When many people hear about treasure-hunters and archaeological findings their minds automatically go to Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. That’s not to say regular people can’t become real-life treasure hunters! It just takes a bit more work.
That is unless you’re Brad Martin of Green Mountain Metal Detecting. This metal detector enthusiast has made a living out of the hobby. What he found one day while exploring made all of his expeditions worthwhile.
The Modern-Day Metal Detector Was Invented By Gerhard Fischer
The modern development of the metal detector didn’t start until the 1920s when Gerhard Fischer developed a system of radio direction-finding. It was a machine that would become distorted when it came in contact with metal-bearing rocks. He reasoned that if metal could alter the radio signal, then he should be able to produce something that detects metal.
In 1925, Fischer applied for, and was granted, the first patent for a metal detector. Obviously, he had no idea that it would become a go-to tool among treasure hunters!
Metal Detectors Are Used In Many Different Lines Of Work
Fischer’s design proved to be an asset during World War II, detecting land mines scattered across paths troops needed to cross. This tool resulted in saving a lot of soldiers’ lives.
Nowadays, metal detectors have become so advanced that they pick up even the tiniest bit of aluminum. Because of this, they have become key instruments in science fieldwork, such as mineralogy and engineering, while they’re also used in security situations and even in the military.
Brad Martin Is A Life-Long Metal Detector Enthusiast
Brad Martin of Green Mountain Metal Detecting has always loved the concept of unearthing forgotten treasures with a metal detector. Little did he know was that he was going to make the find of a lifetime in his home state of Vermont.
Thanks to his ongoing relationships with the people of the area, Brad has been given free rein over thousands of acres of privately-owned land. You’ll never guess what he ended up finding during one of his hikes.
Brad Decided To Explore A Run-Down Building In The Forest
One day while Brad was hiking through the Vermont wilderness, he decided to explore an area that is known to have abandoned, run-down buildings. Maybe there is some hidden treasure under the ground that’s been long forgotten! When he got there, he stumbled across a large hole in the ground and miles of stone walls.
The hole was most likely the remains of the basement of the building. Brad couldn’t wait to see what was hidden under the ground.
Brad’s First Discovery Dated Back To The 1700s
Brad was convinced his next great find was close by. He could almost feel the metal calling to him. Little did he know that he wasn’t that far off because no sooner did Brad begin searching that he stumbled on his first find of the day: a tombac button.
This type of button was wildly popular in the 1700s, going out of style due to its brittleness. The button was a great start to Brad’s exploration!
Tombac Buttons Used To Contain Lead and Arsenic
Tombac buttons are now considered to be vintage, due to them falling out of style soon after the 1700s. They are a somewhat “easy” find for metal detector enthusiasts like Brad, because they were common buttons for soldiers to have on their jackets.
These buttons are generally a brass alloy with a high copper content and low zinc content. Tin, lead, or arsenic may have been added for color. The good news is that we don’t use these anymore so we don’t have to worry about lead or arsenic poisoning!
The Button Was Just The Beginning
The discovery of the tombac button meant one thing to Brad, and it was that if someone had explored this part of the forest before, they had missed it. That meant that they most likely missed other unseen treasures, too.
Sure enough, Brad’s intuition was spot on. It wasn’t much longer until he dug up his second find of the day. You’ll never guess what he was able to find with his metal detector.
The Second Finding Was A Defaced Halfpenny
It wasn’t long after the finding of the button that Brad came across his second score of the day: a valuable copper coin. Although the surface was completely worn off, most likely due to the elements in Vermont, Brad concluded that it was either a British halfpenny or a coin from the early colonies.
Either scenario meant a lot of research was going to happen once he got back home! He was holding a little piece of history, after all.
British Halfpennys Are No Longer Considered Legal Currency
The British halfpenny, or ha’penny, was a unit of currency that equaled, you guessed it — half a penny. From 1672 to 1860, the halfpenny was minted in copper, but after 1860 it was switched over to bronze.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, Nigel Lawson, announced on February 1, 1984, that the halfpenny coin would stop being considered legal currency by the end of the year. It made sense to the people, who wildly unfavored the useless coin.
Brad’s Next Find: Old Trigger-Guard Plate From A Musket
Along with the defaced coin, Brad pulled out of the ground what could have been an old clock hand. It was virtually the same shape and size, so what else could it be? After further inspection, Brad determined that it could possibly be a trigger-guard plate from an old musket rifle.
