Many TH'ers I come in contact with complain about the lack of new and exciting sites to detect, and talk about the "worked out" schoolyards and parks. They mention their desire to travel, either to find gold out west, relics in the south or gold doubloons on a Florida beach. They're bored to be sure, but I sometimes have to laugh because as far as I am concerned new and exciting areas await you just beyond your doorstep. The reason many of you aren't aware of this is that you are not observant enough. You frequently do not ask the right questions, and you do not follow up the ever present clues that abound in your areas. I'm not talking about the old "coinshooting the local schoolyard" routine; I'm talking about coin laden sites that no one has hunted, and are there, simply waiting to be discovered. You're surely asking, "How can I find these areas?"
Well, let me back up about two years, and explain just how I became aware of these sites, and how I continue to find them even now.
About three years ago I would have been the first to tell you that finding a decent coin site to detect was becoming impossible, especially if you live in New Jersey, as I do. I continually hit the local schoolyards, the same church grounds, the same parks, and yes I found coins, but finding clad coins no longer interested me. I longed for the prime areas, where no one had ever used a metal detector, and where old and valuable coins were stacked end on end, waiting for me to find them. Sound too good to be true? Not really! Thanks to an older couple living up the road I did indeed find such an area, and as a result realized that there surely had to others like it just waiting to be discovered.
The couple I refer to were both retired, and in their mid-sixties. They became close to my wife and I in that they babysat our two children late afternoons until we returned home from work. They became family, and nicer people have not entered our lives since! In any case they were aware that I spent a great of time metal detecting, and one night mentioned an old "dance area" just across the road! Had I ever searched there? I looked at them dumbfounded, because across the road was nothing more than a small wooded area. It was triangular in shape, due to the fact that three roads met at that spot, and if I had to guess the area way maybe eighty yards by twenty yards. From all outward appearances it was nothing more than a wooded parcel of land, and gave no indication that it was a site worthy of searching.
They went on to explain that back in the early part of the century, and up to the late forties it was an area used by the locals for Saturday night dances. A large dance floor once stood on the site, as well as two or three refreshment stands, and it was "the place" to be. It was not uncommon to have two to three hundred people there every Saturday. If you wanted to dance, all you needed to do was pay your way and..... are you ready for the best part.....it was a "dime a dance!" After hearing this I was hoping that no one else knew about this area, and made it a point to get up early the next day to find out.
After arriving at the site I scanned the area, and tried to determine where the dance floor had been. A small concentration of nails on top of ground told me and I began my preliminary search there. I began finding coins almost immediately. Most of them (what else?) dimes, and most of them Barber and Mercuries. I found many early dates, and most all were in either fine or extremely fine condition. Mixed in were Indian Head cents, early wheaties, Liberty nickels, and Barber and Standing Liberty quarters. Given that most of the coins were no more than three inches deep it was safe to say I was indeed the first to hunt the site.
For obvious reasons this area became a well kept secret, and was "my" personal close-by honey hole. I continued to detect this area, but after about ten trips the finds began to diminish, and my excitement became lessened. The whole experience had me in a great mood however, and I longed to find another site just like it!
I began thinking about how this site became available to me, and how often I had passed by it on my way to work, never giving it a second thought. Who would think to detect that small strip of land? I wondered also how many other areas like this escaped my notice. There were certainly others, but to find them I needed help. If I had not been told about the dime a dance site I would have never, ever considered detecting it! I made up my mind then and there to ask everyone I knew for clues to other such sites.
I live in Hunterdon County, a rural county situated in the western central part of New Jersey. Much of the countryside is farmland, most communities small, and founded in the middle 1700's or early 1800's. All I needed to do to find the coins I sought was to find someone about two hundred and eighty five years old! Seriously though the area was rich in tradition and history abounded in the countryside. Having lived in the area for many years I was familiar with many of the local residents, and felt confident that they would help me find other areas like the dime a dance site.
I told everyone I knew and came in contact with about my hobby, and asked them if they knew of any areas that might be worthy of my investigation. This included neighbors, friends, co-workers, and sometimes even strangers. I asked them to ask their friends and relatives, especially the older ones, for ideas. I would guess that at least 50 percent of those I asked gave me at least one or two promising areas. Old picnic groves came up, areas that were used for sledding in the winter, old swimming holes, ballfields, homesites and so on. The list grew, and I became excited about the possibilities. In some instances the sites mentioned belonged to the people who brought them up....all the better since they were giving me permission to search at the same time! Also many of the people I talked to were curious about my hobby, and later continued to offer clues even after the initial request.
An old picnic grove, that was once the site for old church suppers provided many Indian Head cents, as well a few pieces of silver. A large vacant field, which had once been the only ballpark in the area, also yielded many old and valuable coins. Some sites, as was to be expected, didn't pan out. I can say now however that my batting average is getting better, and the best part is that I still have a list of sites to check out...all potentially rewarding!
Being aware of what sites were out there really opened my eyes. Many of them were literally no more than five miles from my front door, yet I had not known about them. Another bonus about areas like this is that you usually aren't bothered by pulltabs or tin foil. Most had been abandoned and forgotten about years and years ago, and were simply waiting for the ambitious and cognizant treasure hunter. After searching one or two picnic grove areas I quickly became keenly aware of their characteristic traits...low vegetation, plenty of space between large shade trees, and sometimes a stream or creek close by. Add to that an obscure or overgrown lane, and you were on to something worth a try. Because of these clues I knew that a few other wooded sites in my area might have been groves, and I started writing them down for future searches. Many of my thoughts and hunches panned out, and additional picnic groves were found, as were corner lot ballfields. My enthusiasm picked up, and my finds increased. I found a new lease on life, and my hobby became exciting once more. All I had to do of course was be aware of what was around me...
I realize I am making all this sound quite easy, and it may not be for all that read this article. Depending upon where you live the clues may not be that predictable or that obvious. Finding such sites might take some time, but if it does it will be time well spent, and the rewards worth the effort.