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.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Prehistoric Moose Monster

  My good friend and bartender Jimmy, aka, James Edward, has lately been doing some beachcombing in Lincolnville, while his gigantic Mastiff, Wally, digs fresh clams and chases seagulls up and down the shore. The other day he came into work with this mysterious large white object he found in the sand. "It's some kind of giant tooth," he said. "And I'd hate to see the inside of the mouth it came out of." Indeed, it looked like a tooth and was frighteningly enormous. I suspected it was ossified, as it was extremely heavy, but Tim Whittier, who is generally right about anything having to do with minerals, gems and fossils, said it was not fossilized at all.
  "It's a moose tooth," he said. I looked at the object in Jimmy's hand and shook my head in awe. Somewhere in Maine there's a big old moose walking around with a gap toothed smile, I guess.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Civil or Civvy?

  As has been the case for years, the thawing of the ground arrives with the busy Spring season and there is hardly time for anything other than running from job to job in a desperate attempt to keep everyone happy. The only chance I seem to get to go hunting is when it's raining or dark. Anyway, my friend Matt Pollis came by on his birthday with his new T2 SE LTD. It was late in the afternoon, but I stopped working and went down to the park with him for a few minutes. I loved the sound of two T2's barking out into the dusk, as if they were communicating with each other like robots. There wasn't much time and I only dug a few signals, but the last one turned out to be a fine gold plated copper Civil War era button with an eagle clutching an anchor. It might be a Civvy button, as the detail and the workmanship is of a little lower quality than other Civil War buttons I have seen and found, but a great find nonetheless.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Icons and Symbols

    The ground is starting to thaw. Still frozen in most places, there are spots in the sun where I can dig down twelve inches without hitting ice. A few visits to these soft spots in a local park have yielded up a couple of nice finds: a pre-war nickel, the second Buffalo of the year, a funky jeweled star that looks like a cheap carnival  prize, a beautiful silver Catholic amulet marked "Hayward Sterling 1830", and my favorite, an amazing piece of Victorian jewelry in the form of a lion headed copper ring. The gold plating is still visible in the grooves, a diamond in the mouth, and one ruby eye. This immediately became one of my favorite finds ever. 
  Also, my buddy Matt Pollis came up with a really interesting brass plaque labeled "Milling Cylinder 1908". We both did a little online research and couldn't figure out what it was from, ultimately assuming it was personally engraved by someone, probably for their lobster boat.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Primitive Sewing Tool?

  I have had this bone for a few years, and I wasn't sure why I even kept it. I can't even remember where I found it. I want to say North Haven, which would make sense, but I have a hard time believing that a bone would hold up underground for 1000 to 2000 years and still be in such good shape. Anyway, like I said, I had this thing kicking around from bookshelf to bookshelf for awhile, and didn't really give it a serious second glance. Something about it stood out enough to prevent my getting rid of it, though. Yesterday, Ginny and Dave were over and Ginny picks up the bone and says, "Nice sewing bone."
  "What did you say?" I asked.
  "Sewing bone," she said. "I think this is a Native American tool used for repairing nets and whatnot. See the groove carved around the end? That's not natural."
  I stared dumbfounded. She was absolutely right. I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed before. I got online and compared it to pics of primitive tools, and sure enough, it matches up. Obviously, I can't be certain of its origin without some outside expertise, but meanwhile, I know it's more than just a bone.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hi-Tech Metal Detecting Supercomputers

  I picked up this here mean machine a few weeks ago for a couple of bucks at a yard sale and I finally got a chance to clean it up and fire it up. I love it. This is a perfect example of what people were hunting with forty or fifty years ago. Note the ground balancing knob, which is a far cry from the automatic ground balancing of today's remarkably advanced devices. I'm pretty sure the old Search Master was the predecessor to the modern Bounty Hunter brand metal detector. Anyway, I just love the look of this vintage beauty, and I think I see a tattoo in that Texas logo.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Castine Beachcombing

  So, on Sunday I had this great idea to drive up to Castine and walk the beach at low tide in search of doll parts. Yes, doll parts. For those of you who haven't heard of this before, it seems a ship, or ships, went down in Penobscot Bay freighted with porcelain dolls in the 1800's. If one looks carefully enough, little body parts can be found among the as glass, and worn down by the ocean like sea glass. Some of them can be really beautiful and the whole experience of picking up these tiny feet and hands off the beach is just so weird and hilarious and paranormal. 
  I had found some nice pieces on the Castine beach a few years ago, it was a rainy Sunday and I didn't have any work, and low tide was conveniently toward the end of the day, so I hopped in my truck and headed up north. The rain was coming down in intermittent showers and the temps were hovering right around 32, with wind gusts as high as 45 mph. Needless to say, conditions were not ideal, but I had a rain suit behind my seat and I figured I could tough it out. However, it really started to pour as I pulled into my parking spot beside the beach. On top of that, I started to cough. What was this? Why was I coughing? I sneezed repeatedly and my sinuses clammed up like I had just snorted a line of concrete dust. Is this a joke, I thought. Am I suddenly sick? Indeed, though I had felt perfectly fine all morning, I had somehow come down with the flu the moment I parked my truck. I looked at the rain through my windshield and groaned. There was no way I was going to turn around and drive all the way back home. I had driven over two hours and I was going to hunt that beach if it killed me. And hunt it I did, for about three hours. On top of my deteriorating health, I discovered to my dismay that I did not have my rain suit after all, and so I got brutally and rapidly soaked to the skin. 
  The beachcombing was good--the Castine beach can be a treasure trove of old pottery, sea glass, pipe stems, and of course, doll parts-- but I got the distinct impression that it seemed more hunted out than in past visits. There just seemed to be less stuff. That being said, I did find some nice pieces of pottery and china, a few doll parts (notably the ear), a chunk of old brick engraved with the letter 'D', and another pocket watch interior, or skeleton, as I like to call them. I have found a few of these round pocket watch pieces and plan on doing something interesting with them someday.
  By five o'clock the tide was at its lowest, but it was raining so hard and I was shivering so badly that I had to retreat with my pocketful of rubbish. I was a little disappointed on the way back to Camden, but once I got back and spread everything out, I realized it wasn't too bad of a trip. At least I found an ear. Like a scene out of "Blue Velvet", I held it up before me and shivered...