If you were like most kids growing up, you may have spent a summer afternoon hunting for lost treasure. You pretended to be Blackbeard the pirate and looked on some creek bank for buried plunder or hunted for bags of yellow gold in the Lost Dutchmen’s gold mine. For most of us this childhood fantasy of lost treasure faded as we grew older, after all it was just a child’s game. We have long forgotten that excitement we felt searching for treasure that we somehow knew was not to be found.
But there are people who make their living hunting for the lost treasures of the world. Long sunk treasure ships are sometimes found in coastal waters of the Atlantic. Modern, lone gold miners still occasionally find that small mother load of precious metal hidden in the earth. But this is a life persuaded by only a few and even fewer ever achieve any real success.
But for some, hunting lost treasure is not a trip to some far off location. The finders, as I call them, can be found in a city park or on the sandy beaches all around us. You have seen them moving the head of their metal detector along the ground in a back and forth manner. Some wear headphones to hear the slightest change in pitch of the device as it passes over silver coins or discarded pop tabs.
Others would rather listen to the beeping sound with just their ears.
Recently, I was waiting in my doctor’s office and I noticed a small sign that asked for new places for a finder to use his metal detector. I recognized the man’s name as someone I knew from work. My curiosity told me that the next time I saw him, I would ask about his hobby.
His name is Arnie Cochran, someone I have known in passing for many years. And I guess I knew he was a finder, but did not realize how much he enjoyed the hobby. Now, Arnie is not usually a man of many words. Mostly he is a “Hi how you doing” kind of guy. But when I ask him about the sign looking for places to hunt with his detector he opened up and told me some of the fascinating finds he has located around the area. I found his stories of discovery to be fascinating and I thought you may also enjoy them.
I asked Arnie if a person was to become interested in becoming a finder what equipment would they need and the cost. He explained that metal detectors can be had for as little as a hundred dollars and up to several thousands. But detectors for around twelve hundred will do a good job for the avid hunter. For that kind of money and with a lot of practice you can start to look for your own adventure.
As Arnie described it to me, “Here are some of the neat things I have found metal detecting.”
An 1851 large cent coin, with two bullet holes in the center. The large cent was America’s penny from 1793 to 1857. It was made of copper and measured 1 1/8″ in diameter. The coin in today’s world is worth about $16, but the two holes decrease the dollar’s value. But you have to wonder under what circumstances the two holes got in to the center of the coin. The coin was found in Proctor.
Another interesting find, that was found in the Steelton area, is a POD railways button. Written on the front is, POD Mail Service and the on the back is the maker’s information. Researching the mark, it can be dated to 1859-1863. During that time, the railroad delivered some of the US Mail. This button would have been worn on the jacket of a railroad employee.
Back before television the radio was the main source of entertainment in the home. From 1935-1940 the Orphan Annie show was a late afternoon children’s serial on the radio. For a dime and the inner seal from an Ovaltine jar you could send and get an Orphan Annie secret decoder. The decoder was made popular some years back when Peter Billisly used one in the Christmas story movie. In the movie the decoder’s secret was portrayed to be an Ovaltine commercial, but in reality it was most often clues to the next episode. The 1936 decoder that was found had in the back side a secret compartment. This remarkable find was made in Kalamazoo, Mich., near Arnie’s son’s home.
At the turn of the last century, the community of Wileyville was a bustling town. It even had its own hotel. Arnie found a token worth five cents and it was good at the Wileyville hotel that operated from around 1904-1924.
The Eakin House was another hotel that gave out tokens. Arnie found this one on Maple Avenue. The token could be traded for five cents at the hotel which was located where the WesBanco building currently stands. Owned by Justus Eakin, this hotel was in business as early as 1890. An ad in a 1908 directory describes the establishment as “The only first class accommodations for commercial men. Table the best the market affords. Opposite Post Office and Court house, and most convenient hotel to depot. Good sample rooms on first floor. Bar attached. Free bus meets all trains. Rate $2.00 per day.”
Also found on Maple Avenue was a Civil War Infantry Button. This button has an old style eagle with a capital “I” on its breast. Researching the makers mark on the back, the button can be dated as being made somewhere from 1859-1863.
Arnie has found a variety of old coins, jewelry, and even a burred double barrel Derringer. A variety of rings and necklaces and a lot scrap metal.
He finds the excitement of searching for lost treasures very rewarding and is always looking for new places to hunt.
It is unlikely he will ever find some great lost treasure, but he is finding small pieces of history lost from long ago.And he also enjoys researching those finds to discovery their hidden mysteries.Arnie’s hobby of being a finder is something he likes to talk to people about, so the next time you see him ask about a coin with two holes in the center.
I wonder if that Orphan Annie decoder could tell you about my next story as I look Thru the Lens.