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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (12/2010) AMP (10/2010) Featured Article (02/2011)   Vol. 44 December 2010 
This Month's Features
As seen in the December 2010 edition of W&ET Magazine

Journal Of A Treasure Hunter

By: Shirley Mullenax

My metal detecting career began August 23, 1983 with the purchase of my first detector, a Compass Judge II. I still have that detector, although I no longer use it, and it got me off to a good start with some good finds. I also started journaling from the beginning, and I am glad I did. I have logged every hunt by date, time spent, with whom, place, permissions, drawings or rubbings of my relics, kind of coins, and the total amount of coins found on each outing. This sounds like a lot of work, but no matter how exhausted I might be when I came home, I would always take the time to sort and gently clean all the relics and keepers, and I would also clean my detector. My husband calls my hobby "junk hunting."

A few years later I got a second detector, a Compass Coin Scanner with a meter. At first I found its new features a bit of a challenge, and even though eventually I got used to the Coin Scanner, I found myself going back to the Judge II. I also used my husband's Garrett and did well with it. (Unfortunately, he never really got into detecting.) My next purchase was a Tesoro Bandido, and now I have a Tesoro Cortes as well. Both are great... easy to use and light in weight.

Once I got permission from a coworker to hunt an old site with only a chimney still standing. I wasn't the only one wondering what might have been left behind there. She told me that it had already been detected many times, but I was welcome to try it. According to my journal, I took three other people with me, and one of them unwittingly taught me a lesson. I had just dug a round piece of lead and was not sure what I had, although I could see the imprint of an eagle on it. He asked to see it, so I handed it to him. You guessed it... he wanted to see if he could bend it, and he did. Today, my one and only eagle breastplate has the broken cracks of that bend in it. I learned the hard way. I made another good find that day, a Green River "Official Whiskey of the U.S. Marine Hospital" watch fob.

Another time a friend and I were detecting at a local churchyard, and in about a 2' square I dug over a dozen pulltabs. Did it pay off? I think so, as I also dug an 18K wide gold wedding band! I have dug many of those dreaded tabs and bottle caps, and lots of other junk, but have also been rewarded with some goodies due to this perseverance.

There are some things I've learned the hard way; however, I've learned so much and so many helpful hints here in W&ET. Through reading it, I've also learned the identity of many of my finds. Friends have taught me their tricks of the trade, too. For example, one gave me some good information on how to preserve my iron relics. You know how quickly these tend to disintegrate. Taking his advice, I have now dipped or covered some of my finds with a polyurethane coating. This stops the chipping away of rust on iron and will preserve them longer. He admitted that some people don't like to use this method, but I do. For me, it works well.

After a friend took me to meet a very special lady who lived in one of the oldest homes (1700s) in our town, the lady told us we could detect there anytime. Since then, we have spent many days at this site and have come up with lots of goodies, including old coins (some silver), foreign coins, an Army "Markman" badge with a "Rifle" Q-bar, and a friendship ring. On one hunt I dug one half dollar that was in three pieces. I dug the first piece, hunted close by and found the second piece, and kept detecting until I came up with the third. Evidently, this was a special-made coin, as it had an indented ring around the outer edge as if something held it together. On yet another trip I came up with a beautiful "Woodrow Wilson Birthplace" souvenir badge and an eagle button.

The old house sat on about an acre, so it was good for lots of detecting. On one solo hunt I dug three old Navy buttons, an Augusta Military Academy buckle, and an ornate sterling silver buckle dated April 30, 1906 on the back. I also found four old compacts and two rouge cases. Needless to say, this has been one of my favorite places for detecting.

Then came a September day recorded in my journal as follows:

"Beautiful afternoon but a little warm. My friend had weekend company so I went alone. Really worked hard, only stopping to get a drink... luckily I had taken tea, Dr. Pepper and water, and consumed it all. I went home so tired I could hardly go up the steps."

My husband was sitting on the porch. After seeing what I had dug, he said he couldn't believe it and that it was the best treasure hunting I had done. I still feel the pain when I think about that day, but was it any wonder, as I was down more than up. Anyway, here go the finds: an old brooch, heart pin, and heart ring; Civil War three-ring bullet; brass lid; small orange metal toy car, and a toy soldier holding a gun; one quarter, two dimes, two nickels, nine pennies (all current); a Washington silver quarter, two Mercury dimes, an older date Jefferson nickel, three Buffalo nickels, two "V" nickels, six Indian Head cents, and 45 Wheat cents. Total coins: 75. I, too, think this was one of my best days!

There was an old park about 15 miles away that I had always dreamed of detecting. Finally, with permission granted and adrenaline surging, I took my friend Bonnie with me. Per my journal, it was in this park and while detecting at a campsite area, that I came upon a snake. This wouldn't happen again in a million years, but I threw my little heavy duty garden shovel at him, and it cut him in half! Safe from the snake, now I could relax and go on detecting. On this occasion, I dug only $3.29 in coins, including one silver quarter. I was disappointed with my finds, but the autumn leaves were gorgeous. I have returned to this site on many occasions and still enjoy going there.

On another outing with my friend and my cousin at an old home site, we were less than elated to learn that it had been heavily hunted. Although none of us found anything of significance, I did unearth an old axe and a flat iron, along with a few Wheat cents and several current coins. We decided to break for lunch, and then we stopped by an old cement plant where I had gotten permission. It was here that I found a WWI National Defense medal. This started me to wonder and reminisce about an uncle who had worked there many years ago. Could this have been his medal? It's quite possible, and I like to think so.

I'm fortunate to have a great neighbor. Not only did she let me detect her yard, but she also took me to her old home site and a slave house site. What's more, she also got me permission from her friend who built a new house next to his old one, now empty. They not only gave me permission, but invited me to come back anytime, even if they weren't home. I've met some really nice people in my years of detecting. A lady in that same neighborhood came over while we were in the yard talking, and said that she and her husband used to detect there. Even though they had, I was willing to give it a try- and I'm glad I did.

Later we learned that the other detectorist we'd invited as a guest had returned to detect without us. Unfortunately, this happens often, especially with newbies who've yet to grasp detecting's unwritten ethics rules. At any rate, I'm sure he's figured out why he hasn't been included in any of our recent adventures.

Damon and I returned one more time as I was interested in digging out an iron-loaded area in hopes of landing a pin or "feather" wedge. I was able to find a couple to preserve with electrolysis, and as I did Damon unearthed another large cent far out behind the property lines. Surely there are more surprises awaiting us at the great quarry. The iron's masking plenty, and somewhere there's a trash pit loaded with bottles. Hopefully, that's another story waiting to be told.

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