TBT – When I Was a Treasure Hunter…

Not much to say or share this time around. Went back to New Jersey Labor day weekend to attend a wedding and to rekindle the Jersey attitude. I saw more country, more green and more beauty in three days than I’ve seen here in years. Sure miss the Garden State!

Since it’s Thursday here’s a throwback to a September 2013 post…

Dreaming…a lost art!

When I started detecting back in the 70’s I did a lot of reading.  I read books by Karl von Mueller, Charles Garrett, Roy Lagal, Roy Volker, Dick Richmond and Glenn Carson, among others.  I read Western & Eastern Treasures, Lost Treasure, Treasure Found, Treasure, Treasure World, World of Treasures, True Treasure and Old West magazines. When I read I was transported to places I’d never been and it didn’t matter that I was a newbie…in my  mind I was a treasure hunter.

Fast forward to today…. Many of the authors mentioned above have passed on, the number of treasure magazines available today has dwindled dramatically and the ability to dream, to keep those treasures alive, real or imaginary, seems to have also disappeared.

A fellow New Jerseyan Tony Conti (a.k.a. Big Tony from Bayonne) and I talk  about this and still share thoughts, theories and ideas on legendary treasures, especially those back home in the Northeast. Have I ever looked for legendary treasures?  Yes I have. Joe Attinello (who passed away in March of this year) and I spent some time looking for the cave where the Doan Gang  supposedly buried their loot in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and later we searched for John Ringo’s treasure, only seven miles from my house in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Did we find them? No. Did they really exist? Hard to say. What I do know is that we had a helluva lot of fun researching and looking for them and who knows maybe someday someone will find one or both. How cool would that be?

In the mid-80’s I was privileged to meet Mel Fisher shortly after he discovered the Atocha. He was in Atlantic City the same weekend of our FMDAC event and Charles McKinney, Director of the Atlantic Alliance for Maritime Heritage, invited Fay and I to their event at another hotel nearby. When we entered the crowded room, there  in the middle was Mel Fisher with a huge gold chain around his neck and a bevy of young gals hanging all over him.

Charles introduced us, we shook hands and while he was “six sheets to the wind” he was still able to remove the chain and put it around Fay’s neck, whispering sweet nothings in her ear while doing it. Yup, here was Mel Fisher making a move on my wife and all I could do was just stand there staring in awe. After all here was a guy who had a dream, one that lasted sixteen years, cost millions of dollars, took the lives of his son and daughter-in-law and he never gave up!

Anyway, today is today, I am what I am, and life goes on. I can deal with it (well some days I can). At my age I know I will never get to look for the Lost Dutchman, Oak Island or Little Big Horn treasures, but I will remember the Doan gang, John Ringo and the night Mel Fisher was hitting on my wife…

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15 Comments

Filed under Metal Detecting

15 responses to “TBT – When I Was a Treasure Hunter…

  1. Legendary authors for sure and for those of us of a certain vintage they represented all that was great about this great pastime. But, technology has moved things on – whether for the better is a moot point.

    Back in those days, particularly in the UK, the hobby was under serious threat and we had to fight our corner. Now over four decades on the hobby is thriving, alive and kicking. We are still here and with a government-sponsored PAS – something no one would have believed possible way back then. I have no doubt that today’s hobby was built on firm foundations laid by KVM, Glenn Carson, and friends.

    I’ve spent years looking for the elusive ‘$20.00 AC hoard’ but to no avail.

    Cheers!

    • Afraid John that tekkies here in the colonies are all too busy lining up followers, likes and votes to care about something like the PAS.

      As for that $20 AC hoard…I have it right here!!

  2. Tony from Bayonne

    Dick, true facts for sure, “we both enjoyed talking about those folks and their stories of treasures, still not uncovered”.

    But I am still amazed that today we here in the US are not finding large caches? We know they exist on both land and in the water. Barry Clifford found the Whydah just a few hundred feet off the coast. Just look at all of the recoveries from the UK alone! It’s just crazy that it is still happening over there.

    I now know you are right – today’s folks are not looking for treasures they are looking for followers on social media instead.

    • Tony the English have a few more years of history so the number of hoards found there will continue. I think our buried treasures are fewer and no one is writing about them, nor interested in researching them. I also suspect there are a lot of mini stashes out there waiting to be discovered but how many detectorists even think about their existence when they are hunting old homesites?

  3. James Wdzenczny

    It’s the journey!

