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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (04/2010) AMP (02/2010) Featured Article (06/2010)   Vol. 44 April 2010 
This Month's Features
As seen in the April 2010 edition of W&ET Magazine

Found! 1877 Indian Head Cent

By: Randy Horton

For those of us in the Midwest, where the first settlers did not arrive until the mid 1850s, there aren't any Colonial coins or battlefields. Finding Seated Liberty coins and Indian Head cents is as good as it gets. One of my favorite spots to hunt is the site of an old "gathering place," used from the late 1860s to the late 1890s. Today, it looks like any other cornfield in the state. However, through research, I've learned that it was used by the locals as a picnic ground, fairground, and for church revivals.

When my brother and I arrived there last fall, we found 80 acres of cornstalk stubble. Knowing there was a huge amount of iron trash at this site, I started the hunt using my Etrac equipped with a 6" x 8" Butterfly coil. But after four hours of snagging the open web coil in those cornstalks, I decided to switch to my X-Terra 705 with a solid-bottom 6" DD coil, operating at 18.75 kHz. I walked to a portion of the field that had yielded many coins in years past and started down a row. After less than 50 yards, I got a steady, high-tone signal. Confident that it was going to be a dime, I carefully excavated the beautiful Seated Liberty lady dated 1882.

Continuing to work that immediate area, I got a second signal within a few steps, and this time, from the target ID reading, I was sure it was going to be an Indian Head cent. I dug a small hole and pulled out a nice 1888 Indian. Circling the area, I was bound and determined to find more coins before it got too dark to dig. After about ten minutes, I got a solid hit that promised to be another old cent. I dug it and carefully wiped away some of the dirt. The last digit looked like a 7, but I couldn't be sure without rinsing it off. Having left my bottle of water in the truck, I put the coin in my pocket and kept detecting.

About 30 minutes later, my brother and I crossed paths and decided to call it a day. He said he'd found a couple of Shield nickels and asked what I had found. I told him I had a Seated Liberty dime and a couple of Indians. Then I added that I thought one of the Indians was an 1877. He reminded me that 1877 was a key date and said I'd better recheck the coin. When I pulled out the coin and handed it to him, he grinned, saying he thought I had a good one. To be honest, I couldn't remember if it was the '77 or the '78 that was the "valuable one," but he assured me that it was the '77.

When we got back to the truck, he pulled out his bottle of water and carefully rinsed off the coin. There in all her glory was a beautiful 1877 Indian Head cent- full Liberty, full date, and a beautiful patina! Oh, there are a few "imperfections" on her, and her face is a bit dirty. But considering the number of times this field has been tilled with some pretty heavy farm machinery, and the number of times it's been hunted, I feel fortunate to have found her, and that she looks as good as she does.

After posting pictures of the coin on a metal detector forum, I was encouraged to have it graded. So, I took it to a PGCS/NGC certified coin dealer, and he sent it in to be slabbed. He estimated it to grade VF+ and insured it for $2,300. I have not received it back yet, nor have I decided what I will do with the coin once it's returned. In any case, just as soon as the snow melts, you can bet I'll be back in the cornfield, looking for more old coins.

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