Posts Tagged ‘Bill Ladd’
Having been involved in the metal detecting hobby since I was a boy, I’ve witnessed many changes over the years. Some can be considered positive, others perhaps not so good. Technology has certainly changed for the better, and many a treasure hunter nowadays favors the more modern digital target ID features. Thus, we not only dig a lot less trash, but also enjoy higher success rates because these modern units have made some “hunted out” sites productive again.
The addition of the internet to the hobby can also be considered both good and bad. Much good info and tips have been exchanged, and many a fine topic has been debated in the online forums. It’s also a place where one can proudly show off photos of recent finds. Unfortunately, those same forums occasionally erupt in “brand wars” and opinion clashes.
Perhaps the best aspect of mixing the internet with our hobby is that many new friendships have evolved. Those who frequent the treasure forums daily typically have e-mail “pen pals,” both near and far. I have detected with many folks whom I have met online in the New England area, and surely many a lonely detectorist has found a new hunting partner through the forums.
One of my detecting “pen pals” was Tony Mullen from North Carolina. We both were contributing to the various “Fisher Forums,” and finally we exchanged short e-mails about both of us having freelance articles here in W&ET. When Fisher released the Coin$trike, we both took the plunge as well. As you continue to keep in touch with fellow detectorists by e-mail and even by phone, eventually there’s often a feeling that it would be great to someday meet face to face. What better way to do so than to plan a hunt?
Long, snowy winters mean cabin fever for most treasure hunters in my native New England, yet the frozen soil drives me to seek out new sites and permission to search them at the earliest opportunity. The new year brought visions of another productive digging season, but on the evening of January 9, 2001, those hopes were suddenly dashed.
A routine drive home turned into a near tragedy on the highway during rush hour. When one driver swerved, avoiding an object in the road, I took the brunt of a high speed, head-on car wreck. I awoke in an ambulance with neck, hip, back, and shoulder pain. Those pains would persist in the entire right side of my body, although x-rays showed no broken bones. Still, I felt lucky to be alive… it could have been much worse.
I saw several doctors and was out of work for four months. I did rehabilitation three times a week with four different physical therapists. I was determined to detect again soon, but being right handed I had no range of motion in my “swinging” shoulder. The road back began with short hikes, but lingering back and neck pains prevented any digging.
The March sun stirred urges to detect again, and so did a tempting invitation to search a Colonial stone castle site. Legend said that it had survived King Philip’s War because it would not burn, and the opportunity led me to think maybe I could “cheat” for an hour with my left arm. Steeling myself for the test, I started searching, and all the pain was forgotten five minutes later when I uncovered a powder flask nearly a foot deep. Although non-military, picturing an animal in front of a tree, it was still a thrill to find, especially as it was my first.
Copyright Bill Ladd 2007
Contents not to reproduced without written permission of Bill Ladd
“Learn Your Metal Detector”
By Bill Ladd
One important thing I’ve picked up along the way in this great hobby of ours is to never scoff at, or doubt the unit a fellow detectorist is swinging. This is especially true when a fellow hobbiest is carrying a detector some would consider “cheaper” or “outdated” technology. I’ve seen far too many times these wily old vets do just as well, if not better, than all the competition in the same field that day. Why? Well, as we all know, sometimes it’s just the luck of walking over the right spot. But more so, I believe it’s because the detectorist with the older unit has years of experience with his particular machine than the others. Even though his detector may not be digital, multi-frequency, or full of all the latest “bells and whistles” as some of the more expensive modern units, the user knows it. He or she knows it like the back of their hand; just knows the “sounds”. This hobbiest has trained his ears….it talks to he or she so to speak. Perhaps the other treasure hunters were trying out a new brand of detector that day in hope of attaining some kind of edge. But, new detector users often have to struggle though a tough learning curve of several hours with all of the advanced tones, notching, and digital readouts and programming common on today’s top units. Many of us feel new users need a minimum of 30 hours in the field to really grasp all that a new metal detector is trying to “tell” you. A “newbie” to the hobby may need more than twice that.
Throughout my magazine stories, I often wonder why some of us have chosen treasure hunting as a hobby? It seems to me someone or something had to peak your interest in the metal detector. In one article, I went into great detail about how I got started. To a child, I think there is just something very dreamy about finding “buried treasure”. We’ve all seen drawings of the pirate with his eye patch next to his open chest spilling of gold and jewels. Movies I grew up with like “The Goonies” were based on the same premise. Nowadays, look how popular “The Pirates of The Carribean” movies are.
