Dirt, sand, bullets and old coins


Susie and I recently spent a week at Starve Hollow State Recreation Area near Vallonia, Indiana.

We also had Benjamin, our grandson, with us for most of the week.

We were attending Treasure Fest, which is a seven-day metal detecting event. We usually go to this every year, but it was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 problem.

Participants in this annual hunt pay an entry fee for all seven days, or one day, or several days of their choice.

This allows them to join in the three, four or five separate detector hunts each day.

Some of these activities are looking for old silver dimes, buffalo or “V” nickels, wheat or Indian head pennies, or quarter, half-dollar or dollar coins, which are buried in the ground. Usually, once a day, these hunts take place on the sand beach on the property.

Each day, the event is planned by a different “huntmaster.”

There is a different theme to the hunt depending on the whim of the person in charge.

Usually, the first hunt of the day is called a fun hunt. It is a short hunt with little value to the items buried. Mostly, it is just a warm-up to make sure the detectors are working properly and the participant has a chance to prepare for later hunts with more at stake.

Besides the buried coins, every day has metal tokens with a stamped number on them hidden in the ground or the sand beach. There may be a few or many tokens in the hunt.

These tokens are redeemed after each hunt for a prize with the corresponding number.

These prizes vary from a hat or T-shirt, maybe a valuable coin, up to a brand-new metal detector worth several hundred dollars.

This year, a huntmaster from Texas put on a Civil War relic hunt. He buried old bullets, buckles, and assorted other artifacts in the field along with some tokens for some great prizes.

I found about 20 bullets and one small buckle, plus a token for one of the prizes.

Benjamin beat me by two bullets, and he also had one token.

Some folks in the hunt don’t like the old relics, so I traded silver dimes (worth about $1.80 each that day) for their bullets and prizes.

One gentleman had won a case with a $40 bullet and two Indian head pennies, and I traded him 20 dimes for it.

Then, he won a box with four old clay pipes, which I gave 15 dimes for. It also went the other direction.

I traded one of the exotic wooden pens I make on my wood lathe for 10 dimes. A lot of assorted prizes found their way to new owners in this manner.

The evening hunt was usually on the beach. Instead of a knife or digging tool for removing the coin from the ground, a scoop with holes in it was used. When the target was signaled by the detector, the sand scoop retrieved it, the sand fell through the holes, and the coin or prize token was dumped into a wire basket, which held the find while allowing any remaining sand to fall through.

This is often my best hunt of the day, because my scoop has a long handle. I can scoop the prize without bending over to dig it up.

With my breathing problem, this works a lot better for me.

Twenty years ago, we were a lot younger and faster, and found a lot more coins and tokens.

Now, I hope to dig a good prize token to make up for the coins that I’m too slow to get now.

We still get to meet old friends who we only get to see once or maybe twice a year.

Some we have detected with for more than 40 years, and every year, one or more are no longer with us.

We do meet new friends who are younger than us, and they will be the ones who lose friends in the near future.

We still have several detector hunts scheduled later this year. And we are already picking up hunt flyers for events scheduled next year.

I plan on attending a lot more over the next years.

Rich Creason is an award-winning outdoors and travel writer whose work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications for 40 years. Born in Anderson, he is a graduate of Markleville High School. He lives in South Madison County with his wife, Susie. He may be contacted at [email protected].