Wheats Don't Count!
A TQ Original by TQ Member Free2Dtect
Having purchased my first metal detector, I wanted to find enough to pay for the machine. A small goal, but a worthy one none the less. But those early days of digging pocket change and being content with an occasional find such as a silver ring or a stray token were about to change. Something happened one day and it changed the type of hunting I liked to do. Sometimes I believe it spoiled me to a degree. It was the finding of the first silver coins with that low cost machine. The term "keeper" which has been around awhile, became my new goal.
Keeper coins to me were special coins, they had to meet certain requirements. First they could either be silver or at least a Buffalo nickle. When it came to copper coins, it had to be a Indian Head. I had reach the stage where Wheats don't count! All they were good for was dating an area. If you find wheats, there might be silver coins.
If you find wheats, you just threw it in the finds pouch and kept on hunting and hoping. The first season was a series of chance detecting locations. People you knew that said it was ok. Grassy strips between sidewalk and street. Other spots that looked great to my novice eyes, little did I realize, those spots were where everyone else had hunted before. Somehow from July to December of that first season of hunting, I had found almost enough pocket change to pay for the machine, plus several silver rings and a couple of odd ball tokens. But most importantly, I had 17 better coins, the Keepers! All were silver, but 2 which were Indian Heads. A couple of Mercury Dimes, Rosie's and 3 Walker halves no less, and one Washington quarter. The Indian Heads were 1887 (my first) and 1904. One 1887 coin, I had found my first pre-1900 coin! One out of seventeen coins. I decided to become what I call a Percentage Hunter! Percentage hunting is the total of all pre-1900 coins divided by the total number of keepers. One divided by seventeen is 5.88%, I was on my way. Winter came and I did some research, next season would be better for me.
Researching the area I lived in during the early years of my metal detecting was simple. I just went to the local library. There were many books on the early history of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. So many to read, but I elected to read none of those. I went for the pictorial history books of the area. When there was a picture of a park, store, church or any business of interest, I wrote the name of the building, where it was located and the date. I formed my own map of where the older coins, most likely were dropped many years ago. For LaCrosse, it was close to the banks of the Mississippi River. This area was once the heart of the then forming community. Imagine a business in a photo, the date is 1874. The wooden board walk is in front of the store, folks standing around talking, one reaches in his pocket for change for a newspaper and out falls a Indian Head. The Cent takes a bounce and goes in between the cracks of the board walk. No chance to recover that coin, and it was left to lay there for over 100 years. That coin and many more were waiting there for me.
I dug around and discovered my old notes on finds. The first season of detecting the keeper coins were as follows: In one day I got my first, second, third and fourth coins, all from one unhunted grassy strip between a sidewalk and the street. The 1925D Mercury dime was the first, then a 1945 Washington quarter, 1942 Mercury Dime and a 1939S mercury dime. Other coins found the first season were the 3 Walker halves (WW II-era), 2 Merc's and 6 Rosies, followed by the two Indian Heads.
Examples of the Pictorial History book, research of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, gave me ideas as to the age of certain locations and still existing buildings in my home town. John Pfluger & Sons cooper shop, SE corner of 3rd and Ferry Street: 1900. 10th Ward School present site of Franklin School: 1910. Hammes Grocery Store 901 Adams Street: 1900 Martindale House at 237 South 10th Street: 1859-1860 There were many other buildings and businesses named and dates given, too many to list here, but from these I could keep my eyes open for a chance to detect close to potential high traffic areas where older coins most likely were lost. So with a little better information, I began my second year of metal detecting with the coming of spring.
The second season to metal detect, found me hunting closer to older sites obtained from the limited research done over the winter. Still hunting over mostly grassy areas, I was starting to find more keeper coins. I ended this year of hunting with 34 keeper coins. But still the coins tended to be the more modern silver Rosies and Mercury dimes. Four of the keepers happened to be from before 1900. They were discovered in a certain type of location which was to become a type of site I searched for whenever possible. The new hot spot for hunting was house demo sites. House demo sites were where the house was knocked down to make room for a more modern building. The sites are best then the top soil is shaved down a couple of inches. This removes most trash and anything left is older stuff. The first site I was hunting was near 6th and Cass Street in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
I ended up getting several Indian Heads, one of which was an 1874 and a couple of 1880's. They were close together in a small area, most likely a foot path behind the old house. The other coin was a German coin dated 1862. Finds like these gave me hope that I could find other old coins. The second site was near 10th and Ferry Street. I was hunting and some young kid came up and as we talked I received a signal and dug my first Barber Dime a 1912. The kid was impressed, without thinking I said it pays to re-scan the hole and as I did so I received another signal. The second coin was my first Liberty nickel 1910, a small pocket spill from the past. My pre-1900 keeper percentage for the year was now 11.76 %. But as content as I was with how things were going, the next season was to get even better with the discovery of an even better producing type of hunt site.
