common question seems to outnumber all the others: "What are you looking for?"  I have a few pat answers, such as, "Old coins," or "Coins and relics from the 1700's and 1800's." I go on to explain a bit more in detail what I do, sometimes sharing pics on my phone or handing out my metal detecting business card.  The truth is, I don't know what I'm looking for. I'm looking for whatever is there, whatever is hiding just beneath surface, whatever it is that gives me that connection with the past, that makes my breath quicken and my heart start to pound in my chest.  I'm looking for treasure! And yesterday, just as the sun dropped below the trees, and the Spring dusk turned to night darkness, an object appeared in the filthy palm of my hand. I peered through the shadows and rolled it around on my grubby sausage tips. Definitely a button, but what kind I could not tell, until I got into my friend Donny and Kathleen's house (who are awesome enough to allow me to detect the field behind them) and washed it off. Look at the detail, the stars, the pine tree in the center with the recumbent beast beneath it.  Circa 1860 John F. Boylan Maine State Militia Civil War Button!  Now, that's what I'm looking for.  That's treasure.  That is the Metal Underground.