Sunday, April 29, 2018

Beach hunt a bust and cleaning my finds

April 28, 2018
It was a lovely afternoon in Maine today so I drove down to Reid State Park beach to try my hand at beach metal detecting.  The beach is about 1 mile long and I have never walked so far without a signal.  Did get a quarter and a rotted nickel - not enough to cover the $6 admission.  I'll go back in the summer once people have had a chance to leave their change and jewelry behind! 

I have collected quite a few coins already and the valuable ones get a light cleaning and maybe a few minutes in my small ultrasonic cleaner if there is embedded dirt.  I got my ultrasonic jewelry cleaner for about $24 on eBay.  It is visible in the back on the right in the photo below.  I use it mainly to get dirt out of crevices in jewelry and toys etc.
I just got the small National Geographic rock tumbler from Amazon (about $70) for cleaning the clad coins I have dug up - I have a lot already!  I separate the copper pennies from quarters, dimes, nickles and run them separately.  I use aquarium gravel - also sold by National Geographic.  I add white vinegar, a drop of Dawn dish washing liquid, some table salt and warm water.  Cleaning takes 1 to 8 hours depending on how bad they are.  I stop and check on progress and remove some of the cleaned coins every 2 hours.  I made the square basket to catch coins as I dump out the drum.  The gravel falls though into the strainer for re-use.

Here are before and after pictures:

before cleaning
after cleaning
This tumbler removes all the surface corrosion and polishes the coins up nicely.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Chinese coin and tiny brass candle holder

April 27, 2018
It rained over an inch yesterday so I didn't get out, but the dirt was nice and easy to dig today.  Never thought I say that I like mud!  My mother used to marvel at how I could play in the dirt for hours as a kid and come into the house immaculate!  That's why I wear good rubber gardening gloves, but the equipment does need a good washing off after a day like today.

Some great finds.  First is a Chinese coin:
My research tells me it's from Emperor JEN TSUNG AD 1796-1820 period
Reign title: CHAI-CH'ING, t
he Manchurian mint name translates to Pao-chi.
Worth maybe $1.00 or so today.

Then a cool button, no idea if it is old:
 Made by: "WATERBURY BUTTON CO, CONN."  A company founded in 1812 that is still in business making uniform buttons.  I'm told it could be 1940s WW2 vintage.

Then there's the cute tiny brass candle stick:
Fun finds!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Japanese 1 yen + tiny cat

April 24, 2018
It's always interesting at my flea market permission.  They were cleaning up the grounds in preparation for the season that starts in May.  Then I'll be restricted to the 3 off days.  I found one surface coin spill of 3 quarters and a nickel, total coins $1.33.  Some cute little buttons and a rifle shell.

But the interesting coin is a Japanese One Yen made of aluminum, the date in in Kanji seems to be 1956:

And this cute little metal cat that was probably painted gold:

It was another nice spring day in the low 60's, and the ground is still moist and easy to dig.

Monday, April 23, 2018

KKK money clip and shriner medallion

April 23, 2018

I got so tired of digging up coins that I started looking for signals that were not coins.  And wow, did I find some weird stuff at my flea market site.  So I got 2 keys, a costume ring, a weird plated lead weight and coins of course!

First up is this brass KKK money clip (17 grams).  Apparently a southern preacher had these made in England for some obscure reason.  I haven't fully cleaned it up yet, but might sell it on eBay, apparently is has collector value.  When cleaned up, the ones shown on the web are shiny brass with some patina.
The front shows a a KKK member with various cross icons - one cross is in flames.  Yikes!  Here's the back.
It is a forgery purported to have been made by Daniel Low & Co, Salem MA in the 1960's.  In fact that company would never have made such a thing.  And they never would have put "witch" on the back!

Also recovered a 1977 pendant from the Kora-Temple - from a nearby shriner hall in Lewiston Maine:
It appears to be sterling silver and weighs in at 4.5grams.  On the back is inscribed "Ladies Night" in cursive script.  

Then there is this 5.5oz (151 gram) 1.75" (45mm) diameter mystery weight.  It's about 1/2" (12mm) thick and it appears to be brass or gold(?) plated lead.  No idea what is was for.  Anyone have ideas"  Let me know in the comments.

Never a dull moment while metal detecting! 

. . . So the official word from a clockmaker about that item above is that it is a brass plated lead clock bob (pendulum) probably from a mantel clock.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Lots of US coins - and a 1973 British half penny

April 22, 2018
My 3rd day at the flea market permission and a 2.5 hour hunt.  I found an area so dense with coins that I could barely swing the machine without getting a "ding".  I generally don't check the coins until I get home, but a couple of them seemed odd.  Not shown in the picture above are the usual trash items like nails and screws.  And yes, that is a live rifle round!  The lead bullet has rotted quite a bit though. 

