Thursday, June 23, 2016

Quixotic Changes

  So, I probably shouldn't tell anyone this, but stumbled on a humorous and odd little method of finding rare, foreign, spare, and basically free source of change. This is the change pocket on the lower face of those large change counting machines that are located in most modern grocery stores. You know the ones, those big green things that we use now to take the place of what once involved all of us poor kids siting around the kitchen table counting out pennies and pushing them into paper coin tubes with pencil erasers so we could afford to buy groceries and eat food. Well, the first incident involved me dumping a jar of loose change into one of these machines and looking down to find that someone else had left a great deal of coins in the change return pocket, and when I say a great deal of coins I mean like over ten dollars in change, one of which was a silver dime from 1947, a 1919 wheat penny and a handful of quarters from Bermuda. I just thought it was funny and I took it to the front desk, where I was told that this happens often and to go ahead and keep it. 
  I then ran into my friend Rueben, who I laughingly and a bit reluctantly told about my find, and who then excitedly informed me that he often searched the change pocket himself and that a few weeks earlier had retrieved a large handful of silver dollars dating back to the 1800's. Dear god, I thought, the machine rejects basically everything I spend hours digging in the dirt for. Since then, I make sure to casually wander by the change machine every time I shop, peeking discreetly into or running my fingers through the change rejection pocket, and usually coming up with something. Often, it's just a Canadian dime or a few beat up pennies but sometimes it is more and on occasion, it's a jackpot. Yesterday, there was just one coin, but one I had never seen, a gold colored 10 Euro cent piece with a great picture of the amazing Cervantes, author of "Don Quixote", one of the greatest and most timeless  pieces of literature ever written. I have been keeping track, and in the last month or so I have pulled over twenty dollars out of that one machine and the numbers continue to grow. No handful of 19th Century silver dollars yet, but it's gonna happen. I can feel it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Luke's Uncas

  I have been working with my good friend Luke Cote again after a hiatus of five of or six years and we were together all week on a rehabilitation project for a marble statue of the Virgin Mary in an Augusta Catholic cemetery. A few days ago I gave him a quick lesson in metal detecting and let him go around the statue for a few minutes. In classic beginner's luck fashion, he turned up a ring on his second or third dig. It was played with gold and not solid, but it was still a ring and he was as excited to dig it up as I was to watch him dig it. Inside the band was a number 8 and a U with an arrow through it. A little googling explained to me that this symbol represents the Uncas Manufacturing Corporation, which has been making jewelry, both high and low end, since the early 1900's to the present. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Around the World on a Single Beach

  I hit this tiny little beach in a small rocky cove after work. The tide was coming in fast and I knew I didn't have much time left, but I gave it a shot nonetheless. The first beep and resulting dig revealed a remarkably well preserved 1899 British farthing, also known as the Old Head, dyed during minting to distinguish itself from similar sized coins and featuring the regal profile of Queen Victoria. I have found many coins on beaches and a few fairly old coins, and rarely does a copper over thirty years old come out of the sand with anything other than a severely corroded and often smooth face. I scratched my head and kept swinging.
  The next three digs turned up a 1965 1 Franc, a 1971 Mexican centavo, and a 1917 Canadian large cent. I was doubled over with laughter at that point. I looked around. A few fancy coastal summer homes, a lonely lighthouse on a small island, an expanse of rocky shoreline. Surely it wasn't centuries old highway for international travelers. No. It was obvious to me that what I was finding was one of a few things: some poor sucker's coin collection was either tossed over board or out to sea by his or her angry spouse or foolish child, a robbery had resulted in the thief abandoning the evidence by defenestrating the coin collection as he raced around the corner in the getaway car, or someone I know was playing tricks on me my flinging rare and random coins out onto the nearest beach to my job site. 
  Anyway, I kept at it and added to the list two two-pence pieces from 2000, an unidentifiable Chinese copper, and the last coin I dug, which appears to be, if mine eyes do not deceive me... a 1760 Mexican Reale. And this is all at high tide. I can't wait to see what low tide holds for me this coming week.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What You Don't See

