First no detector.., then no finds.., then gold!

What A Difference

A Day Makes!

By Tony Mullen


Minted at Charlotte, North Carolina in 1847, this gorgeous Coronet $5 gold piece was the find of a lifetime for Tony Mullen, now a proud member of W&ET’s exclusive “Gold coin Club”

Every treasure hunter has probably had this nightmare. You finally get permission to hunt a particular place that you have been eyeing for quite some time, and then something happens. Something you could never imagine is about to ruin your “perfect opportunity.” Well, that almost happened to me one weekend in March 2001. I hunt with a Fisher CZ-7A and had sent it in to Fisher for some planned maintenance, figuring that I still had time before the weather broke and the hunting season kicked in. I expected that, with transit time included, I would be without a detector for about two weeks. My wife Teresa figured that out, too, and the Honey-do list was a sight to behold!
The first week was not too bad. I was steadily chipping away at “the list.” Then it happened. My father, Frank Mullen, called me from Virginia. He had just turned up an 1852 silver 3 cent piece, having received permission to search a site that dates back to the l770s. We had been watching that place for quite some time. Needless to say,
The look on
Teresa ‘s face was priceless. She just looked at me and asked, “Is it real?”


I was thinking road trip! Then I remembered that my detector was on the other coast. Before we hung up, we made plans to visit the next weekend. My next call was to Fisher. I checked the status of my repair and told Cori Doninelli the Customer service representative, about our upcoming trip. She assured me that I would have my detector in plenty of time. Now for the hard part— waiting. On Wednesday of the following week I called again to make sure my detector was on its way. As it turned out, the detector was still being worked on. My heart sank. I thought, “There is no way I will have my machine this weekend,” but once again, Cori assured me that it would arrive in plenty of time. On Thursday morning I got a pleasant surprise. UPS brought my detector prepaid, next day air, early a.m. delivery. Thank you, Cori, for defining the words “Customer Service” with your actions.

On Friday I left work a bit early and made the 200-mile drive to Virginia. We managed to hunt at another site that we call “Frank’s Honey Hole” for about an hour and a half before it got dark. There was no doubt the CZ-7 was working. My first find was a 1926 Buffalo, followed a few minutes later by a 1941 Mercury dime, a 1947 Roosevelt dime, and enough Wheat (cents) to feed the Russians!
We headed out early Saturday morning to the old Colonial site. This was the moment I had been waiting for. A coin dated 1852 had already been found at this site, which had been occupied for 80 years before that coin was struck. We had high hopes of possibly finding some Spanish silver or Colonial coppers. Unfortunately, the site proved difficult to hunt, as parts of it are now wooded and the grass is probably mowed no more than twice a year. So, we slowly began searching acres of land.

If you could have heard my headphones, you would have said, “There ain’t nothin’ here but iron!” And there wasn’t. I found a couple of Memorial cents, and that was about it except for the occasional horseshoe and a couple of thousand square nails. Man, was I bummed. So, I packed up the family and headed back to North Carolina. Here it was St. Patrick’s Day, and my Irish Luck was nowhere to be found. But, oh, what a difference a day makes!

The following day it was just cool enough to be comfortable in a sweatshirt. As we drove home from church, I told Teresa, “I am going to find something good there today.” As I said those words, I pointed to the place I was planning to hunt that afternoon. I could almost hear her think it out loud: “Yeah, right. I’ve heard that before.” I got to the house, ate a quick bite, and headed out for the afternoon.

I found a couple of clad coins right off the bat. Then about 15 minutes into the hunt, I heard a rather odd tone in the headphones. I cut a plug about 4” deep, and when I flipped it back I saw a flash of gold. I literally said out loud, “Oh, great! Another arcade token.” I put my Lesche digging tool back in the sheath and started to reach for the “token” when I saw a reeded edge! I thought, “There is no way!” I picked it up and felt the weight. I was almost scared to look. Then I saw FIVE D.
I flipped it over and all I could see of the date was 7. I gently brushed away the black dirt… 1847!


A major numismatic authentication and grading service has certified Tony ‘s 1847-C eagle at a net grade of VF-30, with XF details, making it an extremely valuable find.

Well, let me tell you, it was on! As I told some folks on an internet forum, it was not exactly like you see on Riverdance. It was more like a fat guy stomping out a brushfire! What can I say? It was my first gold dance! Once I realized how ridiculous I looked, I calmed down enough to check the hole again. Nope, just the one! I had just found my oldest and “goldest” coin, an 1847 $5 gold piece minted in Charlotte, North Carolina.

I tried to hunt a little more but it was pointless. I had to tell someone. My first call was to my father. I wanted him to check the value in his coin book. No answer. So, I called my wife. No answer. I couldn’t believe it! I had just found a gold coin, and there was no one to tell! About that time I saw Teresa and my daughter Suzanne coming down the road for their Sunday afternoon, pre-naptime stroll. They knew something was up when I came running to meet them, grinning from ear to ear!
The look on Teresa’s face was priceless. She just looked at me and asked, “Is it real?” She asked me what I thought it was worth. I told her it would probably go up to $300. (When I found the coin, I was too excited to notice the Charlotte mintmark. Once I did, I almost stomped out Act II!) When I got back to the house, I suddenly realized that Teresa had a newfound interest in coins. She had pulled out my Red Book and had it lying open on the kitchen table. Suddenly I had a hunch that it might do a little better than $300!

So far, it’s the find of a lifetime for me. I can’t help thinking about the person who lost that coin. That was quite a bit of money back then. The coin has been authenticated, but I am in the process of having it graded a second time. This rare find has made a very nice addition to Suzanne’s collection. I recently read that less than 1 % of all the gold coins minted at Charlotte exist in any condition. What’s ironic is that I was having a conversation with a fellow employee on Thursday before that weekend, and in that conversation I said to him, “I will probably never find a gold coin, but if I do, I hope it has a Charlotte mint mark.” Who knew?

Since I “struck gold,” I have had plenty of offers from prospective hunting partners and numerous inquires as to exactly where I found it. I don’t want to be unfair to anyone. So, I’ve been telling everyone the same thing: I did not mug the St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun. I found it somewhere in North Carolina… near a tree.

TONY MULLEN may not be quite as rotund (fat) as the reader envisions from this article. it is a fact, however that he cannot dance.

Reprinted from Western & Eastern Treasure

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