Metal Detecting At 100 MPH
By: Daniel A. Knight
No, I am not suggesting that you go detecting from a speeding Corvette or an F-16 fighter. I'm talking about having one of those wonderful days when your finds are coming in at a rate of 100 "Monies Per Hour"!
Here in New Jersey, detectorists are occasionally granted the opportunity of scanning the sands hidden beneath the long wooden boardwalks of our shoreline communities. Last winter I teamed up with friends Diane Toogood, Dave Milsted, Amy Maruso, and my 12-year-old Michael to pull over 4,000 coins from a local seaside boardwalk when they ripped up its decking for replacement. While most of the finds were clad coins, the site provided members of both the Mid and South Jersey Metal Detecting Clubs many hours of searching and sifting enjoyment.
Knowing that other portions of that boardwalk were again slated for replacement this winter, our group remained alert for rumors as to when the work would begin. Since we live an hour's drive away from the site, by the time we heard that demolition had begun we were a week or so "past prime." Nevertheless, the next day I set up some business appointments in the area, with plans to swing on by the spot afterward to see what was going on.
Once there, I quickly saw evidence that a majority of the area had already been worked by local detectorists. My disappointment turned to joy, however, when it became apparent that those who had been there before me must have been using large searchcoils &/or a lot of discrimination. My 5.3" Bullseye XLT coil was able to pinpoint coins amid the myriad of pulltabs and tinfoil, and only after an hour I had pocketed about 80 clads, two Sacagawea dollars, and a silver Roosevelt dime.
The following week I made plans with fellow club member Diane Toogood to head back to the site for a more thorough search. We brought along our sifters this time on the assumption that by then most of the "easy" targets would have been recovered, and that we'd have to dig down a foot or so to get to the next level of coins. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the township was just wrapping up the removal of another section of boards! Talk about lucky timing- we were going to be the fist ones into the newly uncovered "sandboxes"!
As soon as the township personnel allowed us into the site, Diane headed for a section nearest the coin-operated arcades, while I thought that an area near a food concession stand held some promise. Of particular interest was the fact that this 15' x 30' section of boardwalk had been built over a large concrete foundation. Once the walking surface had been ripped up, only 2" of sand was left behind on top of the slab, making it relatively easy to locate and recover the coins I hoped would be there.
After first raking off a trash-bag load of soda straws, gum wrappers, pulltabs, and hair bands, I started hunting in between the remaining wooden support beams. Signals were fast and furious, to the point that I was having trouble pinpointing one target from the next, even with a small coil. After completing one sweep through the area, I had to dump my pouch of coins back at the car because of the weight! And when I went back through the area again more slowly, it was as if I had never been there.
After first raking off as much metallic debris as possible without accidentally putting coins into the trash piles, I began detecting at coin-level discrimination. After about three hours of searching this small area nonstop, I finally felt that I had pulled out most of the good stuff (although Diane later came through, using a lower discrimination level, and uncovered a nice gold hoop earring that I had missed). A few more hours were spent sifting the older, previously exposed areas of the main boardwalk, and we finally called it quits around 8:00 p.m., when it got too dark to see the contents of our sifters- not to mention the fact that we were hungry and exhausted!
Later that night, as the day's finds were tallied up, I discovered why my legs were so sore: imagine doing 600+ deep knee bends within a five-hour span! Although we'd had many a good hunt the previous year under similar boardwalk conditions, the day's totals surpassed anything our group had ever experienced before, especially the rate of recovery. The total for that single hunt included three Sacagawea dollars, 143 quarters, 126 dimes, 35 nickels, 509 Memorial cents, two Wheat cents, two silver dimes, 171 arcade tokens, a gold earring, three sterling rings/earrings, and eight kids' rings- 1,003 targets, with a clad value alone of nearly $60.
Knowing this mass of coinage was found in less than a six-hour hunting period (11 total person-hours), you can deduce a recovery rate of over 91 targets per hour. And since the last hour or two was spent "mopping up" loose coins left by other detectorists in the previously hunted areas, the recently opened section near the concession stand was definitely giving up coins at a rate exceeding 100 per hour!
All in all, the boardwalk construction site turned out to be a very good place for us to hunt. And while we didn't find anything of great age or value, it will always be remembered as the day we detected at "100 MPH"!
DAN KNIGHT has returned to the TH'ing hobby after a long absence. Currently Membership Co-chairman of the South Jersey Metal Detecting Club, he is an avid water-hunter as well as a coinshooter.