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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (08/2006) AMP (05/2006) Featured Article (11/2006)   Vol. 40 August 2006 
This Month's Features
As seen in the August 2006 edition of W&ET Magazine

The House On The Hill

By: John LaFountain

I've been aware of the house on the hill for the 30-odd years that I have lived in this small Vermont city. It was built around 1900 and at that time was on the edge of the city, although now it is centered in a pleasant older residential area. It's a large, square wood frame house with a flat roof and fancy front two-story porch. The house lies on a fairly large, mowed lot with a circular driveway, and was built originally, as far as is known, as an exquisite private residence. In 1930 it was converted to a private hospital and used in that role for a few years. It is now a very well kept multi-apartment property with several tenants, one of whom I had the good fortune to know quite well.

You can guess what comes next. I asked my friend to talk to her landlady and see if she would give me permission to detect there, emphasizing that there would be no sign of my detecting efforts, and also that a homemade banana cream pie would be forthcoming as a token of my gratitude. (It's always nice to have something to offer in return, and that can frequently make the difference in whether or not permission is granted.) I was pleased to receive permission and was down there the very next day- one of the benefits of retirement.

The house is fronted by a sizable sloping mowed yard, broken by a U-shaped driveway that is, unfortunately, paved, plus several large evergreen trees. Oh, wouldn't I love to get under that paving! There is also a fairly large side yard and various small grassy sections here and there around the rest of the house. I started in the front yard, in the large area enclosed by the driveway, and immediately started to find Wheat cents. That is always a good sign, as they are markers for other coins of the same vintage, usually in the frequency of 10-20 Wheats per silver coin.

After an hour or so I had found several Wheats and thought I was onto another one, but on digging saw the glint of silver in the base of the plug I had dug. It was a nice 1960 Roosevelt dime, but newer than I would have liked, based on the age of the house. After a couple more hours of detecting I had quite a number of coins, with that being the best find so far. Following a few more pennies, I got a solid quarter signal, and there it was, just as advertised on my DFX screen- an 1894-O Barber quarter, looking just as it did the day it was dropped, probably around 100 years ago.

By now it was getting cool, and I had been delayed a lot by the usual visitors that one encounters in a residential neighborhood, people going by who are just curious and friendly, and want to chat a bit. You know- "Find anything?" Be nice to these folks, because it often leads to another contact. Reluctantly, I decided that it was time to go home and come back next week.

I returned another sunny afternoon, and by this time most of the people of the area had already seen me, so they passed by, waved, and said, "Hello." However, one family came across the road and invited me to come to their yard, c. 1920s, anytime I wanted to. So, there... I had another valuable contact. I promised that I would call them sometime, and then got back down to business. This was a good afternoon, with a Barber dime, a Mercury dime, and a 1907 "V" nickel with all the details very clear, although it had the heavily discolored surface that nickels always obtain after a few years. I had just about wrapped up the front yard by now, and decided to work on the other side of the driveway.

Immediately I had a healthy signal, which displayed an unusual ID reading. Much to my surprise, at a depth of only about 1" in the soft, needle-covered dirt, I found a 2¢ piece dated 1866, with amazingly clear detail, and it remains one of my most treasured finds. Further on in the yard I found a 1930 Canadian penny (Canadian coins are quite common up here) and a few more Wheats. After that, I had quite a run of silver luck in the next hour or so, digging up two more Roosevelt silver dimes and another Mercury. I had by now run out of lawn and was ready to tackle the 3' wide strip between the sidewalk and the road, where I again found a few Wheats and numerous current pennies. Remember, you never know where the dirt came from in places like that, so it's always wise to do a little sample checking.

Since it was still daylight and comfortably warm, I tackled a small patch of several square feet bordering a flower garden, next to the driveway, and to my delight dug up a 1945-S Washington quarter. Admittedly, it's not a treasure, but I define the primary goal of my hobby of metal detecting as finding silver coins, plus anything else that is no longer current. Silver still excites me every time I see that whitish glint in the hole or the plug, and I am still looking forward to finding my first silver dollar.

That last quarter pretty much completed my scanning of this property. I finished with 63 coins, including a 2¢ piece, a Barber quarter, a Washington quarter, a Barber dime, two Mercury dimes, three Roosevelt silver dimes, a "V" nickel, 25 Wheat cents, and the balance all current coins, mostly pennies. I spent an enjoyable 11 hours, more or less, on the property, gave away a pie, met a lot of nice people, got an additional good contact, found some nice coins, and generally had a great time. I can't think of a better way to spend a few hours. It's interesting that I found the 1866 2¢ piece, which was probably dropped when the site was a farmer's field, and not after the house was built. Soon I'll call the neighbor who offered me his lawn, make another pie, and go visit him with detector in hand. I expect at least a few more silver coins and Wheats, and maybe even that elusive silver dollar!

Remember- neatness, courtesy, permission... and word gets around.

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