Tag Archives: silver

Longest (and Most Successful) Hunt

19 Mar

18 March 2015

As I have a significant thesis milestone coming up at the end of the month, I won’t be able to get out as much as I’d like. Therefore I wanted yesterday’s hunt to be special: I wanted to spend a lot of time in the field and find at least one object of historical significance.

I set off at eight am through a dense fog, which didn’t lift until around ten. For the first couple of hours I could only see the ground at my feet; it felt like I was detecting in a cloud. I started off by traversing Peter Quince to reach Falstaff. The only thing I found along the way was a tiny buckle. On Falstaff I turned up my first real find of the day, a George V penny (1919):

I moved onto Sir Thomas, a field that was to play the central role in the success of the day’s hunt, but all I found after twenty minutes of swinging was a lead bag seal, pressed with an ‘E’ on one side and ‘BOWLEYS’ on the other.

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Hankering to try something new, I walked across a newly planted field and made my way to some pasture near the farmhouse. There under a lone, winter-barren tree, I ate my lunch in the sunshine.

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After lunch I searched along the pasture land for a quarter of an hour. I found another George V penny (1914),

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as well as a ten ‘New’ pence piece (1979), one of the post-decimal but thicker ones.

It was now edging towards two o’clock, and as I had been detecting, digging, and walking since eight, my spirits were beginning to flag. Still, I decided to press on; your detecting luck can change in an instant, and one great find changes the whole feel of a day (also, as my friend Gerry says, even when detecting is muddy, cold, and fruitless, it’s still ‘good, clean fun’). I turned back to Sir Thomas, knowing that I’d found that spectacular silver antonianus there just two days before.

After awhile I found a damaged buckle, possibly medieval (similar to this one, but without the finish):

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In a bid at self-psychologising, I tried to tell myself that this, at least, was a fascinating find — that this is what I’d spent six and half hours searching for. But the attempt didn’t take. I moved out across the field again, willing a spring into my legs despite my badly pulled groin (I think from crossing a fence days earlier). Not long later I found a cut or broken piece of coin, maybe with some silver content, too damaged to see anything on it. Again I told myself that this was more like it. Except it wasn’t. I thought about returning to the car and trying to get home before close-of-business traffic.

But then I found a Roman coin! Sure, it was a small and illegible nummus, but it was definitely Roman, something for the eventual collection I hope to turn over to a local museum.

As it turns out, that was just the beginning. As a fisherman, frustrated for hours, might hit a honey hole and begin landing fish after fish, I was suddenly on top of Romans. I breathed an actual sigh of relief as I pulled this antonianus (of Allectus?) out of the soil:

Five minutes later and just ten meters away, I got a cracking signal reading 81 on my AT Pro’s VDI. 81 almost always means aluminum can — I mean, it has ALWAYS meant that for me. But for some reason, probably the new-found buoyancy at digging the antonianus — I decided to take a shot. And out popped a coin with a beautiful glowing-green patina that felt as heavy and thick as a skipping stone in my hand. Another Roman, and so huge! I didn’t know what it was, but I suspected a follis or sestertius (it turns out it was a sestertius, probably of either Marcus Aurelius or Trajan).

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Obverse of Anotonianus of Allectus

Reverse of Antonianus of Allectus

Reverse of Antonianus of Allectus

While I was talking to my family via Whatsapp to tell them about the finds, I found another nummus. Four Romans! The tally finished as I recrossed the field after picking up my jacket, which I’d abandoned in the afternoon warmth: a tiny minim, the smallest Roman denomination. Later, I thought the five Romans looked quite nice ranged from largest to smallest:

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I didn’t get onto the Romans until after 3:30 pm, at which point I’d been detecting for seven and a half hours! Persistence definitely paid off, and it was a worthy hunt to lead into the (reluctant) time off from the hobby.

I’ve been noticing lately that I average about a coin an hour. Strangely, this ratio seems to hold regardless of the type of coin or the terrain. And it was true of yesterday as well: I hunted almost exactly ten hours, and I finished the day with a sestertius, an antonianus, two nummi, a minim (five Romans altogether); two George V pennies; a modern 10p; a cut, unidentifiable hammered coin or jeton; and a Victorian ha’penny of 1901, the year she passed. I found this near the Roman zone, just after finding the second nummus.

