Yes, Virginia, you CAN “beat” a more experienced digger!

1857 Seated Liberty Quarter

One of the things a lot of beginning metal detectorists fear is being the only one on a group hunt, or even hunting with one other friend, who doesn’t find something cool. Does that happen? Yep, all the time. And it happens to every newbie AND to every experienced hunter, more than any of us would like to admit. But that’s also the beauty of it: You’re not alone if you get “skunked.”

But sometimes, when the planets align just right and you’ve been a very good little digger, YOU are the one who finds the coolest thing of the day. Yep, it does truly happen that way, even when you’re a beginner. I know, because I’ve seen it happen to others, and because it happened to me.

I was hunting with my bestest diggin’ buddy in one of my older spots that had given up some nice relics and a few coins. He was in front of me with his White’s MXT All Pro, a beast of a machine that just sucks the silver right out of the ground. Normally a slow and methodical hunter, he was pretty stoked to be on this 1700s property and was buzzing along a little faster than usual. It takes me longer to get geared up because I wear kneepads and stuff, so as usual, I was poking along in his wake.

I swung my coil over the roots of a tree, an older maple, and got a distinct high ring on my Garrett Ace 250 detector. A few more passes told me I wasn’t imagining that beautiful, clear tone I’d heard all too rarely before. I knew it was a coin, and very likely a silver one. So I set to work digging away between three very close-together roots.

8 inches and 45 minutes later, I finally was able to sneak my bare hand (gloves wouldn’t fit) past that root tangle, and what I felt sent tingles up my spine. It was definitely a coin, and a larger one…with a reeded edge. I managed to squish my face down into the dirt and shine the light from my Garrett ProPointer into the hole. Immediately, I saw it: I was looking at a silver quarter of some kind, and that beautiful, bright edge was shining out of that dark place like the moon!

Careful not to injure the coin, I worked at it with my fingers a few more minutes and finally pulled it out into the sunlight. I brushed off the dark, damp dirt, and there, glittering in my palm, was an 1857 Seated Liberty quarter. I had never dug an old coin except for the 1800 large cent I’d pulled a few years earlier from my yard. But that coin had been almost completely roached, with the date just barely readable. This one was truly beautiful, and in fantastic condition, considering it had spent the past 150 underground. I attributed that to the fact that it had been protected from too much rubbing and friction by the roots wrapped so closely around it.

Look what I found!
“Look what I found!” My friend DJ was gracious in taking my photo with the coin he’d swung his coil over just an hour before.

But that thought came later, after I calmed down. Right then, I was shaking so hard I could barely keep the coin in my hand. I started whooping and yelling for DJ, and he came running around the house, thinking I might have hurt myself. I just held out the coin and did a little happy dance. He reached out and took it, and remarked on its great condition.

He asked me where I found it, and I pointed to my little tree root excavation. 

“Oh, man!” he said, much to my delight. “I ran my coil over that and heard the ping!”

“Yeah,” I replied. “But I actually dug it!” We laughed a bit about how I was so hungry for a good find I was willing to work that long at its recovery, and how it sure was worth it. I couldn’t stop shaking, so DJ had to take the photo for me.

Though he was annoyed with himself for missing the opportunity, he really was glad for me and we both celebrated for several minutes, sharing our find with the property owner, who was very interested and also excited for me.

It was one of my best hunts ever, and one I’ll never forget. And yes, it was all the sweeter because I—a rank newbie—had somehow stolen that beauty right out from under the coil of my mentor. So have faith…it could happen to you, too!

About Mary Shafer 12 Articles
Award-winning author Mary A. Shafer is a full-time freelance writer in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She has four published books and contributed to two anthologies. She’s a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Nonfiction Authors Association, Pennwriters, Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and is the founder of the Twin Rivers Writers Group in upper Bucks County, PA.


    • Marilyn, thanks! I about peed my pants when it popped out of that dark hole. I will never forget that day as long as I live, and I have faith that something just as cool can happen to YOU! Thanks for reading!

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