  I was looking at the piles of metal all over my desk and my countertops and my table, and I decided I needed to photograph the stuff and put it away. I usually end up taking pics of my few favorite items and so all the rest of the weird non-trash items and pocket change end up going into jars and boxes and never gets seen. I think you should see it. At least some of it, and this isn't even all of it, but some of it is really beautiful. The brass E was found on the shore, along with other letters and numbers, and probably came off an old boat. There's a magazine with the bullets still inside and a dog taking a dump. I use those old shotgun shell heads to date a potential hunting site, and many of those in the photo date back to the 1800's. The brass belt buckle is colonial era, and the thimble isn't far off. What else? Musket balls, some Civil War insignia on lead, old spoons, knives, jewelry, an antique ASPCA tag from Manhatten, buttons, etc... I'm happy to answer any questions.

Friday, May 22, 2015

First Large Copper of the Year

  I started the day with a brutal hunt around a very old and beautiful cellar hole in Jefferson with Richard's son, Rowan. We got off work early after finishing our long and arduous pillar project (see Penobscot Stone blog soon for pics) and decided to take advantage of the fine weather by checking out this old foundation on a dirt road outside of town. It was hot, there was no breeze, and the black flies descended on us in painful, undulating clouds. We bathed in bug spray and tried to Zen our way through the torture, but it was just to much. It was cruel and it was unusual, and we lasted about thirty minutes before throwing in the towel. Absolutely nothing was turned up at the site, but I attribute that more to the brevity and confusion of our hunt, than the value and potential of the site. When you look at the photo of this place, you will understand.
  I dropped Rowan back at the Ware Farm and made my way toward Union, where I was supposed to meet my friend and fellow detector enthusiast, Matt Pollis, for an attempt at finding a lost wedding ring on the Haws Farm, particularly one belonging to Mr. Matt Haws, which was lost last year. However, something came up on the way and I had to zip on down to Camden, so I called Matt and wished him good luck on his own, which he had, as I received a text pic of both Matts displaying the newly rediscovered matrimonial jewelry. Good job, Matt Pollis. "I used my powers for good today," he texted me. 
  I still had an hour or so of daylight after dealing with my "emergency", so I stopped just down the road from my cabin, headed for a cellar hole I hunt frequently and mention often--the one where the old woman Sadie burned up alive inside of her home many years ago because she refused to leave during the fire. Many older locals remember the incident well and I always ask for her permission and blessing before I respectfully do any digging on her property. Anyway, there is an old carriage road that leads to her property and I always marvel at the width, breadth, and perfect straightness of it, lined on either side with crumbling stone walls, and cannot help but to feel as if I am walking back in time, surrounded by forest, no homes or automobiles, nothing really modern visible at all, and just the faint roar of water rushing over the old dam-ruins below me in the river. It could be any year at all. 1951. 1851. Timelessness. I wonder if they thought about such things 150 years ago. Had the red hand of modernity made enough of an impression yet to make them long for the simplicity of the past? Or were they looking toward the future as they walked that road, or rode it on horseback, imagining a time of greater comfort and ease, envisioning incomprehensible modes of transportation that would carry them across town in minutes? Are we looking toward each other on that broad flat highway through the woods, one backward and the other forward, almost meeting? Maybe. Maybe it was even me. Maybe I was out there on that road 150 years ago, thinking about the Future Me, who walks in those same footsteps, thinking about Past Me. And maybe I dropped a coin...
  As many times as I have walked that dirt road, with detector in hand, I had never hunted it. It occurred to me that I should, and so I did. And behold, from a depth of about seven inches, appeared a beautiful, bright green as if painted green, 1851 large cent in wonderful condition. First large copper of the year. Not ten feet away I found an 1890 V nickel, in very rough shape, but a V nickel nonetheless. Funny thing about that one was its proximity to the surface--I literally brushed the surface soil away with my prehensile toe and there it was. Just lying in the dirt. I looked down the long straight carriage road ahead. Must be at least a mile more of unhunted road here, I thought, and the Me's in all of the times everywhere smiled with anticipation. The sun was going down, so I headed for home, but before I did, I took a quarter from my pocket and tossed it back behind me on the road, for the next Future Me, if he makes it...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Them Thar Gold Butterns