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All in all a tiring — at times frustrating — but amazing day, arguably my most successful ever.

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UPDATE: Silver!

I cleaned the smooth and knackered half-coin I found yesterday and did the ad hoc silver test (spit in tinfoil which reacts to the tarnish)…turns out it is silver! So I had a silver coin (what was left of one) yesterday as well.

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Three Roman Hunts

17 Mar

Friday the 13th

This was the day of the monthly OBMDC meeting, which happened also to be the Annual Group Meeting, and I tried to sneak in one last hunt before the evening, so that I’d have more to record. I wanted to be on pasture rather than battling mud, so I selected Oscar Wilde. I was also keen to see if it had any Roman to offer up, given its proximity to Ulmo where I’d had Roman luck.

Did it ever! By the time my short hunt was finished, I’d found five Romans: two have some sort of visible image on them, a bust and what looks like a dolphin, respectively; I’ve prepped them for PAS recording in hopes of ID’s. Two more are grots, and the last is only potentially a grot — it could also just be a grot-shaped bit of nonferrous metal. While digging what turned out to be a chunk of lead, I also found, eyes-only, a bit of garnet that looks like it might be a Celtic intaglio, or engraved material.

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I also found a bit of embossed copper alloy that may be a bracelet; a lead bag seal; a bronze oak-leaf badge; a lead weight (actually found in Reedy on the way back); the usual buttons, buckles, and musket balls, and some strange, massive bits of lead as pictured:

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Besides the Romans, my favourite find was a little heart-shaped padlock in sterling silver, complete with a silver lion hallmark on the back.

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Though Anni wasn’t at the club meeting, I did have a chance to compare finds with the other members. I also won a prize in the raffle, selecting this book from the prize table:

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The Ides of March

The other day I’d seen that a field I call Peter Quince was being ploughed, and I thought I’d try my luck.

Clearly Caesar’s oracle didn’t apply to me, as about midway through the field I found my second-ever silver hammered! This was a tiny coin, lying on the surface. The obverse looked blank, but later when I viewed it through a jeweller’s loupe, I could plainly see Queen Lizzie and a rose. The reverse is quite clear, featuring a shield and the date, 1575. Probably a three farthings or a farthing, considering the minuscule size. I was thrilled finally to have a coin from my research period.

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Not long afterward I found a lovely fragment of Roman coin, with a nose and eye in profile plainly visible. If only the coin had survived entire, it would be a thing of beauty. The fragment was hard to isolate from the mud and gave a very iffy signal; I’m glad I stuck with it.

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After finding a few other bits and bobs, I crossed into Falstaff, which had also been ploughed. My hunch paid off, as no sooner had I started detecting in the corner of the new field than I found my finest Roman to date, a Claudius II Antonianus.

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Also in this field I found another spindle whorl, a couple of pennies, Edward VII (1907) and George V (1920), and a George V ha’penny.

Edward VII Penny (1907)

Edward VII Penny (1907)

Perhaps most interesting of all (besides the Antonianus) was a lead seal or medallion, quite haggard at the edges, featuring Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in profile on the obverse, and a crown and the royals’ names on the reverse:

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Can you make out the faint profiles?

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Returning to Peter Quince I got a strong signal for a Victorian ha’penny in very nice nick (1872).

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Overall, my best hunt so far, I believe.

Peter Quince finds

Peter Quince finds

Falstaff finds

Falstaff finds

Roman Romanorum (16 March 2015)

It was raining this morning, so although I was keen to follow up yesterday’s fascinating finds, I was reluctant to face the newly turned earth of Peter Quince. Instead I started out in pasture on a little field in near the farm buildings that I call Charlotte Shed. I found a nice button with the legend ‘Water WLB Lane’ (apparently once a brand of workman’s trousers), an old, possibly Victorian coin, much abraded, a modern 10p, and a pre-decimal three pence.  FullSizeRender_2

In the end I thought it would be better to be muddy and in the finds, then clean and targetless, so I made my way over to Sir Thomas, another field that had recently felt the plough. I hadn’t been detecting long, maybe an hour all in, when I saw silver winking at me from the rocky hole I’d just dug. It proved to be my most exciting find to date, an antonianus of Gordius III (c. 242-244).