  4. “I also suspect there are a lot of mini stashes out there waiting to be discovered but how many detectorists even think about their existence when they are hunting old homesites?” You are right on target, Dick! I’ve been on a few of those internet podcast interviews (trying to get “likes” on my social media account) and I talk about caches. Usually they think I’m talking about “geocaching” which is what 21st Century folks do when they are not on social media. You hide a piece of Tupperware with who-knows what in it behind a rotted log, and post the GPS coordinates on Social Media, so more can find it and replace it.

    Many times I have had friends show me a picture of the old permission they hunted, a falling down tin-roofed shack in the middle of nowhere. They say they found a few coins or a rusted belt buckle. I ask if they searched in the walls, floors and in the yard for a hidden cache. Their eyes widen and they shake their head.

    One thing that saddens me nowadays, as you mention Dick, is that nobody even thinks about a dedicated treasure hunt any more, where you research, find clues, and visit specific spots, and carefully eyeball, shine a black-light about, sniff, probe and finally metal detect a bit. Today is all about the “machine” and the unspoken social “competition”… vacuuming up items of chance by the thousands. I’ll take a mason jar of gold or silver coins any day over a few wheat pennies 🙂

    • Jim I was once asked by a family to try and find a coin collection that their father had. They knew he had hid them but when he never shared there whereabouts. He passed away suddenly and they spent a lot of time looking for the hiding place. They finally assumed he buried them and gave me a call (they knew I detected through a mutual friend).

      I spent probably a total of 40 hours searching the area (approximate 5 acres) and nada. I checked the house thoroughly, fence line, trees, sheds, rafters, anything and everything and came up empty. I did build a pile of rusted iron pieces (items that would be shared on FB today) The family still thought the coins were there somewhere and I loaned them a spare detector. They never found his collection and today the site is a parking lost for a small shopping center.

      • Interesting, Dick. We had a request by a daughter, her 92-year old father recently deceased, in a very old Central Florida town, to help her find $250,000 in cash that was missing from his accounts.She said he was very smart (sly is probably a better word) and he never trusted banks. She said they found almost $90,000 in cash, in the locked drawer of an old file cabinet in his garage. They had put the cabinet out for garbage pickup, when her son noticed something glued inside the top of the cabinet when he was moving it at the curb. They pried it out, and found a flat plywood box filled with another $50,000 cash!

        We searched the grounds thoroughly, getting few signals in the intensely hot Florida sun. She said he buried money in Mayonnaise jars with metal tops, so we figured it would be a cinch to find. After many hours of no relevant targets, I was in the guy’s workshop and pulled back a large piece of plywood against the wall. Behind it, was a large shelf of empty Mayonnaise jars…with PLASTIC tops! The joke was on us! As a side note, Patti, who could not take the heat, spent several hours alone inside the deceased’s still air-conditioned house, tapping on walls, jumping on the wood floors, looking under furniture, and the bottom of dresser drawers. It was a long two and a half hour drive on country roads back to Orlando.

        The next morning while I was out walking the dog, Patti was awakened by a punch on her shoulder. When I got back, she was down stairs, and demanded to know why I punched her. I told her I’d been outside with the dog for the last 30-minutes and had not even been in the house. I told her she was dreaming, and left it at that. Later that day, she rolled up her sleeve and showed me the darkening purple bruise on her shoulder! Apparently the old guy didn’t appreciate Patti banging around his house.

      • Jim, our stories are just two of how many? Hard to say but certainly there are hundreds more across the country. Home banks were popular years ago.

  5. Tony

    My dad told me about a man who came home every night and put his pocket change into a hole in his staircase post. He saw him do it on one occasion when he and his mom were visiting that mans wife. I asked what happened to it and he said he didn’t know because shortly after that the man died and his house fell in disrepair and was torn down. Of course my dad wasn’t into caches back then and folks respected each other’s property.

    This story is probably the reason why I love large or small Cashe stories today.

  6. Ed B.

    Back in the 1990’s, when I didn’t yet qualify as an “old timer”, I was talking to an old timer at the local coin club. He told me that when he was a kid back in the late 1930’s his friend had a paper route and one day decided to keep the money he collected rather than turn it in, so he buried the coins still in the cloth bag he carried on a steep embankment near a canal. After making up a story to tell his employer as to why the money was gone he later went back to retrieve his ill gotten loot but couldn’t remember exactly where he buried it. I was familiar with the area and decided to have a go at finding the “cache” which most certainly would have contained a good number of silver coins. When I arrived at the site I was stopped cold by a very high fence that had recently been placed there because in the years past kids played there and unfortunately a few fell into the canal and drowned. Maybe some day in the future the fence will be taken down and the “newspaper cache” will be found.

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