  Found this little beauty back at that great Camden site where I found that Maine Militia Civil War button last year. This one is worn and flat on the face, but the rear is remarkably bright with gold and the loop is still intact. It actually predates the Civil War, as Leavenworth and Kendrick were making buttons--and clocks--in Waterbury, Connecticut--where both my father and brother were born--sometime between 1820 and 1845. There were some other nice finds, but I have been working twelve hour days in Cape Elizabeth, driving back and forth two hours each way, or staying in bad motels with no internet, so I haven't had time to even clean them, never mind post pics. But tonight I'm in Old Orchard Beach, and I'm pretty sure it's not safe to go outside, so I could at least post this before I fall exhausted and sunburned into bed with my tattered copy of Roberto Bolano's 2666 I've decided to re-read the "Archimboldi" chapter. If you don't know what I'm talking about, figure it out, or ask me. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

First Silver of the Year

    Had a great time a few afternoons ago, hunting my friend Richard's property with his three boys out in Washington. The majority of our finds consisted of pull tabs and old tractor parts, but I did turn up a silver Washington, dated 1941. Not terribly old, but hey, it's silver--the first silver of the year. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fireman's Button

  The first genuinely old find of the season, a gorgeous heavy brass button with a beautiful swirling smoke octopus pattern on the front. The words "Orange Colour" are legible on the rear. I have yet to research the brand and origins, and even finish the cleaning. I will post results when I do. I was told that the site I was detecting was an old fire station at the turn of the century, now just an unsightly pile of dirt and rocks.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Treasure Hunter's Handbook

  I neglected to do a post about this when it happened last Fall, as so much of my life was upside down and I didn't have many chances to sit down at the computer and update my websites. Unfortunately, those same parts of my life are still upside down, but Spring is coming and I am going to try and at least stay on top of this blog. This business of treasure hunting--metal detecting in particular---is therapeutic and calming, and most importantly, distracts me from the deep sorrows and powerful losses of human existence; and I don't intend to ever give that up.
  Anyway, on the subject of treasure hunting--last Fall I was poking around my favorite local bookstore/coffee shop, Camden's Owl and Turtle, and I came across a copy of "Treasure Hunter's Handbook". Author Liza Gardner Walsh is a friend of mine and she had contacted me earlier in the year with questions on that very subject, as she was working on a book for young readers and was aware of my passion for metal detecting. I was happy to oblige and proofread her chapter on detecting. She also provided me with a questionnaire of inquiries into the origins of my interest in the field, reasons for pursuing it, and favorite finds, etc... She said the book was almost headed for printing, but that maybe she would be able to use some quotes if it wasn't too late. 
  So I was pleased to see her book in print and on the shelf in the "local authors" section of the bookstore. I picked up a copy and thumbed through it, thinking it would be a nice gift for my nephew Jaron, or any of my nieces and nephews for that matter, and was immediately impressed with the accessibility of the writing, the layout, the quantity and quality of the many large color illustrations, and the broad gamut of types of treasure hunting presented, from gold panning and gem hunting to metal detecting and geocaching. It seemed like a book that any kid with any sense of adventure would absolutely love. 
  At about the center of the book I turned a page to find a chapter titled "Aaron Marcy: A Treasure-Hunting Life". I then proceeded to read two pages of a well-condensed and edited-for-young-readers version of my responses to the questionnaire Liza had given me months earlier. I had to laugh. There it was in print, once and for all, "Aaron Marcy, Treasure Hunter". Perfect, I thought. I can finally quit my day job and pursue the life of riches and adventure I have always wanted.  I purchased the volume and headed out into the world to look for treasure, buried or otherwise.
  "Treasure Hunter's Handbook" by Liza Gardner Walsh was printed by Down East Books and can be purchased or ordered at your local book dealer, as well as online. Like I said, a great gift for any young people in your life. Get them away from electronic devices and out into the world, the woods, the mountains, under the clear blue sky, in the sunlight, get their hands in the dirt, their feet in the lakes and streams, their hearts and minds reaching out toward those infinite mysterious reaches of this magical and fascinating Universe we are flying through.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Curse of the Mummy