After cleaning, I was pleased to find a 1958 real copper ONE CENT:

And a 1972 British half penny:

The weather is improving and this was the first day I did not need a jacket, so it was in the 60's and sunny which makes for an enjoyable experience.  Total coin haul: 2 quarters, 2 dimes and 12 pennies, plus the British half penny.  Those coins are sneaky and sometimes hide in the dirt plug until I slice it in half to get at the middle with my pinpointer.

I clean all the coins with white vinegar and table salt in solution then a few swipes with a brass brush to remove the oxide/debris.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Lead indian toy and musket mini balls

April 21, 2018

I am hunting the flea market site and having a blast.  Pictured are my finds from a 3 hour search - I'm not showing the junk nails and other garbage.  Finds include lead fishing weights, a big "puddle" of lead that go into my lead recycling bin.  An old brass key - probably from a piece of furniture.  90 cents in coins today, lots of pennies!  Since this is a flea market in Maine if someone drops a quarter they pretty much call out the National Guard to find it, but pennies - no problem!

I'm pleased that my skills are to the point where if I dig a hole based on a good signal - I almost always find something interesting.  I'm learning to interpret the distinctive audio tones and read the display on my Garrett ACE 300 metal detector.  All the items on the top row got me excited because lead, aluminum and brass can ring up like a gold ring.  I'm also pleased that I have not nicked anything with my digging tools, I always pinpoint the signal carefully and then dig a plug about 6 to 8" radius.  Often the item will be close to the edge of the plug and trapped in the grass roots.  Most finds are less than 2" down, but some are up to 6".

The interesting finds are the lead Indian toy:
And a couple of musket mini balls from the civil war era.

Friday, April 20, 2018

First Gold ring!

April 20, 2018

I got permission this morning to hunt on a private property where they hold flea markets.  I don't think anyone has detected there so I was finding coins constantly, I mean every 2-3 feet, a total of $1.16!  20 clad pennies, 2 dimes and 3 quarters and a couple of interesting tokens. There was also some costume jewellery and other junk not show like nails etc.  One piece of metal might be silver. 

One Token is from the New Hampshire Public Works and Highways - presumably for highway tolls.

After 2.5 hours I was getting tired, but then I got a good signal and BAM!  A gold ring with 5 "diamonds"!  It weighs in at 1.56 grams.

When I cleaned it up I found the markings read: "10K R.G.P. >MH<" so it's 10 karat rolled gold plate. The stones are fake diamonds - maybe zircons?  Basically costume jewelry, but what a thrill to dig up!  I plan to work this site all summer!

I just ordered a precious metal testing kit and a diamond tester.  I already have a small jewellery scale.  I love tools and any excuse to buy cool ones is fine with me.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Surface Finds - the other metal detecting

April 19, 2018 

My friend and neighbor John and I like to walk along the roads near our small dead-end, road and while talking we stop to pick up trash.  I always carry a medium size bright orange trash bag for visibility.  Yesterday was our first long walk on the town road since the snow had melted - covering about a 1/2 mile.  As the snow plow berms melt back they reveal all the bottles, cans and trash that accumulates.  On this walk we filled the bag and found another bag that we used to haul more home.  We find a lot of beer cans and bottles that redeem for 5 cents, but the plastic quart vodka bottles redeem for 15 cents and the local town drunk seems to go through a lot of those!
Today I sorted and cleaned everything up and took them in to the recycling machines at the supermarket, and this is the result.
$2.00 total!  Not bad for an enjoyable walk with some good stretching, bending and scrambling down the hills off the side of the road.  Lots of good aerobic exercise.

Another "surface find" was a cell phone found face down right next to the road, it was a Samsung Galaxy.  When I got it home, I turned it on.  I found that the last text messages ended in mid February and it still had 30% battery left.  It had been buried in snow for 2 months!  So I found the owners name and phone number and texted him that I found it.  He was thrilled.  Since he lives over an hour away, I offered to mail it to him.  Another great recovery!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Recovered a gold wedding ring

April 12, 2018

In the winter I had mentioned to my friend Topher that I was starting this hobby and he immediately told me that his wife Barbara had lost her wedding ring in their garden a few years ago. They had rented a detector, but did not find it. 

A week after my first exciting find I went over to their home to have a look. I asked Topher to show me his nearly identical wedding ring, a beautiful hand braided mixed color gold with a green tsavorite (garnet) stone. 

I took a reading with my ACE 300 detector that came up as 42 to 43. So I set the custom discrimination to the 3 bars that span about 35-60.  This would simplify the search because I would only hear "dings" for items like his ring.

