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Records! Do you keep them? If not, you should. Not only do they help keep track of what you find, but they also can tell you more about the sites you are hunting and how well they produce over a given period of time. Where are the best sites for finding silver? Where are the oldest coins being found? These questions can easily be answered by simply keeping a diary of when and where you go detecting and what you find.
The following story took place in 1981 from 14 March to 25 May. Most of the areas detected were in and around Huntsville, Alabama, except for a brief vacation in Illinois. Accurate records were kept of all areas hunted and what was found there. The detector I used during this time frame was a top-of-the-line model with a depth meter. Remember, this was 1981. Also note the number of repeat trips to a certain site if it was a known producer of good coins. In no way was I hunting virgin territory. These places had been searched long before I came along.
The date was 14 March 1981. I was metal detecting with two buddies, Robert Hoard and Jeff Herke. The place we were hunting was in New Market, Alabama not far from Huntsville. We decided to check out old Riverton school. The front yard produced only a few coins, but next to the school was the playground, which was used for softball and other activities. What a day! My diary tells me I found one Barber dime (1911-D), six Mercury dimes, three silver Roosevelt's, one silver Washington quarter, 28 wheat pennies, one clad quarter, four clad dimes, one nickel and 20 modern pennies. The total was 64 coins, of which 39 were the older varieties. Also found were five Alabama tax tokens in denominations of one and five mils. Not a bad site, definitely worth checking out at a later date.
The next day, 15 March, I decided to stay in Huntsville and hunt Rison School. It has been abandoned and in disrepair since the sixties. I've seen as many as three detectorist at a time on this site. Scenes like this never bother me and I always hunt like I'm the first one there. I didn't stay long, but the finds were pretty good. Three Mercury dimes, one silver Roosevelt dime, 13 wheat's, three clad dimes and three newer pennies. Twenty-three coins with 17 good ones. Not bad. Five days passed before I went out again. On 20 March I stopped by a park on the way home from work. One silver quarter, 8 wheat's, 5 dimes, two nickels, 11 Memorial pennies and one tax token.
On 21 March I'm back at Riverton School. My first silver find was a walking Liberty half dollar. How did we three detectorist missed this big coin the last time around? There is no answer. That's what keeps you going back to the same sites over and over again. I finished the rest of the day with three Mercury dimes, four silver Roosevelt dimes, 32 wheat's, one clad quarter, six clad dimes, 36 newer pennies, one buffalo nickel, one tax token and a silver ring. Eighty-five more coins from a site recently hunted by three veteran coin hunters. Also noted in the diary is the finding of a special "gimme" coin. In this case a Mercury dime. After receiving a signal and pinpointing I discovered that someone had already cut a plug for me. I pulled the plug out to investigate, and there lay the Mercury dime. Always run your detector back over a hole before moving on. It could make the difference in finding silver or getting skunked!
As readers have probably already determined, my nickel count (and gold) was very low. Yes, I hunted in the pull-tab reject mode. That's the price you had to pay in 1981 if you didn't want to dig the dreaded pull-tab. The introduction of the target identification meter took care of all that. I use one now and hunt with the discrimination set at three and a half. My gold finds have increased dramatically.
On 27 March I stopped by Clinton Elementary School. It was formerly Greene Military Academy before the civil war. A short visit produced one silver Roosevelt dime, one Indian head penny, seven wheat's, six clad dimes, and four modern pennies. Nineteen coins total. Again, on 28 March, I was back at good old Riverton School. It was still producing silver. I found three Mercury dimes, one silver Roosevelt dime, 21 wheat's, one clad quarter, four dimes, 42 (yes 42) Memorial pennies and one zinc penny from WWII. The zinc penny was totally rusted, but I knew it was a coin because of its shape and the one word that I could still read---the word "GOD". I always thought I had help in finding so many coins.
