As seen in the December 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine
And We Call It Treasure!
By: Ed Fedory
Treasure... now there's a word for you! It's a word that conjures up all kind of images. Ill-gotten booty buried deep in the sands of some tropical isle... argghhh! Eye patches and parrots... warm Caribbean breezes... the snapping of acres of canvas as she comes about in the wind! Somewhere there's Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone, and Wallace Beery thrown into the mix, guided by the pen of either Robert Louis Stevenson or Raphael Sabatini.
The 17th cache found on the site consisted of 19 Bust halves and a Spanish 4 reales, all still in beautiful condition after having been in the ground for over 160 years!
You'll have noticed that we don't call ourselves treasure hunters very much, anymore. We're relic hunters... coinshooters... competition hunters... shallow water hunters, or my personal favorite, metal detecting hobbyists. Cache hunters comes about as close to treasure hunters as we're willing to tread. Either we've become highly specialized in our pursuits, or we find the term treasure hunter slightly gauche in a world that has suddenly aspired to the lofty heights of political correctness in every sentence we venture to utter. Never having adhered much to any given herd mentality, I think I'll just call them like I see them... Len and Pete... treasure hunters!
These coins are part of an earlier cache found by Len and Pete. I have never seen so many early coins, in such beautiful condition, before in my life. Now this is treasure hunting!
I first viewed a portion of Pete and Len's treasure at one of the Best of the Northeast shows in Keene, New Hampshire. I was named as one of the Best Finds judges, but was a little late in arriving at the room where the judging was taking place. What I initially noticed was a group of judges gathered around one particular box. "Ed, come here! You've got to see this!" called one of the other judges. What I saw astounded me! There were well over 100 American Bust half dollars and a number of pieces of Spanish silver!
I was to meet Len and Pete a year later, over a couple of cold beverages, in my barn. Displayed on the workbench was the latest portion of their recovered treasure... the most recent cache... the 17th cache! Spread before me were 19 Bust halves and a lone Spanish 4 reales.
The Erie Canal brought an easy route of travel between Albany and Buffalo, New York. A trip that took six days in the 1840s can now be done on the New York State Thruway in as many hours!
I have to confess that I've spent a lot of hours since our last meeting thinking about those 17 caches buried in those wooded acres... and I am expecting to hear about the 18th... and the 19th... the 20th! I really don't care where they found their treasure... their pot of silver at the end of the rainbow... the answer to their dreams. There was a lot of time and legwork involved in making that first recovery, but after the ice was broken came a flood of silver. All they had with which to work were some old tales and some subtle clues that pointed them in a vast general direction. It took sweat and perseverance to make their dream come true. And I guess that's what treasure hunting is all about... not just having a dream... believing in the dream. It's what keeps you on the hunt when you're cold... and tired... hungry and hurting... bramble-bruised and bug-bitten... believing!
Most of us would be tickled to death to find a lone 1784 Spanish 4 reales... but how would you like to find that piece of Spanish silver in the company of 19 silver ladies!
When the Erie Canal was finally completed, it formed a link between these isolated pockets of humanity, and provided a very cost-effective way in which to move goods. Trade flourished, and a new and prosperous economy hit the area. Big money was being made where little had previously existed. Industries grew, and the canal provided an easy means for getting manufactured goods to consumers. The Erie Canal provided the stimulus for growth. More turnpikes were built, and stage routes opened up along its banks for easy access.
The Erie Canal brought a financial boom to New York. Entire cities and industries grew up on its banks... wealth and prosperity became the norm... and a small portion somehow found its way into the ground!
In every case, the individual bore a punch mark of some type, and this might provide us with the only clue to the original purposes of these coins. It would seem that these punch marks were used as some sort of early tracking device. Was it a way in which to monitor the amount of money returning to the company store at the end of a pay week? Were these marks a type of early security device used for testing and displaying the silver content of
While the majority of the recovered caches consisted of early Bust halves and quarters, Spanish 4 reales were also well represented.
Any day now, I expect to get a message from these two treasure hunters about their latest cache of recovered silver coins... or, I might be working in the barn, hear the rumble of a loud engine outside the door, and see an armored car pulling in the driveway instead of Sherm's big tractor. Pete will be jumping out of one door, bubbling with excitement, hopping up and down on one foot and then the other, his words nearly inarticulate. The other door will ease open, a smiling bearded face will greet me, and Len's composed voice will ask the question...