The Big Year
This was the start of the 2003 metal detecting season. I was hunting demo site yards of older houses. The first keeper coin of the year was an 1899 Barber dime. Another yard demo site produced a nice 1863 (Fatty) Indian head cent. This coin was the oldest I had found so far, of course it was also located closer to the oldest section of town. But the real break thru was the first side walk tear up I was to detect. I located a section of about 120 feet that was removed. I decided to give it a try, just on a whim. Little did I realize at the time that these were the better spots to hunt. The old walk had to of been poured before the coming of the metal detector. I started to hunt and the targets were there. This section produced 11 coins in a very short period of time (about 2 hours). I hunted slow and overlapped real well. The coins were older ones, the newest was dated 1898, the oldest 1882. Four of the Indian heads were from the 1880's, four from the 1890's, one 1889 Liberty Nickel and two Barber dimes. Other targets included: a brass wagon wheel from an old toy, one token that was blank on both sides. But the most important were the square nails. Square nails important? Yes, the square nails were the key to the older coins in side walk removal sections. If one finds square nails, then the older coins are close by. The nails meant the old wooden board walk once was located right here. The dropped coins were there for the finding.
As the season continued, I hunted every location where the surface was removed exposing deeper layers of dirt never before detected. Some produce little or nothing, but most yielded interesting brass bits of the past. Buttons, tokens as well as older pieces of lost jewelry. Coins continued to surface also. At a steady pace the number of keepers continued to add up. The newest happened to be Mercury dimes, silver Rosie's were becoming a thing of the past in these new types of hunt sites. One location that presented itself was a sidewalk tear-up at the corner of 7th and King Streets. The area produced a large cent, but it was a Canadian one with a hole. Someone must have worn it in the past and lost it. It was dated 1859.
The next site of note, fate took me to happened to be to the area of 4th and Division Street. Forth and Division Street had been hunted by me once before. On both sides of the street were interesting locations, both houses. One with a condemned sign the other an older small brick residence. Both produced little of real interest. But then the houses were still standing. The condemned one was the first to go. After the ground was shaved down it produced some tokens from local businesses of the past. One day I called a friend who informed me that the older brick house was removed. I drove past and checked on the location. What I saw made me decided to forego sleep that night. The ground was shaved down at least 8 inches! The house was no where in sight. The darker dirt was exposed for the first time since the founding of the city!
The Night Hunt
Foregoing sleep to hunt such a location of promise was not a difficult choice. I proceeded to detect the shaved down area in the dark. I used no light, but ½ a block away was a street light. The detector gave off multi-tones on the targets it sensed and I just went by sound. After about 2 hours I had recovered 4 Indian Heads. I could tell they were Indian Heads by the dim light of the distance street light, but the dates were unknown till I got home. At home I washed the dirt off them and discovered one was dated 1872. The other three were dated 1888, 1881 and 1870. I looked them up online and seen the 1872 was priced at $275 at the time. I decided I had to go back and hunt some more. That 1877 Indian Head just had to be there!
I drove back over to the site and proceeded to hunt some more. Not using a light to hunt was exciting. First to find a coin was nice, but seeing what it was later, sort of gave one a second boast of excitement, less of course it was a wheat. I hunted for about an hour or so and found 3 more coins. The dim distance street light was enough to see that one was silver. I placed the silver dime in my car, so I did not drop it in the dark. It started to bug me what that silver coin was. I decided to go back to check in out with the dome light. I got a shock when I realized I had dug my first seated coin and did not even know it! It was a nice shaped 1889 Seated Dime.
The location gave up some other firsts to me. I found my first 2 cent piece, which has a strange coloring to it. My first nicer watch fob was found there as well as this most interesting brass button. The totals from the site in coins that where found there that I know of came to 17. Several folks hunted this spot to death before it became a display lot for a car dealership. I was lucky to have gotten in first and managed 14 of the 17 known coins. Personal totals from this site came to 2 Seated Dimes, 2 Barber Dimes, 1- 2 Cent Piece, 1 Buffalo nickel and 8 Indian heads. At this point of the season I had 49 keeper coins, 34 were pre-1900. I was now digging over 69% pre-1900 keepers. Location was the key to the older finds. But the season was not over yet...
See also: Wheats Don't Count Part 2
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