The First Ten
By: Ken Stone
Shortly after last year's detecting season ended, to help pass away some of the down time, I decided to build, from scratch, a TV room in the basement. By doing it myself, I would save lots of money (except, of course, for the cost of material, new TV new furniture, Band-Aids, etc.). I'm not sure whether this was a sign of senility or just a minor brain cramp. It's been about 40 years since I built my last rec-room, and it will be at least 40 more before I do it again. I figured, when I started in late November, that it could easily be completed by Christmas. So, there we were, watching our first TV show... on March 1st!
It did, however, help to bridge the gap between seasons. We also had time to repair three faulty detectors and two sets of headphones. December also marked the birth of our fifth great-grandchild, a beautiful baby girl named Taylin Noelle, a sister for Destiny Taylor and Jaden Lee-Ann.
This past winter was the longest, coldest, and snowiest in recent memory here on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. As a result, we didn't get out until April. By then the snow had almost completely disappeared, leaving the ground nearly frost free. This was a lucky break for us, as we had intended to check out some of the sand-filled playground areas of parks in a town about 20 miles from where we live. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the first park, my wife Madeline discovered that her sand scoop was missing from her equipment bag. I had apparently removed it while making some last minute equipment checks and had neglected to repack it.
However, because the ground was so receptive to digging, we were able to share my scoop, with one person searching the playground while the other checked out the rest of the park. We hit four parks that day and came away with $16.98, helped along by two "toonies" and eight $1 "loonie" coins, and a couple of junk rings.
Three days later we decided to visit a town about 15 miles away, which we almost never detect due to the lack of any really promising sites. Nevertheless, since early spring sites are hard to come by- mainly because we have usually checked out most of those places the previous fall- we decided to give it a shot. I checked my map of the area and jotted down directions to a few possible spots.
The first three places yielded next to nothing, and the fourth, a large park/fall fairground, wasn't much better. However, as we were leaving, we noticed that across the road, and partially obscured by a row of trees, what at first glance appeared to be a large vacant field had a bunch of soccer goal frames stored at one end. We pulled in to get a better look, and it turned out to be about half a dozen soccer pitches that hadn't, as yet been setup for the coming season.
Since it was well past our normal lunch time, we decided to take a break on one of the small bleachers and then check it out after we ate. It turned out to be a good decision. At the time I had recovered less than $1, and Madeline had $2+ thanks to our only "toonie" of the day, so far.
After lunch we started at the first soccer pitch, hoping to find a few coins in each of them. However, we only had time to finish the first before we had to start back home. Coins seemed to be everywhere! We dug over $17, thanks to four "toonies" and six "loonies," and finished the day with $20+.
We returned a few days later, hoping for similar results in the remaining fields. We weren't disappointed. We dug another $32.84, helped along by another eight "toonies" and seven "loonies," for a two-day total of $53.22. Madeline found the "coin-du-jour," a 20¢ piece from Australia.
We got out a total of eight days in April and finished with 854 coins, totaling $164.63, our best April yet. We also dug coins from Trinidad & Tobago, France, the U.K., and the United Arab Emirates, as well as a 1¢ piece from the Netherlands, dated 1904 and in excellent condition. On the last day of the month we recovered our first gold and silver items. Madeline found a heart-shaped 10K gold ring, while I picked up a small silver ring.
The month of May continued in a similar manner. Due to inclement weather we only managed to get in seven days of detecting, but with some fairly decent results money-wise. We recovered 708 coins, totaling $97.74, but not one gold or silver item.
June is usually a tough month. It's still too early for any serious beach hunting, and starting to get too late for sports fields as they are being readied for the upcoming season. Schools are still in session, making it necessary to detect there on weekends, which we try to avoid if possible. Parks are the main targets, but you can only go to the well so many times before you start coming up empty. Even so, with a little creative thinking and the help of some area maps, we managed to get through the month with fairly decent results.
At one park, Madeline picked up a $5 bill, while I dug a 1919 U.K. penny in good condition. Most of the other coins recovered in that park were exceptionally deep (6-8"), but this 89-year-old penny was only about 2-3" down. It appears that someone may have recently lost his "lucky" coin.
Near the end of the month we decided to make an early visit to a provincial park about an hour away from home. We detect a number of parks in this particular area quite frequently over the summer months, and each time we pass through a small town with a park and sand-filled playground which backs into the highway. I had always wanted to stop and check it out, but we are either in too much of a hurry going down or too tired on our way back. We passed by it again on our way to the park, not wanting to waste any time.
We continued to our destination, parked at the main beach, and worked it for a couple of hours. I found next to nothing, but Madeline fared somewhat better. From there we moved to another section, and while I again chose the beach, Madeline decided to check out the sand-filled sides of the roads leading in and out of the parking lots. When we broke for lunch I had barely $3, while Madeline checked in at $12+. However, I did pick up a man's watch ($75) which was lying on top of the sand where the beach meets the road. After lunch we checked out the rest of the beach and surrounding dunes but came up pretty much empty.
On the way home, as we were again passing the little playground, my curiosity get the better of me and I turned off the highway and into its parking lot. No one was using the playground, so while Madeline waited in the van, I decided to check it out. In less than ten minutes I more than doubled the amount of my six-hour search at the beach. Somehow it didn't seem quite right, but that's just the way it goes. I'll probably never stop there again, but at last I had satisfied my curiosity.
Canada Day, July 1, sort of ushers in the beach hunting season. We detected the first couple of days at a popular beach and were rewarded with $39+ and a lady's wrist watch.
