Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April showers bring May flowers

The precipitation has been unrelenting in Pennsylvania this year. I expect it will continue this entire month of April as well. My hope is that some of those May flowers will loosen some old coins as they travel upward into the light!

April is an important month in the history of American currency. To be exact April 2nd, 1792 is the date of the Coinage Act. That date marks the birth of our Philadelphia Mint. Tradition has it that owing to a lack of bullion, the first coins to be struck at the Mint - silver half dimes - were wrought from sterling teaspoons donated by President Washington. It is said that, a year later, Washington contributed "an excellent copper tea-kettle as well as two pair of tongs" to begin the manufacture of cents and half cents.

The first U.S. Mint (c.1910) built in 1792.

Section 9 of the Coinage Act enacted that coins of gold, silver, and copper, of the following denominations, values and descriptions be minted:


Each to be of the value of ten dollars or units, and to contain two hundred and forty-seven grains and four eighths of a  grain of pure, or two hundred and seventy grains of standard gold.


Each to be of the value of five dollars, and to contain one hundred and twenty-three grains and six eighths of a grain of pure, or one hundred and thirty-five grains of standard gold.


Each to be of the value of two dollars and a half dollar, and to contain sixty-one grains and seven eighths of a grain of pure, or sixty-seven grains and four eighths of a grain of standard gold.


Each to be of the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy-one grains and four sixteenth parts  of a grain of pure, or four hundred and sixteen grains of standard silver.


Each to be of half the value of the dollar or unit, and to contain one  hundred and eighty-five grains and ten sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or two hundred and eight grains of standard silver.


Each to be of one fourth the value of the dollar or unit, and to contain ninety-two grains and thirteen sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or one hundred and four grains of standard silver.


Each to be of the value of one tenth of a dollar or unit, and to contain thirty- seven grains and two sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or forty-one grains and three fifths parts of a grain of standard silver.


Each to be of the value of one twentieth of a dollar, and to contain eighteen grains and nine sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or twenty grains and four fifths parts of a grain of standard silver.


Each to be of the value of the one hundredth part of a dollar, and to contain eleven penny-weights of copper.


Each to be of the value of half a cent, and to contain five penny-weights and a half a penny-weight of copper.

1794 Philadelphia City Directory with US Mint entries.

So good luck this April and May as you potentially detect these first minted pieces of history. I can hardly wait for the rain to dissipate and the ground to dry some. My personal backyard resembles something more akin to a swamp than anything else at the moment. Until further ado good luck on your hunts as the season officially starts!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hollow Treasure

Today while hunting a property with a home built in 1960s I had a major signal adjacent to the corner of the home. My Tesoro was literally screaming at me with every passing of the coil. After some initial digging with the Lesche and a confirmation with my pin pointer I found a large twisted hunk of metal nearly 7" down. 

I initially was concerned it may be some weird pipe somehow connected to the house. After further excavation I ruled out that worry as what slowly appeared was a massive block of stone and concrete with a metal insert.

Curious I continued to unearth what appeared to be catapult shot from the siege of Minas Tirith. After nearly an hour of excavation almost 2' down I was finally able to rock it loose. Then with the help of a rope I was able to pull this monstrosity from its earthen home. I still have no idea what this is exactly but my guesses are a makeshift anchor point for a flag, clothesline or fence?

After some cleaning I noticed that worms would wriggle out of small gaps in the side so I examined the core with a flashlight. The cavity appears to be only filled with old soil and of course denizens of the deep. This was an interesting way to start the dirt fishing season for sure. If anyone has an idea of what this may be please help me identify it – but for now it will just be my hollow treasure!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

March Metal Detecting

Living in Pennsylvania I'm very aware of the history around me and the colonial era I find fascinating. Although I have yet personally unearthed one there is a large amount of British coins still to be found! This recent article about a great find in Canada really got my mind wandering about the sheer variety of coins used in colonial times.

The creation and retention of an adequate supply of small change copper coins was a continual problem in colonial America. This situation differed from the problem with silver coinage. There were no restrictions on importing British coppers, so while the colonists had to look toward foreign coinage for their silver they could expect British denominated small change coppers. 

The earliest supplies were brought over by the colonists themselves. In 1681 Mark Newby brought a  large supply of Irish St. Patrick coppers to New Jersey. In the following year, 1682, a group of Quakers brought some 300 pounds of British halfpence and farthings to Philadelphia. I have to imagine just like in modern times some of those coins fell from pockets, were unknowingly dropped or even placed in a cache somewhere for later.