I imagine that starting out in this hobby while still in grade school really influenced me to want to give something back to the children today. It seems like just yesterday that I too was a child dreaming of getting a metal detector for Christmas. I feel blessed that through the hobby, I was lucky to have found valuable treasures, appeared in several newspapers, catalogs, and advertisements. I’ve also appeared on national television, and been able to tap into a writing talent that would otherwise have never surfaced. Maybe I feel exceptionally lucky and want to show young people that anyone, any age can find treasures. My success at age 13 is living proof. While in the field I always try to take the time to remove my headphones and talk to young children when they approach. I explain what I’m doing, show them some finds, and gladly let them watch. Many detectorists nowadays keep their headphones on and pretend they can’t hear them. They may consider children and other interested parties a bother. They don’t want to experience the “pied piper effect” of a gang of children in tow. This happens quite often on the beaches. But, I remember following an older guy around the schoolyard as a youngster asking questions. So, maybe I can relate to them and are therefore more tolerant toward their inquisitiveness. Images: club9a.jpg
Enjoying children, I always had in the back of my mind I would love to visit elementary schools with all my treasures. I just was never aggressive enough to visit schools or find out how to go about it. My collection had grown to museum quality proportions. Cannonballs, bullets, and colonial relics I would professionally label and display proudly in glass cases. It seemed a shame I had to keep my collection hidden in a safe, or locked up in a bank vault. I knew what it felt like to touch a piece of history like I did as a boy. I longed to have other little boys and girls experience the same magic.
*Exclusive story on detectorstuff.com
Lately, just finding time for the hobby has been very hard for me. Between starting a family and moving, detecting for me has been in form of an hour here, an hour there. When I was single, just a couple years back, I was hunting all day Sat, all day Sunday, and even a couple nights after work! Times sure have changed, and it’s quite hard when you have the “bug” and want to get out so bad…..even to coinshoot some clad.
But, for some reason it had been a pretty successful hunting season so far, and 2007 had been quality over quantity for some reason. I had opened the season with a previously “unlisted” button find at a cellar hole that I was quickly offered $300.00 for. Then, sneaking away for an hour after work hoping to find a musketball or two, I dug my first-ever gold coin!This was an 1876 British Victoria Half Sovereign. I was happy with that, and my complete attention was to arranging a new house and a baby girl on the way.
But, one sunny day recently, I sat at work looking out the window really just itching to swing my new Fisher F75. I just got it back from Texas with the updated “Jewlery Mode”, and really wanted to try it. It was supposedly “hot” on buttons and I had several fields on the way home where flat buttons had turned up in the past. As I drove, my hopes were let down. I forgot it was June and most all the farmers had crops planted. Finally I spotted one farm permission that had fields that were not yet plowed and were over grown with weeds still. I jumped out and headed for the field that I had dug buttons, and the 1821 Bust Dime that appeared in the ID-Edge advertising. But, my hopes were dulled when I discovered the weeds were so thick I couldn’t even swing a coil! I was able to get the coil down in one corner, and pounding this little bare patch produced just a drop of lead, a hook part, and a broken piece of pewter spoon.
I thought of leaving, but while walking out remembered another tiny field behind a barn. We disliked this field as every time we tried it we came up empty and it had sparse signals. The most it has ever produced was a lone Indian head as I recall. But, seeing it didn’t have as many weeds, I figured what the heck? It’s either try here or head home, and I had not swing in weeks. So, I cranked up the F75 “hot” as possible, and headed toward a really bare section. While walking, a nice signal produced what appeared to be the brass lock plate or key hole cover from a big pad lock. Flipping it over, I saw it was decorated with leaves & such and it was actually a Colonial book clasp (like the hinge things often found on a diary or bible). Cool. Now I figured I not only had an older area, but also I was not going home empty handed at least. In fact, it would look good in one of my colonial display cases.
Now really overlapping my sweeps and listening closely, I got a loud high tone that I thought was a beer can. But, from about 8” up came a bent piece of copper or brass. Looking close I saw it was the bent up bowl of a Colonial latten spoon. These are large flat spoons and many have unique marks and are from the 1600’s! Very cool. Now I knew I had a hot little area with some age. Just two sweeps further, up came a 1700’s pewter button from a depth of 8”. This was the type with the “hump” where the shank once was and common in Revolutionary times.