In mid-July we spent two days at Wasaga Beach, probably our favorite spot, due to th usually crowded beaches. Because of the beach's popularity, accommodations must be booked well in advance. We took a look at the long-range weather forecast and reserved what looked like two pretty nice days. However, our first day was cold with very strong on-shore winds, which blew the sand so hard that very few beachgoers ventured out, including all other detectorists. The biggest concern was making sure that you faced downwind when shaking out your scoop, or the sand would blow back in your face!
The results were about average, considering the weather. I found a lady's watch, while Madeline picked up a silver ring with a large aquamarine stone valued at $160. Unfortunately, even though the weather turned nice again the next day and people returned to the beach, it was too little, too late, and the overall results were disappointing.
To make matters worse, Madeline sprained her wrist while detecting, and upon returning home was grounded by her doctor for a week.
More rainy weather, coupled with severe storms plagued us through much of July, severely restricting our beach hunting. We concentrated our efforts mainly on parks and schoolyards, now available due to summer vacation. At one school Madeline found a silver ring, and I dug a 1976 U.S. half dollar, a bit of a rarity here in Ontario.
We finished July at the beach where I had found my first watch. Coins were scarce, although Madeline did find a 5 pesos coin from the Dominican Republic. I picked up a 24" silver chain ($120) entangled in some debris that had washed ashore.
August was a case of Deja vu all over again! The inclement weather continued, and even when it didn't rain the forecasts were so unpredictable that we were reluctant to venture too far from home. Add in the outrageous price of gas, and we were compelled to be a little more selective in choosing our locations and in the frequency of longer trips.
When the month ended it was almost a mirror image of July (932 coins = $162.50 in July; 965 coins = $160.93 in August). Madeline found a silver ring and silver bracelet ($40) at the same beach where I had found a silver chain in July. No sign of gold!
We spent the first three days of September at a popular provincial park beach. The weather was some of the hottest and most humid of the entire season, and the beaches were packed. We picked up $65.92 in coins but jewelry was scarce. Madeline located a 21" silver chain and pendant which checked out at $80. At one section of the park, where the sand dunes rise to 30-40' at about a 60° incline, I dug a gold-colored chain and heart-shaped pendant. However, it turned out to be only gold plated.
The next two outings were spent checking soccer complexes in nearby towns. We came away with 185 coins, amounting to $41.51, along with a special-issue 1980 $1 coin commemorating the Summer Games held in a city about 50 miles away, and a 1969 Irish 10 pence. Along the sidelines of one soccer pitch I dug a silver bracelet with a single silver charm attached. Coincidentally, the charm was in the form of the letter K, my first initial. On one of our last trips of the month we were visiting a small beach park which contained the usual playground equipment and a couple of beach ball courts. Near one of the court posts I scooped a 28" silver chain, the longest I have found to date, valued at $125.
October started off with a trip to a small town about an hour's drive away. An area map showed a soccer field complex which we hadn't checked out before. We usually find a fair amount of coins at sports fields, but this one was a dud. Three hours of hard work left us with less than $3. The one saving grave was an 18" silver chain ($90) which Madeline dug along the sidelines about halfway back home, where we fared somewhat better and finished the day with $16+.
With summer now officially over and the day getting shorter and cooler, we concentrated our efforts on nearby parks and sports fields. With the early morning grass wet from dew or melting frost, waterproof footwear is a must for at least part of the day. We now pack "hoodies" and warmer jackets for the cooler days. Our choice of locations is based mainly on records of past hunts, indicating where we have had the most success at this time of year.
Along the sidelines of a soccer field I dug a 23" chain which at first glance appeared to be silver. Closer inspection, though, revealed some corrosion, and it was not stamped with the familiar ".925" for sterling silver. Instead, it was marked "14K," indicating gold, but proved to be plated base metal. The 14K stamp is inexplicable. Madeline found a similarly marked chain last season.
On our next outing two days later, on the sidelines of another soccer field I dug another chain. This one was a 20" heavy silver chain valued at $150. It was also one of our better days, money-wise, in a while, with a total of $26+, including three "toonies," 12 "loonies," and 25 quarters.
On our next day out we were searching around a baseball diamond when Madeline dug the largest gold-colored ID bracelet I have ever seen. That thing could have passed for a dog collar! The links were thick and heavy, and the ID plate was inscribed with the name Andrew. Unfortunately, that was all it was... "gold colored."
By this time the weather was turning colder, and we were physically spent. We gave it one more shot, starting out in a light morning rain, getting in a couple of hours when it cleared a bit, and then finishing in the rain. The next day it snowed, and the message was pretty clear: it wa time to pack it in!
It was an unusual season, what with the almost complete absence of gold, compensated somewhat by a surprising increase i silver chains and bracelets. A lot of this can be attributed to an unusually rainy summer, which affected the number of beachgoers and consequently our detecting at the beach. We finished the season with 5,633 coins, amounting to $959.71.
This completed our first ten years of detecting, with totals now standing at 67,040 coins totaling $9,065.11. Our jewelry totals include (retail value) gold, $30,420 (one ring exceeded $15,000); silver $7,025; and watches, $2,125. Our only regret is that we didn't discover this wonderful hobby until we were in our mid-60s. Hopefully, with a little luck and continued good health, the next ten years may be just as rewarding.
KEN STONE is a retired G.M. of Canada Accountant. His summers are consumed by metal detecting, and winters are spent reading, writing, drawing, shoveling snow, and trying to stay in shape while eagerly anticipating the return of detecting season.