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I was so excited when I turned this up that I spent a half hour or so on the spot, digging down to see if this was some outlier from a deeper hoard. Alas, it appears the coin was a singular pocket drop; in any case I didn’t find any other signals in the area.

Later on the periphery of the field, I found a beautiful lead bag seal featuring an oyster shell on both sides:

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One target I dug turned out to be the hollow leg (in a stirrup) of what must once have been a lead toy.

Bag seal and lead toy leg.

Bag seal and lead toy leg

I also found a bit of patterned copper-alloy wire that may have been a bracelet:

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A picture of my Sir Thomas finds, including the obligatory buckles:

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First Hammy Ever!

7 Mar

I started off on Ulmo with the intention of proceeding to Falstaff after finding my first coin. This proved more difficult than I’d anticipated. The field had dried out quite a bit thanks to the lack of rain over the last few days, but for the first time, Ulmo failed to give up Roman. I was seventy minutes into the hunt before I found my first coin, an Edward VII farthing (1906).

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Some time later, still on Ulmo, I found my second Edwardian coin of the day, this one a penny (1904). Unfortunately, the penny later slipped out of my finds pouch — probably while I was sat taking a rest — and was lost. It was a bitter lesson, though I didn’t find out that it was missing until the end of the day’s hunt.

After about two and a half hours on the field, I got a warbling tone whose number on the VDI nevertheless held steady at 60. I dug the signal and about four inches down found my first-ever silver hammered, in beautiful condition. I cleaned it reverently, or as reverent as one can be with spit, and the bearded face of a medieval king shone at me.

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I tweeted out a request for ID assistance, and The Searcher magazine boosted my signal. Within minutes someone had ID’ed the coin as a Henry III voided longcross penny (1240s). This will definitely be one to record with the FLO!

Other bits and bobs from the hunt:

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Two Hunts on Ulmo

6 Mar

In order to talk more specifically about fields on my P, I’ve decided to give them nicknames. I’ve been concentrating recently on a field I’ve called Ulmo. It’s where I took the landowner’s son when he found his Roman (apparently a family of Constantine nummus circa 340 A.D.). On two consecutive hunts (three if you count the one with the farmer’s son), Ulmo has given up Roman. The third day this was a very nice coin with victory on the reverse.

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March 2, 2015

The great find of the day (besides a grotty Roman) was my first Cartwheel penny, so called because of the thick rim around the periphery of the coin. They are massive and quite rare, from the reign of George III. They were produced for three years, but they all bear the mint year 1797. I’ve put the coin delicately into some olive oil to see if some of the encrustations can be teased away without damaging it.

Cartwheel Penny

Cartwheel Penny

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Cartwheel Penny

Cartwheel Penny

March 3, 2015

For this hunt I returned to Ulmo and fields adjacent. In my first hole I dug up the Roman pictured above. Anni thinks it is likely a local contemporary copy, because the victory on the reverse is facing the wrong way. This would make the coin quite rare and potentially valuable. It is currently being recorded for the PAS. Other finds included musket balls (up to a frightening caliber) and my first crotal bell, which happened to be complete. On a field I’ve called Oscar Wilde, I found a little silver-looking (but probably not silver) bow pin, as well as a George V penny (1918) in reasonable nick. Oh, and a fork…

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On Wednesday the Ashmolean Museum held their monthly find identification service. I invited my landowner to come along with me and bring the coin his son had found. The event is a great resource, with Anni Byard and three or four other archaeologists and numismatists on hand at a long table to meet with members of the public and ID finds. There is also the possibility to leave finds with the team for recording. I was very pleased that my farmer friend agreed to do so. The whole thing is like something out of Antiques Roadshow, with four lamps in a row to provide extra light, and the row of experts and the public bent toward each other, heads down over the objects under consideration. I turned twelve objects over to Anni for recording, though some are no doubt modern red herrings. Afterward, the farmer took me out to lunch at a local Thai restaurant. A lovely day all round.