Perhaps the trigger-guard was from a soldier of the Revolutionary War or Civil War. Brad had stumbled upon another interesting historical artifact!
Rifle-Muskets Of The Civil War
The Model 1861 Springfield rifle-musket was the most common weapon during the American Civil War. The musket was 58-and-a-half inches long, with the barrel itself being 40 inches one. The muzzle-loading weapon, with its bayonet, weighed almost ten pounds. That’s pretty heavy for a soldier who’s malnourished and carrying other necessities.
There were 84 pieces to this Springfield model, which only cost $14.93 to manufacture in 1861. Over the span of four years, almost two million Springfields were produced.
An Identifiable Coin Was The Next Find
Next, Brad unearthed a coin he was actually able to identify! The face of the large coin depicted King George II, and alongside the face was the partial word, “CONNEC.” For Brad, that was enough!
He came to the conclusion that the coin was a Connecticut copper coin, 1785-1788. It was likely worth a few hundred dollars — what a find! Although this one coin was more than enough to make the trip a success, there was still one more thing that Brad had yet to uncover.
Connecticut Coppers Are Very Complex
Connecticut coppers have one of the more complex minting histories out of all of the colonial coins. There were more than 355 dye combinations, at least 126 type varieties, and 26 distinct styles that were made by at least six different mints. Talk about high maintenance.
Even with all of the different variations, there was one thing that stayed true; all issues of the coin imitated the British halfpenny! It looks like Brad was following a bit of a pattern in the forest.
Time To Call It A Successful Day
It was getting late, so Brad decided to make his way back to his car, using his metal detector as he made his way through the forest. Good thing he was using it because the metal detector picked up a signal a few yards away from the road.
The device was giving off a solid tone, the same as the other objects that he had found that day. Taking his shovel one last time, Brad began to dig.
Reading A Metal Detector Takes Practice
Metal detecting takes some getting used to. It’s definitely an activity that requires a lot of patience because of the uncertain result. As a metal detector works by generating a powerful magnetic field that penetrates the ground and locates other metals, an avid treasure hunter such as Brad needs to know how to understand the various readings.
The different tones given off by the detector vary from model to model, so it is up to the treasure hunter to experiment and familiarize themselves with their own.
Time To Unearth One More Item
A common rule of thumb is that the higher the reading the more valuable the object underground. Since the reading was very similar to that of the other objects he’d found that day, Brad believed he stumbled across another button. He never believed he’d dig up something that would stun him into silence!
The thing is, considering all of the historical artifacts that he dug up that day, Brad shouldn’t have been overly surprised. But the new object should have given off a much stronger signal!
1780 Spanish Eight Reales
Brad brushed off the soil for his new finding, only to realize he had unearthed a massive silver dollar in amazing condition. The coin should have been giving off a much larger reading on his metal detector. He must have been standing at a weird angle in relation to the coin or something. No matter! He found it!
After further inspection, Brad realized that the coin was actually a 1780 Spanish Eight Reales. You’ll never guess the amazing history!
The History Of Spanish Eight Reales
Remember Jack Sparrow’s story of the “nine pieces of eight?” Well, the Spanish Eight Reales was the same fabled coin from the pirate legends. Spanish silver coins came in five varieties during the time they were minted, with an Eight Reales being the most valuable and sought-after. This explains why only the pirate captains had the coins.
Although the coin was considered to be legal currency in the United States until 1800, the chance of finding such a relic was one in a million.
Brad Has A Strange Feeling About The Coin
As Brad’s adrenaline began to wear off, he grew suspicious of some of the characteristics on the coin. Not only did the metal detector reading linger in his head (it should have been a stronger signal), but someone had also carved the initials “DS” into the face on the coin.
Something didn’t seem right. So, Brad did what any other metal detecting history buff would do. He went to the computer and did some much-needed research.
Spanish Eight Reales Were Highly Counterfeited
After doing some research, Brad learned that the coin was actually one of the most counterfeited forms of currency in the world during the time of its circulation. In fact, the British highly counterfeited this coin in order to cripple the Spanish economy during the Anglo-Spanish War, from 1796-1808.
Even though Brad’s find is most likely a fake, that doesn’t mean he won’t fetch a decent price for it on the open market!