Barbara explained that she thought that she had lost it while hanging clothes and it may have fallen out of a hole in her pocket. So I walked the path to the clothesline sweeping the detector wide with Topher watching carefully and asking questions. It was over 100 feet with no bleeps, and nothing under the clothes line. 

At this point I was thinking that this would be a long hunt. Then I noticed their top bar bee hive nearby and started circling it. 

"Ding-ding" - I got a solid signal and homed in on it with my GP pointer and dug up a small 10mm brass circle with some tabs on it that looked like a clothing decoration. Neat! 

Then recalling the admonition to “check all holes” I took another swing over it. Another good signal just off to the side of the hole and I brushed a few leaves aside and there was the ring right on the surface!  Topher saw it first.  Here are both rings on his hand right after we found it.

And a very happy Barbara!

Total hunt time was less than 10 minutes, talk about lucky. Of course they were both thrilled. To be honest I was a tad disappointed because it was so easy. But they have invited me back to hunt some old home sites on their property where they have found tons of ceramic and glass. I'm definitely going back!

Shortly after I posted this great find to a detectorist group on Facebook the editor of Treasure Hunting Magazine contacted me to ask if I would be interested in writing up the story for them.  Of course I would!  😄   The article came out in the August 2018 issue (page15).

1907 commemorative medallion

April 3, 2018
My first day of metal detecting I started my first dig on the site of a historic building on my Maine town property.  My town was settled in 1638 an has a population of around 3100 today. The building dates back to 1837 and was the original Meeting House for the selectmen and other town business so I was hoping to find cool artifacts an old coins.  I covered the whole lawn surrounding the building quite thoroughly by gridding it off.  All I found were chunks of metal - probably from farm equipment and a few rotting clad coins.  I may go back later and try again since many signals seemed to be quite deep.

April 4, 2018
I went to historic farm house in town built in 1818 and started near it's entrance.  I got a good signal right away and dug up a recent penny.  But the second hole I dug won the prize.  I saw it right away, a circular edge in the dirt that was way too big to be a coin.  It was 45mm (1.75 inch diameter).  After cleaning it, I found that it was a brass or bronze commemorative medallion celebrating 300 years of ship building in nearby Bath.  The full text on it reads: "THREE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY AMERICAN SHIPPING 1607-1907 CELEBRATED AT BATH, MAINE. AUGUST 5-10".  I later learned that it was made by Whitehead & Hoag in New Jersey and the medallion was likely silver plated originally.
After I cleaned it up I sent a picture to the local Historical Society and offered it to them.  I dropped it off a day or so later and they were thrilled to have it.  I could not ask for a better first find.

I continued to hunt for a few more hours and turned up a few more coins, a crushed Schlitz beer can, a pull tab and some rusty square nails.  The pull tab was exciting because I thought it could be precious metal jewellery.  They fool most detectorists because the equipment sees aluminum as gold or silver.

PS, I wrote about this find for the August 2018 issue of Treasure Hunting Magazine (page 15).

Saturday, April 14, 2018

How it all started

This hobby/obsession started in the fall of 2017 after I had watched all 3 seasons of the comedy drama "Detectorists".  The show accurately portrays what metal detecting is all about and I had always had a fascination with the idea of finding cool stuff buried underground.  I highly recommend watching the show - even if metal detecting is not your thing, it's a delightful drama.  As of this writing it's available on Amazon and Netflix.

So I did a lot of research and purchased a metal detector and all the equipment.  Here's what I started out with:

Garrett ACE 300 metal detector

GP pointer (pin pointing detector)

Lesche hand digger

Lesche T-handle shovel

Garrett finds pouch

I share this so that other newbies can benefit from my experience.  I have since confirmed that this kit is pretty much the ideal starter kit.  The ACE detector is affordable and a good beginner machine, and the other tools are not too pricey.  I may have spent almost $500 for everything.  Here I am posing with the full tool kit.

I had everything by early December 2017 and started detecting around my house.  It was exciting to hear the bleeps and learn the signals and how to use the machine.  I quickly turned up some coins and metal scrap and was hooked!

Then the snow started and the ground froze.  Here in Maine we tend to have hard winters that run until as late as April.  So with nothing to do outside, I started watching YouTube videos - every night!  My list of favorites (shown at right) are the "Rock Stars" of the detectorist world and they make very entertaining videos.  I watched very carefully so I could see what equipment they used, and how they used it.  I called it going to "YouTube University" and I watched literally hundreds of hours over the winter. They are all very kind and don't use too much jargon, and when they do - they explain it.  Some fun jargon terms are "can slaw" which is chewed up aluminum cans that have been hit by a lawn mower.  And "clad" which refers to modern coins that are just plated metal and not solid silver.

When the ground finally thawed in early April I was ready, and right away I was digging up some amazing finds!  Read my next posts to follow along in my adventures...