Spinning around to head back to the direction I came & begin to run a pattern, another weak signal sounded like the last button. I checked the depth and pinpointed it at 6”. I dug a large plug and felt around in the dug dirt after swinging over to see it was out of the hole. Feeling something round and flat it appeared to be just like I thought…another flat button. Yet, when I picked it up it felt super thin like no button I ever held. It was the size of a Spanish ½ Reales and looked dark grey, so maybe that’s it? But it even felt thinner than those. Gently brushing more dirt off, I saw what looked like a nice bold back-mark around a ring of dots. But, again, boy that seems very thin for a coin or button. Wait, that’s not a shank in the middle….it’s a TREE! Now I knew what I had. I recognized that oak tree right away after my friend John dug a hammered silver Massachusetts Oak Tree TwoPence a couple years ago. I noticed the “II” on the other side, and this looked almost exact, and also had apparent nice details! The date side of 1662 was more worn than the “tree” was, but I wasn’t about to complain! As a New England treasure hunter, a “readable” Massachusetts “tree coin” has been on my list of detecting goals since I was a boy. Many New England detectorists have found them, and it’s a lot like becoming a part of the “gold coin club”. I have dug a blank silver disc that matches a tree coin planchet that’s so worn away on both sides I can’t even see a thing even with a loop. So, I never even talked about it or considered myself part of the “club”.
The oak tree TwoPence types are very desirable as these are the only Mass. hammered silvers dated 1662, and considered rarer than many 1652 varieties. The date of 1652 gave these coins the look of having been struck during the English Civil War with Cromwell in power. They were produced from handmade dies, which explains their crude appearance & individuality. The wide range of die varieties is easy to see and all are cataloged with a “Noe” number. Mine appears to be either a NOE 32 or NOE 33 (large dates). These were the last of the TwoPences to be struck as the first ones had small 2’s. COINFACTS.com lists only “3-4 known”, but I’m sure there are a few more unreported in private collections. Still it’s a rare and valuable coin.
So, in very, very limited time, and digging far fewer holes, I have been lucky enough to have attained two “goal coins” with my first-ever gold coin, and now my first “readable” Mass. “Tree coin”. My hunting buddies putting in far more hours are probably cursing meJ There’s still 6 months left in 2007 to dig my first George Washington Inaugural button next! (another long-time goal).
As some people know, like with my fascination with the #13, I’m superstitious and both times I hit these “goals”, I was alone sneaking in an hour after work. Boy, I’m thinking digging for entire weekends are out for the rest of the year! J
Thanks for reading,
Having now been treasure hunting now for over 25 years, I can’t imagine how many sets of headphones I have gone through. Back then, there were really no companies producing “detecting” headsets like there are today. So, many of us made do with whatever stereo type headphones that we could actually get to work on a metal detector. Of course headphones made for listening to the stereo at home couldn’t handle the riggers of serious treasure hunting.
Nowadays, the metal detectorist has a wide array of headphone choices available with fancy names and price ranges that can go over $140.00….or close to the cost of a back-up detector! Thus the casual coinshooter may get along fine and enjoy a low priced pair, and this is great. But, someone like a relic or nugget hunter using headphones usually “thrown in” with a new detector purchase will be disappointed as these headsets rarely survive getting pushed and pulled in the field.
My hunting partner, Rob Fahey, and I had almost given up trying to locate a lost ghost town in a neighboring New England state. I had stumbled onto an account of “a village” of several Colonial homes abandoned for reasons unknown. It sounded very interesting, and conjured up visions of multiple detecting sites, but we kept putting it off for one reason or another. Since it was a long drive, we talked ourselves into believing that other treasure hunters had also done research and beaten us to the punch. Besides, we had other productive areas closer to home that we’d been working successfully.
Finally, one weekend we decided to take a gamble. Even if the site of the ghost town had been previously detected, we could still enjoy the adventure of locating and photographing a site that dated back to the 1700s. It’s fun to try to go back in time and imagine what life was like with no running water and no electricity. Of course, actually metal detecting at early settlements like this is the pinnacle of our quest, and I enjoy creating displays of whatever relics may surface.
Conflicting theories surrounded “The Village” high in the hills of New Hampshire, and research turned up speculations from various historians: a hamlet of Revolutionary Tories, freed slaves, people afflicted with diseases… to me, all guesses. Additional tips from a hiker brought us up the same winding dirt cart roads once used by the original settlers. Unfortunately, however, vague directions and unfamiliarity with the area led us to every path but the correct one. After going in complete circles with tiring legs, cliches like “striking out” and “can’t win ‘em all” were uttered. It was now late afternoon. I looked at my watch and said, “Let’s drive just a bit farther to be sure.” I’d hate to think we were so close and gave up. Finally, we spied stone walls leading into a depression resembling a house site. “The Village!” we yelled.