On a recent Sunday morning, as many folks were engaged in last-minute grocery shopping and other preparations for the Super Bowl, my thoughts were focused on getting in a few hours of metal detecting on an otherwise busy winter day. After all, what better way to pre-pay for the double-whammy of overindulgence and inactivity inherent in the big game than to get out in the fresh air and burn some calories looking for lost relics? I’m lucky to have a local property to return to at my leisure that has provided some thrilling finds and such an asset in close proximity is perfect for these limited windows of opportunity.
Arriving at the property, I donned my gear (not a helmet and padding like for the aforementioned Super Bowl, but a belt with a finds pouch, pinpointer, and digger attached) and walked to the backyard to gauge the soil conditions. As if the metal detectorist doesn’t already have to contend with roots, mud, ticks, poison ivy, overly curious onlookers, etc., etc., winter adds its own annoying variable—the potential for frozen ground. Happily, a forceful thrust of my shovel into said ground told me that, although the soil wasn’t going to be perfect like it can be in, say, October or November, I had the green light to get started.
A quick survey of the backyard, which I’ve already explored with diligence, turned up a few modern coins that escaped me on prior visits. I decided to return to the front yard, and specifically to the area nearest the street, to see what was hiding beneath the soil. After unearthing a few additional modern coins and more bottle caps than I would have liked (this must be where the homeowners place their recycling container for pick up, I thought), I got a solid, repeatable “85” readout on my detector’s screen. As I’ve mentioned previously on this site (if you were paying attention, as you should), an 85 is almost always indicative of a modern quarter on my machine, but it does have the potential to be an old copper or silver coin. Copper usually doesn’t signal that high, but because many pre-1860s copper coins were large (think larger than a quarter, smaller than a half-dollar) the VDI—or conductive measure—tends to signal higher on my machine for such items. With some degree of excitement based on past finds at this locale, I proceeded to drive my shovel into the ground, but this time my force was met with sound resistance. Apparently, this part of the ground WAS frozen and wasn’t going to give up its contents without a fight.
After some effort and a few choice curses, I was able to extract a small frozen clump of dirt from the targeted spot, but, try as I might, I was unable to break it open with my (at this point frigid) hands. Oh well, I thought, this will provide me with some suspense until I can properly crack this clump open at home. I didn’t want to risk damaging the contents by chiseling the dirt away with my digger, so this was the only viable option I had.
Later on, after digging a rather imposing bullet, a small Santa pin (missing its clasp) and some old metal tube (original contents unknown), I decided to call it a day so I could go home, shower, and contemplate what gluttonous food I was going to devour during the big game. After arriving home, I proceeded to empty the contents of my finds pouch, which included the small, mysterious clump of dirt that was still incredibly frozen. I brought the object—picture a dirt grenade—to the sink and let a gentle stream of water slowly dissolve the caked-on dirt. Right away, with some muck gone, I saw the glimmer of silver. This made me excited because it was clear it was NOT the expected modern quarter after all. I then thought it was perhaps a silver (i.e., pre-1965) Washington quarter, but hoped for something older, like a standing liberty or Barber quarter. As more dirt washed away it was clear that the object was of irregular shape; this drove my excitement level even higher and it led me to instinctually increase the water pressure on the faucet. After only a few seconds, gone was all the clumpy dirt and sitting in my hand was a nice, shiny silver ring! Closer inspection of the underside through a magnifier showed a “.925” mark, confirming its silver composition. As you can see from the pictures, it looks like it originally held a stone; perhaps I’ll return to the excavation site and see if I can’t unearth a diamond in the rough, so to speak.
Well, what followed was a great football game, a very full stomach, and a lasting memory of a once frozen clump of dirt that ended up warming my spirits.