On a recent outing to an unplanted field in Salem County, NJ, among other finds (King George III copper, colonial tombac coat button, 1894 Indian Head penny) I located a colonial cufflink. As I unearthed it, I immediately noticed a crude design, which in my experience is often the case with 18th century cufflinks. At first, the image looked like the letters “D” and “R” intertwined with rays above them. However, through the magic of social media—this time a colonial coins and relics Facebook page—two members quickly provided a more accurate ID: The image was of a woman resting on an anchor. On the surface, this design conjures up a romantic vision of a young maiden longingly waiting for her beloved mariner to return to port after a long time at sea. However, through further research (and more online magic), I learned that this image is an age-old allegory used to symbolize undying hope.
Undying hope, captured on a cufflink. Featured side-by-side with James’ artistic rendering.
Thus, in the reflection that followed this find, something became clear to me: Amid a very uncertain time of rough living conditions, short lifespans, and uncertain futures, the colonial wearer of this cufflink not only literally wore hope on their shirtsleeves, but (much more significantly) they held unyielding hope in their heart. We can learn a lot from our forbearers!
There’s a story behind every artifact. Most of these stories remain dormant like the fields in which they are buried. This latest find is yet another example of how metal detectorists can give them voice!
NJ Copper coin
No matter what your hobby or interest may be, we all have those elusive, much-sought-after finds, goals, catches (think fishing), or items that we are hoping to someday cross off our personal bucket lists. For me, in my hobby of metal detecting, this was always the New Jersey state copper coin. Why the New Jersey “copper”? Well, I was born, bred, and still reside in New Jersey—a place for which I hold an immense amount of pride. Couple that with the fact that, as most people with any knowledge of history can attest, New Jersey (wedged between the major colonial and wartime-contested cities of New York and Philadelphia) played a pivotal role during colonial and Revolutionary times, even earning the title of “the cockpit of the Revolution” because of the amount of battles, skirmishes, and Revolutionary traffic that occurred here. Read more
1810-1830 Naval button with gold gilt
Recently, I took to the farm fields for a full day of detecting given that the fields will soon be planted, which will signify an end to field hunting until November. Though I have scoured these vast fields about a dozen times, this outing was by far my most successful.
The finds, as seen below, included a gold gilded naval button circa 1810-1830, a post-Civil War South Carolina two-piece button, a colonial flower-motif coat button, a musket ball, a rather chubby skeleton key, an early 1700s George I copper coin, an early 1800s U.S. half cent, a Fishman’s copper store token, an early watch winder, a silver barrette, and many other colonial and post-colonial buttons. Read more
It’s been a long and daunting winter in the Northeastern United States. Snowstorm after snowstorm, low temperatures and frozen ground have translated into zero metal detecting outings for many of us. Itching to get out and detect, I couldn’t take it much longer. Usually the beaches provide haven when the dirt is snow covered or impossible to penetrate, but even the sand on the Jersey Shore has been cement-like. I took the opportunity of an above-freezing day on the first day of March and headed way south to meet up with friends Dave McMahon and Relic Ron. While targets were few and far between, I did manage to find some old ship nails and percussion caps. I’ve always wanted to find something from a shipwreck, and braving the cold, wind, and snow this day paid off. The ride home was scary as we got another 6-8 inches of snow, thus keeping me off my old home sites for a little longer. Once the thaw happens, I’ll be sure to post the good stuff!
Two ship nails and two percussion caps, probably from the 1700s.