March 29th was a day I will never forget---not so much in coin finds but something else I found. I was hunting Clinton Elementary School again. The diary says I recovered three Mercury dimes, one silver Roosevelt, 16 wheat's, two Indian head pennies, one clad dime and 8 Memorial pennies. A mere 31 coins, you say. I found six of the coins in one hole around five inches down. All were pennies with dates of 1893, 1897, 1912, 1916, 1918 and 1918-D. Most unusual that day was a weird marginal signal. After pinpointing and digging, I found nothing except an arrowhead. I never could find what set the detector off. On 3 April I was back at this school again for a short visit, which resulted in one Mercury dime, four wheat's, three clad dimes, ten Memorial pennies and two civil war bullets.
April 4th I decided to hunt a school built in 1956, Blossomwood Elementary. I usually didn't hunt a school this new, but silver was around then. I proved it too. I found one silver Washington quarter, two Mercury dimes, ten wheat's, five clad quarters, eight clad dimes, twenty modern pennies, one silver pendant and two keys. Forty-six coins total. Not bad for a new school.
The next day, April 5th, I decided to go to the town of Athens, which was not far away. I stopped at Athens High School because it has a large front yard with huge buttonwood trees. One of the first finds was a civil war identification tag engraved with the name "C. Myers". The front yard also produced some other good finds, such as one silver Washington quarter, one Mercury dime, two silver Roosevelt's, fourteen wheat's, one clad quarter, five clad dimes, sixteen Memorial pennies and two keys. I mention the keys because I keep all that I find and put them on a chain (which I also found). Many people seem fascinated by keys so it makes a pretty good conversation piece.
Five days went by without any metal detecting and I was starting to suffer withdrawal symptoms. It was now the 10th of April, so I stopped by Rison School for quick relief. It came in the way of one silver Roosevelt dime, one silver war nickel, four wheat pennies, four modern pennies and one Mississippi tax token. Ten coins of which six were good ones. I started to recover quickly. After a good night's rest and feeling fully recovered, I went out the next day, 11th of April. I was back at Athens High School hunting the football field. This time I uncovered 67 coins. One silver Washington quarter, one Mercury dime, four silver Roosevelt dimes, six wheat's, four clad quarter, ten clad dimes, two nickels, 39 newer pennies, one silver and turquoise ring, a sterling silver bar and a gold filled class ring. Athens High School is a productive site!
The 12th of April saw me back at Clinton Elementary. Surely there are more coins left. I was right. I found one silver Washington quarter, three Mercury dimes, one silver Roosevelt dime, ten wheat's, six clad dimes and 22 pennies of recent vintage. The diary also informs me I found a 1950 Canadian penny, one key and a gold filled ring. On the 18th of April I returned to Athens High School. I was pretty weak from not metal detecting for six days. Somehow I managed to pull out one silver Washington quarter, two Mercury dimes, two silver Roosevelt dimes, eight wheat's, seven clad dimes, one nickel and 37 Memorial pennies. The diary indicates one of the silver dimes is dated 1955---a hard year to find. Also found was a 1913-D wheat penny, a Mississippi tax token, one key and a sterling silver ring. Again, I made a miraculous recovery.
On the 24th of May I drove up to New Athens, Illinois to visit my metal detecting buddy, Jeff Herke. It was a long trip, but being the incurable coin shooter that I am, we still managed to get in some detecting before dark. My first Illinois coins were one silver Washington quarter, one Mercury dime, nine wheat pennies, one clad quarter, four clad dimes and eight modern pennies. After catching up on the latest news with Jeff and a good night's rest, I was ready to find more coins. On the 25th of April we decided to hunt old churches in New Athens. It paid off pretty good in the form of one silver Washington quarter, three Mercury dimes, two silver Roosevelt dimes, one buffalo nickel, two Indian head pennies, (1905, 1906), 33 wheat's, eight clad dimes and 23 new pennies. The next day, 26 April, we decided to hit Belleville, Illinois. Anything that looked old, we stopped at and detected, with permission of course. It was a good day for both of us. I found 106 coins. One standing Liberty quarter, one silver Washington quarter, five Mercury dimes, three silver Roosevelt dimes, 44 wheat's, ten clad dimes, one nickel and 41 Memorial pennies. What a nice way to wind up a three day mini-vacation.
