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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (12/2001) Relic Hunter (11/2001) Relic Hunter (01/2002)   Vol. 35 December 2001 
The Relic Hunter
As seen in the December 2001 edition of W&ET Magazine

Birds Of A Feather

By: Ed Fedory

It never fails to amaze me when I look into the "junk box" of a fellow detectorist and find some remarkable treasure hidden in the depths. It could be a weapon fragment, like the Brown Bess ramrod pipe I saw in Laughlin, Nevada, or the piece of a militia officer's belt plate I found in the bottom of a cut-away plastic milk jug. In each case, the finder knew it was a keeper, but just didn't know why.

One of the major fascinations about this hobby, at least for me, is viewing what the other guy has found, and listening to the stories of recovery. Nowhere is this more the case than at a treasure hunting show, where people have come from far and afield to gather, talk, and display some of the unique finds they have made in recent years.

Each April, we travel to New Hampshire to attend a weekend treasure hunting show, represent W&ET, give a seminar, speak with the readers, and view some of their finds. Over the years, I have had some incredible experiences and wonderful opportunities to see what others are pulling from the ground.

It was only a couple of years ago that a father and his young son came up to the magazine's tables, reached into the depths of a shopping bag, and pulled out a Mason jar filled with old silver coins. As they spread their treasure on the table, I listened in amazement to the tale of digging and incredible luck this father and son team had shared.

It was only last year that a young man approached the tables with a bag full of buttons and asked if I could identify some of them. Most were from the early 1800s and clearly civilian, although there were also a couple of Civil War era Union buttons... but when I came to one large button, I thought for sure I was being set up. Lying face up on the table, covered with a rich green patina, was a George Washington inaugural button! I picked the button up and was in the process of carefully examining it when the young man stated, "Pretty neat button, huh? I think it's an eagle on the front." It was then that I realized I was neither being set up or "had"... the man obviously did not realize the importance of the recovery he had made. To him, it was jut another pretty button.

By the time he left our table, he knew what he had found. We advised him to enter the button in the show's Best Finds contest. Following the judging, he was awarded the top prize and walked away $100 richer- and far wiser!

This year was little different. I was introduced to Apostle spoons, another Dutch "onion" bottle, and two ladies who had a remarkable tale to tell. It is a story of great good fortune, incredible luck, and startling coincidence. It is the story of two friends who wanted to share a new hobby, just to see if metal detectors really worked, and what they might possibly find. It is a story that reinforces the idea that there still exist untouched sites and fabulous finds... that dreams can be fulfilled... that the next fistful of removed soil can be the difference between dismal frustration or great joy. It is the story of Bridget, Janis, and two "Birds of a Feather"!

Bridget Kipp had wanted a metal detector since the bottle dump digging days of her youth, and that dream finally came true with a large wrapped box under her Christmas tree in 1999. Getting a metal detector as a Christmas gift in New Hampshire must be akin to getting a pair of ice skates in Florida. While she waited for the snows to melt and the ground to thaw, Bridget joined a metal detecting club and picked up tips on how and where to hunt. A fellow club member suggested that plowed fields might be a good place to start, and living in a rural area with an abundance of fields, Bridget took the advice.

"I don't think I was in that first field for more than an hour," Bridget related, "before I got a good signal. I dug into the soft earth and pulled up a beautiful 1794 large cent. At that point, I was very excited and definitely hooked on metal detecting!" Continuing with her hunt, Bridget also found several early buttons and another large cent dated 1810.

Bridget shared the story of her initial successes in the field with her friend Janis, and it wasn't long before Janis had a metal detector of her own. The pair began hitting the fields together, and before the end of the spring relic hunting season, they had recovered more than 150 early buttons and numerous old coins.

As fate would have it, on one particular weekend Janis would be on a trip, and Bridget would return to one of the fields they had previously searched. "It was a beautiful fall afternoon," Bridget recalls, "and I was running patterns across the field. I recovered another large button and put it in my collecting pouch before continuing with my hunt. It wasn't until later in the evening, when I was examining my finds for the day, that I noticed the large eagle on the face of the button. I knew I had seen that same eagle button in one of my books, and began thumbing through my copy of Albert's Record of American Uniform and Historical Buttons. When I came to page 394, my eyes nearly popped from my head! There was the eagle... there was my button. I had found a Washington inaugural button!"

After a few moments of stunned silence, Bridget went to the phone and left a message for Janis. "I told her to come over to the house as soon as she got home."

Later that evening, as the two examined the incredible find, Janis stated, "I want to find one just like yours." Little did either of them know that those words would prove not merely a wish but a prophecy!

"We returned to the site the following weekend," Janis told me. "My hopes were high, but I knew that although we had recovered a large number of buttons from the field, very few were alike. We threw in our battery packs and headed to the area where Bridget had made her find, and it wasn't too long afterward that I detected a target that had the numbers in my detector's target ID window jumping around a bit. I was curious as to what would make my detector react in such a fashion. As I dug through the clay, I was finally able to isolate the target. It was round... it still had a shank on the back... and I could see an eagle on the front!"

As Bridget recalls, "I heard this scream coming across the field, 'I got one! I got one!' and I really didn't need much more of an explanation. I was just so happy that my best friend was able to find an inaugural button to call her own."

"We spend as much time as possible, between families and jobs, searching the plowed fields when they are open to us, and the woods when they are not," the girls related. "We've made a lot of finds and many friends since we began this hobby, and it will always be our mutual regret that we didn't start metal detecting sooner."

"I find it so strange these days," added Bridget, "to leave notes for my husband just like the ones he has been leaving for me during the twenty years of our marriage: Gone hunting... be back later!"

When I viewed these twin buttons and heard the story behind them, I couldn't help wondering if there might be a third Washington inaugural button out in that field... maybe one with my name on it. After all, "Birds of a Feather Flock Together"- or so I've witnessed!

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