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Older Ladies Excite Me – Metal Detecting Older Homes

I pulled into the driveway and just sat looking at her.  She stood in the center of the huge lawn which was surrounded on three sides by a two-foot tall rock wall.  The lady was born in ’35, but appeared much younger.  She was built like a, well, like a brick house.  I had never spoken to the lady, at least not aloud, but her guardian had given me permission to visit as often as I liked.  I knew she had seen much in her years.  She had watched pioneers moving west, had seen scores of children playing on her great yard, hosted large family picnics or possibly small ones with just a courting couple under the shady oak tree.  Perhaps, she had even watched as Civil War soldiers of both sides camped along the stream just a few hundred yards away.  Actually, this lady was born not in 1935, but 1835.  I am here to unearth the treasures she has seen lost or hidden from where she stands.  But before you think I am either crazy or a pervert, I must tell you the lady is a stately old mansion, and I am here with my metal detector.

I have been using metal detectors for over 40 years.  I have found literally thousands of coins, mostly pennies, nickels, and dimes across the United States and Canada. Often, a quarter would fall to my searching and on rare occasions even a half dollar.  To spice things up, a metal toy, a piece of jewelry, or a token of some sort would sometimes pop out of the ground with some small assistance from my digging tool.  Many times, the hidden treasure was a piece of tinfoil, an old nail, or a metal pull tab.  Unfortunately, I seldom kept a journal of where I had been and what I had found.  I have hunted beaches, parks, playgrounds, campgrounds, and every friend, neighbor and family member’s yard I could get permission to enter.  I enjoyed it all! 

Like many others who practice this hobby, I eventually found a certain type of metal detecting that appealed to me more than the rest.  I started looking for houses at least a hundred years old.  I figured if I was searching for old, valuable coins, I should probably look in older places.  I didn’t realize then that the longer a yard had been used, the more junk and trash would also be in the ground.  Many years ago, around one old farmhouse, my machine located, and I dug, a five-gallon bucket of trash.  I also dug just seven coins that day, but the newest was a 1917 dime and the oldest was my first large cent, minted in 1852.  It was drizzling with a couple inches of snow on the ground, but I didn’t notice that until I was on the way home.

In my travels around this state (and other states too) I often use backroads.  As I drive, I watch for the “older ladies” that I like so much.  I seldom stop unless I see someone outside.  Most people don’t like a stranger coming to their door, but don’t seem to mind talking if they are already outside.  I explain that my hobby is metal detecting around old houses and ask for permission to hunt their property.  I promise to be careful and leave the yard looking as good as I found it.  Sometimes they tell me no.  Usually, they want to know more about what I’m doing.  If they appear especially interested, I offer to teach them how to use an extra machine I carry with me in return for letting me search.  Often, if they allow me to stay, and if I find some nice items, I offer them one as thanks for permission.   Before I leave, I ask them if I can return another time or if they have any relatives or friends with similar places I could possibly hunt.  As of this writing, I have permission to hunt 11 yards over 100 years old that I haven’t gotten to yet.  I am always looking for more.

My oldest coin to date is an 1803 large cent.  These coins are slightly larger than a current quarter.  I am searching for a house that was built in the early 1800’s hoping it will yield my first coin from the 1700’s.  But coins are not the only valuable items found in older yards.  Some tokens are rare finds.  I have found three tokens that are inscribed “Good for one cigar”, two marked “Good for one pint of milk” (perhaps from an old school?), one railway token, and several others.  I located one neat watch fob shaped like a bulldozer. The front is inscribed “Professional Jungle Clearers, and the back has a map of Vietnam with dates on it.

Children’s playthings are often lost.  I have a box of old Matchbox cars in various conditions, a Captain Midnight Flight Commander badge, keys of all types, lighters, pocket knives, and of course lots of assorted jewelry, mostly cheap costume items, but with enough better pieces to make digging a ring out of the ground exciting. 

I always obtain permission before hunting any area.  There are enough good spots I don’t need to get chased out of any by an irate owner.  If I ask for an OK and don’t get it, I thank the person and move on to the next spot on my list. 

I am still looking for my first silver dollar, my first gold coin, and my first 1700’s coin.  Perhaps, if I find the right house, I can dig them all in the same yard! 


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