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Time to Hit the Castle

Posted by on January 1, 2013
Castle House

Castle House

Growing up, I always knew of the “Castle House” in my town. “George Washington once spent the night there,” I’d hear from my mom and others in town. The house was actually built in the 1830s, so I don’t think George had the opportunity to visit. Nevertheless, it’s one of only two original buildings in my town that’s still standing. At that time there were only 15 houses total; now my town hosts 12,000-plus residents. The castle’s property once spanned acres upon acres, but now sits on about a 80’x200’ lot. Overall my hometown is pretty dense. Homes on 60’ x 100’ lots which don’t offer lots of detecting opportunity. Lawns are small, and owners are understandably protective of them. So if there was one house, one property that I should target more than any other, it would be the castle house.

Sadly, the house has seen better days. It’s been vacant for a number of years and its former owners didn’t take care of it. Now it’s just waiting to be knocked down where new structures will be homes to new residents. I needed to detect the property before it was too late!

I sent an email to my step-father, who’s a real estate agent, asking, “Who owns the castle house!” His reply shocked me. My childhood friend’s family owned it!! Seriously? No way. Wow. So I sent my friend an email, and after a few exchanges, James (who is also a childhood friend) and I were granted access.

James was able to pull away from Thanksgiving weekend family obligations for a half-day hunt, and we gave new meaning to the phrase, “Time to hit the castle.” (Formerly this meant it was time for a snack sack of murder burgers.) It was a slightly chilly day, but what made it worse was the wind. Howling gusts made for an uncomfortable experience, but we are professionals and dedicated to our passion. No wind is strong enough, even if it continually sent my water bottle stumbling from one side of the yard to the other. We were men, with big shovels and a will to persevere… and thankfully dressed in layers.

I was keen on searching the front yard, so I started heading in that direction. Along the way I swiped my coil along the side yard adjacent to the driveway. Meanwhile, James was in the backyard close to the house. Neither of us struck anything fantastic; just some modern pennies amongst a lot of junk. Surely there was old stuff to be found! Right?

1937 wheat penny

1937 wheat penny found on side yard

I started on the front yard, where there’s a small hill leading to the sidewalk. I thought, “Good spot for coins,” as I imagined people taking a break from a hard day’s work, sitting on the hill as coins spilled out of their pockets. And I was right! But I was digging up clad (modern coins) and nothing old. James, who had meandered to the other side of the front yard got a buffalo nickel and a Borden’s 1 1/2 cent token, which gave us some hope.

Finally, I got a high tone (usually means copper or silver) and it was a solid hit. As I unplugged the earth, I saw the telltale shimmer of silver! I gently pulled the coin out of the dirt to reveal a nice Mercury dime. A nice find, but still not as old as I was hoping.

1924 Mercury Dime

1924 Mercury Dime

After digging two very deep holes, only to discover what laid beneath were pipes (ugh!) I headed to the backyard. James soon followed. More junk, but I did unearth a cool item: A Dick Tracy Secret Service Patrol captain’s badge, dating back to 1938.

1938 Dick Tracy Secret Service Patrol captain’s badge

1938 Dick Tracy Secret Service Patrol captain’s badge

By now the wind had taken its toll on us, and James had to get back to family. We packed up our gear, overall disappointed with the day’s bounty, but knowing full well that the good stuff was there.

About 2 weeks later I decided to give it another go. I only had two hours, so I wanted to concentrate on a small part and really hit it thoroughly. On the way I left a voicemail for James telling him I was “hitting the castle,” and asked him for a prediction. Shortly after I got a text: “V nickel.” OK, sure James.

The castle’s property is surrounded by a fence, which made getting close to the sidewalk difficult. The fence returned a very nice high tone that I couldn’t discriminate out, so I had to ignore the very bottom part of the hill. Nevertheless, I was going slow and steady. And I was getting good tones. Hits that were in fact right next to, or sometimes even on top of holes I had already dug! I must have been reckless my first time out. After a few modern coins, I dug up what I at first thought was a stinkin’ Lincoln (modern penny) but after a closer investigation I saw an Indian headdress. Yes! An Indian penny! It’s one of my favorite coins, and I was very happy to find it. A short while later I got nice tone and dug up a nickel, but it looked odd to me. Could it be? Yes, 1942 – a war nickel! During the war effort, the military needed metal for equipment and arms, so for a few years the US minted nickels using silver. Fantastic!

1942 War Nickel

1942 War Nickel

As I was winding down my day I got a final good signal. I dug up a, um, slug? It was completely smooth on both sides. It looked like a coin, but no detail whatsoever.  I never trash anything, so I put it in my pouch and would clean and inspect later.

I packed up my gear and headed home. I soaked my finds in some soapy water and saw what I thought was a straight line in the “slug.” I found better, natural lighting and saw another line connected to the first one at a sharp angle. Is that… a crown? Looks like a crown… could it be a… Before I said it, I went to my coin reference app and looked up a V nickel. It clearly had the same shape crown as I saw on my smooth coin. A little more soapy water and the whole bust was revealed, albeit very subtly.

1906 Indian Head Penny and Liberty Head V Nickel

1906 Indian Head Penny and Liberty Head V Nickel

James is psychic! He predicted it spot on… a V nickel. The reverse is totally smooth and I can’t bring out any detail, and I don’t think I’ll ever know the date since I think it’s not going to clean up any better.

V nickel, war nickel, Indian head … a short hunt that yielded a great grouping of coins. I’m super excited and can’t wait for another chance to hit the castle!

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