This past Friday I traveled to Piermont, NY, to detect a property for which my brother had acquired permission. While my brother does not share my interest in metal detecting, he is a great advocate and supporter of mine and is equally interested to see the items that I find. Before we traveled to the site, we made a pit stop at his newly purchased house, which was built circa 1860. Sometime soon I will detect that spot, and needless to say, my brother is anxious to see what lies underneath the soil there. However, because he has not officially closed on the new house, we simply walked around the perimeter so I could get a tour of the yard. As we got three quarters of the way around the secluded, flat property, I noticed a coin lying right on the surface face up. It turned out to be an 1873 Indian head penny in great condition. Would this be a foreshadowing of a great day of finds? Read on…
We made our way over to the intended site, a beautiful late-1800s home on over an acre of land backing up to a park. Most of the detectable property is located in the front of the house, comprised of a small hill that gives way to a flat section where the property meets the street.
Things started slowly, with some foil and a pull tab or two unearthed. I could tell that this property would be a challenge based on the amount of chatter in my headphones telling me that the ground was very mineralized. To combat the unstable soil, I ground balanced my machine and enabled the “Iron Audio” feature so that I could hear all of the high, conductive tones among the overpowering lower grunts synonymous with “irony” soil.
After several digs, I located my first mentionable find, a 1943 part-silver “war” nickel. (From late 1942 through 1945, the U.S. nickel was made of 35% silver, 56% copper, and 9% manganese instead of nickel, so that nickel reserves could be conserved for the war effort.)
My next worthy find was a thick, round piece of lead that I immediately hoped was a seal or some kind of token. Excitement came later at home when I found the proper ID: an early- to mid-1800s Belgian lead bag seal.
Up next was a 1925 silver mercury dime. Things were picking up after that aforementioned slow start.
As the morning wore on, however, I proceeded to dig wheat penny after modern penny after wheat penny. Never mind a penny for my thoughts; if I had a penny for my digs, I would be a wealthy man indeed. As lunchtime approached, I dug a hem or curtain weight, i.e., those small round or square (this one was square) lead objects used to weigh down a dress or curtain to prevent it blowing in the wind (and by extension, to prevent a gratuitous view of the owner’s, shall we say, private property).
After lunch I concentrated on the other side of the front yard nearer the driveway. Almost instantly, I dug a 1944 silver Washington quarter, followed by a sterling silver Canada pin.
A little while later, getting yet another would-be penny signal, I dug down 4-6 inches and was surprised and ecstatic to pull out a large green-hued coin. I could make out a left-facing bust, as well as Lady Britannia on the reverse side—I immediately recognized it as a mid-to-late 1700s King George II coin. My brother could easily read my exhilaration and he, too, was excited witnessing me unearth a colonial coin. Though I had found a few KG IIs before, this one was special because it was on a property with a structure dating back to 1880. Obviously, this find harkened back to an earlier period in this property’s past. I could have gone home happy then and there, but it wasn’t time to go just yet.
Not long thereafter I got a good, but jumpy high tone that beckoned me to dig. When I flipped back the dirt plug, there was another green disc staring at me—yet another early copper coin. I could see that this one’s bust faced right, which I knew was different than KG II coins. After later research, factoring in the placement of the letters of “GEORGIUS” on the obverse side and given its size, it was evident that I had a King George I half penny, circa 1717-1724! This likely represented my oldest coin—“likely” because my previous oldest was the 1723 or 1724 Hibernia copper coin unearthed, of all places, on my front lawn (read that story here)—but without an identifiable date, I may never know. I’m guessing it’s not a 1723 or 1724 based on the configuration of numbers I see (or think I see).
It was late in the day by now, though my excitement was as fresh as if I had just arrived to the property, and I decided on just a couple of more digs, one of which was a small flat button from the late 1700s/early 1800s. Then, it was time to go, though if circumstances permitted I would have stayed longer to try and sniff out some more colonial-era items.
This 1880 property had far surpassed my expectations and it reiterated a great aspect of this hobby: you just never know what history lies under the soil, no matter what the history above it foretells.