  I can't speak for anyone else, but I have a lot of little objects in my life. They seem to be everywhere; on mantles and windowsills, in jars and boxes, and basically just rolling around around everywhere I turn. Sometimes I'll open a box and start fiddling with the contents and one of the items will catch my eye, and I'll wonder, "Is this something special? Is this possibly rare or even valuable?" Often I don't even remember where the thing came from.
  In the case of this particular object, a small 3" stone or terracotta figurine that appears to be an Egyptian mummy, I recalled finding it at the bottom of a box of odds and ends I had purchased at an auction. I was examining it this morning and I noticed how old it looked, no, not old--ancient. I got online and sure enough, it matched perfectly with pictures of ancient Egyptian ushabtis I found on the web, particularly those dating to around 500 BC. Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article:

"The ushabti (also called shabti or shawabti, with a number of variant spellings, Ancient Egyptian plural: ushabtiu) was a funerary figurine used in Ancient Egypt. Ushabtis were placed in tombs among the grave goods and were intended to act as servants or minions for the deceased, should he/she be called upon to do manual labor in the afterlife. The figurines frequently carried a hoe on their shoulder and a basket on their backs, implying they were intended to farm for the deceased. They were usually written on by the use of hieroglyphs typically found on the legs.[1][2] Called “answerers,” they carried inscriptions asserting their readiness to answer the gods' summons to work.[3] The practice of using ushabtis originated in the Old Kingdom (c. 2600 to 2100 BCE) with the use of life-sized reserve heads made from limestone, which were buried with the mummy.[4] Most ushabtis were of minor size, and many produced in multiples – they sometimes covered the floor around a sarcophagus. Exceptional ushabtis are of larger size, or produced as a one of-a-kind master work."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Flags For The Dead

  A beautiful little antique brass funerary flag holder found by my good friend and co-worker, Richard Ware, in the front yard of his 200 year old family farmhouse. He was using the White's Prizm metal detector I sold him last year. Not a great picture, as I took it quickly with my phone, but a great piece.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

First Hunt of the Year

  There is still a foot of damned snow almost everywhere, so the beaches are really the only accessible detecting ground available. I texted my good friend and passionate detectorist, Matt Pollis, this morning and said, "Hey. I can't stand it another minute. I have to get out there. Let's hit Duck Trap beach at low tide." I think he was in his truck and on his way before he finished reading the message.
  Duck Trap has a rich history and I have had some nice finds there in the past--for a beach--most of which can be viewed in past posts on this blog. I have turned up Indian Heads, seated silver dimes, and colonial crotal bells, all in a small stretch of rocky Maine shoreline. It's always been a good hunting spot on those cold winter days when the earth is too frozen to break with a shovel.
  It seems today, however, Mr. Pollis picked the right spot to hunt, as he came up with some interesting coins and relics in the short, cold, and windy time we were there; a Canadian Loonie, a flower shaped Hong Kong 20, a fat little Indian Head, and a handful of awesome brass stonemason's wedges. I only found a wheat penny and a large old lead sinker. Didn't matter a bit to me, as I was just so happy to be out swinging that coil. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Satan's Little Helper

 This photograph turned up in a lot picked up at an auction. And yes, the "SC" on the sled is for Santa Claus. 

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.