On May 1st, with spring in full bloom, I was back in Huntsville and decided to hunt Clinton Elementary School once again. I found only 19 coins but 13 of them were "keepers". I found one Barber dime (1897), two Mercury dimes, one silver Roosevelt dime, one buffalo nickel, eight wheat's, two clad dimes and four modern pennies. Also found were a Bull Durham medallion and a civil war bullet. Since I was still doing good in the silver department, I decided to hunt Clinton Elementary again on the 2nd of May. This time I found two Mercury dimes, ones silver Roosevelt dime, seven wheat's and 19 modern pennies. I also got two tax tokens.
Readers are probably wondering how I recovered so many nickels when the discriminator was cranked up to pull-tab reject. One answer (but not often) is that they were found with other coins. Mostly, they were found by themselves. Somehow they managed to give off a good signal, probably from the halo effect after being in the ground so long.
The 3rd of May found me back at Clinton Elementary School. This time I got lucky and uncovered another Barber dime dated 1910. I also found two Mercury dimes, nine wheat's, one clad quarter, four clad dimes and seven Memorial pennies. Clinton Elementary has been very good to me in giving up good coins. It too has been hit hard by other detectorist, but persistence and patience pays off---they will every time! To prove my point the diary says I went back to the Clinton school on the 8th of May. Again I found one Mercury dime (1938), one silver Roosevelt dime (1950), two wheat's (1912, 1935), one clad dime, five pennies and two more tax tokens. Again, I hit the Clinton school on the 10th of May and wound up with four Mercury dimes, one silver Roosevelt dime, one silver Canadian dime (1943), 15 wheat's, three clad dimes, one nickel and 13 modern pennies. I also got another civil war bullet. That's 37 coins with 20 keepers.
On 16 May I gave the Clinton school a break and decided to go back to Athens High School for another try. I had a good day and found 58 coins. Four Mercury dimes, one silver Roosevelt dime, twenty wheat's, (7 in one hole), three clad quarters, six clad dimes, one nickel and 23 Memorial pennies. It has been over seven years since I have seen Athens High School, but I'll bet local detectorist are still pulling up coins there.
It was now the 22nd of May. Six days went by without any metal detecting. There was a softball park close to home so I decided to try it. Just my luck, the front gate was padlocked. Surrounding the entire park was a ten foot high stone wall. The front of the park was all gravel for parking, but in the back stretched a grassy area right up to the wall. Maybe some kids had sat on the wall at one time to watch a game. Someone did, because I found one Mercury dime, one silver Roosevelt, one clad dime, four modern pennies and a silver ring. Sometimes it pays to use a little imagination.
On the 23rd of May I went back to Athens but this time to hunt Athens Bible School. It appeared to date back to the forties or earlier. It was a fairly good silver producer for the afternoon. I found 68 coins that day. One standing Liberty quarter with a silver Washington quarter, three Mercury dimes, three silver Roosevelt dimes, twenty wheat's, one clad quarter, nine clad dimes and thirty modern pennies. I also found another tax token and a key. The 25th of May I hit a park close to home after work. I only hunted a short while and found only seven coins. One Mercury dime, two wheat's and four pennies. I also found a 10K gold class ring dated 1947. The Mercury dime was found in the same hole with a 1962-D Memorial penny.
This is how a diary or keeping records can help you improve your coin finds. It takes away all the guess work and remembering and replaces them with dates, amounts and types of coins found and where you found them. From the events described above, it is easy to recognize that Clinton School was the place to go for older coins and Athens High School for both silver and quantity. All total from March to May I found 1,070 coins, of which 111 were silver. This equates to 10 percent or one in ten coins as silver. I went out a total of 26 times and found an average of 41 coins per hunt with at least four of them always being silver. I'll take those odds anytime!
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