The winter months in the Northeast aren’t usually favorable to us metal detectorists. Frigid temperatures, and worse, frozen grounds really limit our ability to pursue our passion. This year, however, has been kind to us. Yes, it’s been cold, and yes the ground has been hard, but not quite frozen enough to withstand my mighty muscles.
This past Sunday I was fortunate to have a few hours to pursue my relic hunting. Snow lightly covered the grass, but a ground test proved that I was able to dig. So off to the Castle House I went! My main focus, upon arrival, was to concentrate on the backyard area right near the house’s back door. James had already searched this area, but he’s a wanderer and not a grid fanatic like me, so I was hoping he missed some targets.
Detecting Lingo: To “grid” an area is to carefully and methodically go up and down, back and forth along straight lines so as to not miss any possible finds. Gridding ensures that you’ve scanned every inch of your searchable area. When you go off grid (wander) you’re sure to miss something!
My first target was a faint signal. But there was something there and I was intent to find out. I forced my shovel through the ground and began my search. I saw a small gold loop, like an earring. Yes! It was tangled in a root so I carefully released it from its binds. It certainly was gold – gold colored, that is – and turned out to be just a rivet. Sigh. I plugged the hole and started to search again.
The area I was searching was shaded, and cold. I looked over my shoulder and the sunny part of the side yard beckoned me. “Why are you in the cold, shady area? Come to the light!” She made a lot of sense. So I abandoned my grid and basked in the sun. The soil, too, had been basking in the sun for quite some time and had become very muddy. It wasn’t long before I and my equipment became a sloppy, muddy mess. On top of that I wasn’t finding anything but rusty nails and foil, so it was time to abandon another spot.
I made my way over to the other side of the house. It too was sunny, but the soil was dry. This suited me. I had hunted this area of lawn before, but I was armed with my new detector (Minelab CTX 3030) and this time would go slow and steady. More nails and foil followed, and I decided I would ignore those types of signals after the next dig. Well, it was a good thing I gave myself one more dig, as I unearthed a beautiful, and tiny, military insignia of an eagle’s crest.
I quickly snapped a pic and emailed it off to my relic hunting life partner, James, who suggested it might be military hat brass. After some research, I believe his initial identification is correct – either that or a lapel pin. I’m not sure I’ll ever be certain. But it’s in perfect shape and will now reside in my display case.
I spent a little more time in the front yard before I felt it was exhausted, and then retreated back where I started. I wandered around a bit to find less muddy ground, and was happy with how the soil was near the sidewalk. I slowly started my grid pattern and got a few penny signals, which all proved to be pennies (wheat and memorial). I then came upon a foil signal and, begrudgingly, began to dig. I saw something round, larger than a coin, and very thin. I carefully removed it from the hole and gently wiped away some dirt. I soon realized I had a tag of some sorts, with the words “Spratts Patent Limited 1303 New York” pressed into it. Hmm, what could it be? A quick Google search enlightened me. Spratts Patent Limited was the first major distributor of dog biscuits in the U.S. The company was in New York from 1890-1895 and then moved its operations to Newark, NJ. Since this tag says New York, I’ve concluded it dates back to the early 1890s (I think that’s a good conclusion unless I discover that the company continued to stamp New York on tags after its move to the Garden State).
Not too far from the Spratts tag, I got more foil targets. Since my detector beeped a few times over one swipe, I dug a larger than usual plug so as to not damage anything potentially good. As I poked my Pro Pointer into the dirt, it started to scream right away. First item I pulled was a decorative piece that resembled a leaf. Not far behind was another leaf! Then the last item looked like a flower. They each cleaned up nicely and I wonder if they were each part of a larger, very ornate ensemble.
As my time detecting drew to a close, and my body was done accumulating mud, I slowly packed it up for the day. Although old coins at the Castle seem few and far between, I was more than happy with the relics I unearthed and in the process learned something interesting about NY/NJ history. I’ll keep you posted if I get an absolute ID on the military insignia.
Till next time, happy hunting!