In Mount Holly, NJ resides a property that has been very good to me and James. This land, thanks to its generous owners, has provided us with great times accompanied with great relics. Notable finds include Indian Head pennies, Buffalo nickels, buttons, buckles, an 1857 Flying Eagle Penny and an engraved watch maker’s plate that now resides in a museum. So, when James and I were planning a return visit, we were hoping we’d repeat our success – and we were hoping for warm weather!
This time around, we invited our friend Erik. Erik isn’t exactly an early bird like me and James, so we knew he’d be joining us a few hours after sunrise. We, of course, would get there as early as we could. Just as the sun’s glow started to kiss the sky, James and I finished our bagels and started to gear up. We had arrived early since winter daylight hours are short, and we had to make the most of every minute.
It was cold. Not as bad as it could have been, but cold nonetheless. I was wearing plenty of layers, but was still able to move around like a nimble Frankenstein’s monster. The previous times we hunted this property we clung to the shaded areas since it was usually in the mid-90s. This time around we were looking for the sun. We also wanted to make sure Erik had virgin land to hunt when he arrived, so we focused on the side of the house which we had aimlessly searched one time before. This was the same area I found the John Mecke engraved watch plate.
As James focused on the far end of this strip of lawn, I started in the middle and started my search. Right off the bat I got a good, solid signal and began to dig. As I pushed away the earth, I saw thing about half the size of my fist, with rounded edges. I was getting excited as this was only a few feet away from where I found the watch plate. I gently removed the object from the ground and cleaned off some of the dirt. It’s a bell! A cowbell! I’ve never found a cowbell before. Unfortunately it’s missing the hammer on the inside, but I hope saving this relic makes Christopher Walken happy.
As I continued to search the area, James hit a hot spot, which may have been an old dump site on the property. He was pulling up all types of relics: horseshoes, bottles, tools. He was very busy. Meanwhile, I unearthed one of my favorite types of finds: an old button. This was a nice, one-piece dandy flat button with the shank fully intact. Not too long afterward I found another, smaller one that was missing the shank.
As the ten o’clock our struck, I got another good signal. Working diligently, I pulled out a rusty nail, but I knew the GOOD target was still in there. After probing with my Pro Pointer, I got the signal which seemed just inside the sidewall of the hole. Just as I went to retrieve it, Erik pulled into the driveway. I put my shovel down and walked over to greet him. James and I showed him our finds thus far and he went to his truck to get geared up. As he gathered his things, I went back to the hole to retrieve my prize. I pulled out what seemed to be a very large round, flat button. One side was very smooth, and the other was caked in mud. Before I cleaned it off, I ran over to Erik and called James over.
“Guys, it’s either a button or a very old coin!” I wiped off the backside and it too was smooth. No shank, no evidence of there ever being a shank. “I think I can make out a bust,” Erik said. My arms raised high in the air… a coin!! But what? I’d have to clean and measure it to see if I can make a proper identification.
I placed the coin on my “good finds towel” and resumed my hunt.
Like my coin, many of our finds aren’t identifiable upon unearthing. Oftentimes it takes cleaning, measurement, and/or research before we realize what we have. Sometimes it’s great; sometimes it’s junk. James found a beautiful decorative piece of metal, which upon cleaning revealed “sterling silver.” After some research, James concluded that it was formerly part of a pocket knife. Take a look how amazing it looks, even after 100+ years in the ground!
As the wind picked up and the sun started to fade, we started to gather our things. It was a great day, and we found a lot of good stuff (see gallery below). When I got home I cleaned my “coin” and was able to make out a bust, very faintly, but I could definitely make out a shape. I measured the diameter (27mm) and started my research. Based on the size and the shape of the bust, I was able to make a positive ID. I found my FIRST pre-Revolutionary War coin! A King George II half penny, circa 1727-1750! Finally! Large cents and colonial coins have eluded me. I’m hoping this one has broken the ice and I’ll start digging them up regularly. Stay tuned to find out!