Update: The bow pin found on Oscar Wilde has a lion silver hallmark on the back, so it may indeed be silver after all!

Catching Up to 2015

22 Jan

I left New York at the end of summer, and I felt that it was best to sell on my Surfmaster P.I. Dual-Field. I only ever got two hunts with her, so I didn’t learn her ins and outs; I would have liked to, but it didn’t make sense to keep hold of a detector that I used so infrequently. Still, it was a pleasure meeting treasure-hunting legend Mike McMeekin, who sold me the detector. His shop on Long Island, Treasures Unlimited, is a veritable museum of coins and artefacts (more a pirate’s hoard, really).

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Back in Oxford in the autumn, I went on a few digs with the Oxford Blues. After renting a car to travel to the first one, I sent round an email to the OBMDC list asking whether anyone might be interested in sharing travel costs. A wonderful fellow named Gerry Townsend responded and offered to take me along with him.

In the event, he did much more than provide transportation. He introduced me to his mates in the Blues (he knows everyone), and he made sure that I felt comfortable socially — actually, it was the first time I hadn’t felt like an outsider with the Blues, as I’d only been on three prior digs with them. This new friendship proved lucky, as toward the end of that Saturday dig (a rarity with the clubs, which mostly dig on Sundays) in driving rain, I found my first Roman coin.

A couple of the old-timers who’d braved the rain thought it might be a Constantine II, but Anni Byard, the Oxfordshire FLO, provisionally ID’ed it via Twitter as a Julian II.

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Musket ball found on the same hunt as the Roman (Fox Lane near Boar's Hill)

Musket ball found on the same Saturday hunt as the Roman (Fox Lane near Boar’s Hill)

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A week or so later, Gerry drove my partner and me to the British Legion Hall in Littlemore where the club have their monthly meetings. There is a little bar onsite, so the club members can have a pint and a chat and share round any finds or gossip. I loved it! There was also a find of the month contest and a raffle — I participated in both, but didn’t win either. Anni Byard was present, and she confirmed that I’d found a Julian II…she and another club member who is very knowledgeable about coins went further: It was a Julian II siliqua, and though it had oxidized over the 1700 years it had lain in the ground, the coin was silver! I turned the coin and my king’s head buckle over to Anni for recording with the PAS.

About a month passed, and the holidays were upon me before I received word that the recording was complete. When Anni sent me links to the PAS database entries for my two recorded finds, I felt like I was part of something significant — not just hunting for treasure but joining with thousands of other individuals to preserve and document the history slumbering beneath our feet. Here are my finds to date: BERK-57CD9B and BERK-1DA34A.

A dig on December 7 yielded an object Anni identified as a 16th c. hooked clasp (similar to this one: BERK-47901A). I plan to submit it for recording at the next club meeting.

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I spent the holidays in Italy and the States, only recently returning to Oxford. This past Sunday, the 18th January, I went on my first dig of 2015 (I now have a cheapo Fiat Punto to facilitate transportation). The dig was on land in Stanton St John, quite near a Roman road, and the signals were plentiful. I found a Georgian half-penny (or penny?) straightaway, in bad shape. Then another grotty coin. In the early afternoon, I found my second-ever Roman, though this was grotty and impossible to make out.

Near the end of the dig, my AT Pro started pinging with the high, pure sound that almost always indicates a coin rather than foil or a button. My heart was thumping against my ribs as I caught a glimpse of silver in the muck…my first hammered? Actually, no. I soon realised that the edges of the coin were milled, but no matter. I’d uncovered a George III silver shilling from 1816! I’ve found Roman silver and Georgian silver; now all I need is a hammered! Also on this hunt I found a thimble, which a club member (Bill, the discoverer of the Didcot Hoard kept in the Ashmolean Museum) told me was used by women when bringing in the corn harvest to prevent bruised or bloodied fingertips; a (medieval?) buckle bent neatly in half; a half dozen flat buttons; a chunk of bored lead that may have been used as a whorl; and various other bits and bobs.

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I love this hobby! I would happily do it full time. Now I’m turning my attention completely toward finding permissions: I’ve prepared a letter, envelopes, and a ‘my finds’ insert to send round to local farmers. More on this in the next instalment.