I hope to maybe get lucky this March and dig up an Irish St. Patrick copper. So tip your hats to what may be at the end of the rainbow. Hopefully no Leprechauns try to trick us with bottle caps!

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 3, 1849

The recent news of the California couple who found the cache 1,400 gold coins reminded me of this date. Most of the coins have a reported date range of 1847 to 1894. Most were minted in nearby San Francisco. In $5, $10 and $20 denominations, they add up to a face value of more than $28,000, but their market value is likely over $10 million.

Some of that cache hails from Volume 9 Statutes at Large, 30th Congress Session II, Chapter 109, pp. 397–398. Popularly known as the Coinage Act of 1849 or the Gold Coinage Act was an act of the United States Congress which allowed for the minting of two new denominations of gold coins, the gold dollar and the gold $20 or double eagle. Prior to 1849, the largest face-value denomination for gold coins produced by the U.S. Mint was $10.

However, the California Gold Rush, which began with the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848, provided the impetus for a larger gold coin. In 1849, after the Coinage Act of that year, a limited number of $20 gold coins called Double Eagles were struck. Production of these coins in larger quantities began in 1850 and continued until 1933. I cannot even imagine unearthing just one of these coins let alone 1,400 in uncirculated condition!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What makes this hobby fun?

Today someone asked me one of the things that makes metal detecting such a fun hobby. Of course I answered beyond the obvious excitement of a great find there was much more. As someone who works in technology I spend an inordinate amount of time “plugged in”.  My world – like most professionals is a miasma of touch screens, notebooks, apps and software. Don’t get me wrong I love technology and remain a huge advocate of it in the work place.

That all said I was raised in an era when a simple stick and my imagination was enough to keep me entertained in the backyard for hours. I believe in that type of outdoor time and perhaps that is the reason for my passion with this hobby. Just being outside and digging in the earth has a wonderful tactile element to it. Then add in the potential reward of unearthing some cool item and the entire experience is just magnified.

All the snow in Pennsylvania has caused a mega case of cabin fever for me. All I want to do is get outside in the sun and do some hunting. Sure there are many hobbies that require us to be outside for long periods. But other than angling nothing even comes close to metal detecting. The time commitment and patience required are second to none – which leaves us with a great hobby where we stay unplugged and enjoy nature. Purchase some equipment, sniff out some metal and see if you agree. Individual mileage will vary. So that is my long answer for why the hobby is so much fun!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Franklin Half Dollar

Composition: 90% Silver, 10% Copper

With all the snow on the ground still in Eastern Pennsylvania I thought I would look at another coin. The Franklin Half Dollar (also referred to as the Liberty Bell Half Dollar) began minting in 1948. Designed by John R. Sinnock, the obverse features Benjamin Franklin with the words “Liberty” inscribed above, “In God We Trust” below, and the date to Franklin’s right. Tucked below Franklin’s shoulder are Sinnock’s initials “JRS.”

 The reverse features the Liberty Bell as a complement to Franklin, since both have become closely identified not only with the nation’s birth but with the city of Philadelphia. Three inscriptions are arranged around the bell “United States of America” above, “Half Dollar” below, and “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many, One) to the left. To the right of the bell is an upright eagle which had been required by law to appear on the half dollar since 1792. The eagle was added by Gilroy Roberts, who completed work on the coin following Sinnock’s death in 1947.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Walking Liberty Half Dollar

Composition: 90% Silver, 10% Copper

The Walking Liberty Silver Half Dollar began minting in 1916. It is perhaps one of my favorite coins to unearth and an absolute great example of a beautiful older coin. Designed by Adolph A. Weinman, the obverse features a full-length figure of Liberty striding toward the dawn of a new day carrying branches of laurel and oak symbolizing civil and military glory.

The reverse depicts a majestic eagle perched on a mountain crag with its wings unfolded in a pose suggesting power, while it clutches a pine sapling in its right talon. Weinman initials “AW” can be found directly under the eagle’s tail feathers.

The first issued coins minted in Denver (D) and San Francisco (S) have the mintmark displayed on the obverse, just below the inscription “In God We Trust”. Partway through production in 1917, the mintmarks’ location was moved to the lower left of the reverse, just below the sapling, where it remained until the series ended in 1947.