Pictured above are four Spanish reales I dug last weekend at the site of an early trading post, including two half reales (1807 and no date), a one real (1784), and a cut-in-half 8 reales (1821). All firsts for me. The 8 reales, as you may already know, were often cut into up to 8 pieces to make change, which is where the term “pieces of eight” comes from. Also dug a 1721 French Colonial 9 Deniers. All of these coins beat the previous oldest I’d ever dug, which was an 1842 half dime. The French coin beat it by 121 years!
A couple of other detectorists pointed out the consistent rarity of many of my finds. One asked me if I have a rarity setting on my detector. Another asked me straight up “how do you dig so much rare and uncommon good stuff?”
After all, out of the 8 plates I dug in 2015, four of them were rare: CSA Pewter, US Martingale, and two of the rarer NCO-style Eagle Breast plates. And I still haven’t dug a regular Eagle Breast Plate! In 2015, I also dug a war dated German silver coin likely lost by German Federal troops at Nashville, a key date 1895-O Barber Dime, a rare .46 Sharps multi-ring bullet, a front brass band to a Mississippi rifle, and a myriad of other extremely uncommon finds. And on one of my last hunts of the year, I dig a George Washington inaugural button, a “unicorn” that I didn’t really think was possible to dig.
I am fortunate that my detecting partners were eyewitnesses to every one of these finds. If I hadn’t seen them come out of the ground myself, it would be difficult to accept and believe that they were real. After all, we’ve all heard the sad stories of sad people showing “finds” they didn’t dig – for attention or other motivation.
So I had to think about the question. How do I consistently dig rare items? Blind luck? Divine intervention? Statistical nonsense? Probably some of each LOL, but the core answers are pretty simple, and here are my tips for digging rare, monster finds:
DETECT AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
The truth is only a small percentage of my keepers are what I would call a rare or “monster” find. I dug over 800 relics in 2015, and only about 1-2% of them were rare. So detect all you can. It is a numbers game. The relics do not know they are rare, so some of them are going to be rare!
SEEK OUT SITES WHERE RARE STUFF WOULD BE FOUND
All of my rare finds didn’t come from random sites, but were dug exactly where you would reasonably expect them to be found. Confederate winter camps, sites of major wartime residences, an 1800s park. Sure, these items could have been dug anywhere, but I was detecting where they were statistically more likely to be found. And it doesn’t matter how hard the site has been previously hunted. Hunt them hard, think outside the box, and keep them on standby to hunt again in a pinch.
ADOPT CLARK’S STUPID THREE-HOLE RULE
Almost superstitiously, I force myself to locate and dig 3 more targets after I have decided to quit hunting any site. It’s like a Hail Mary or hitting a shot at the buzzer. Almost half of my rare finds came on one of these three holes. It’s not crazy if it works.
HUNT WITH THE RIGHT PARTNERS
Many of my finds came from absolutely incredible research by my hunting partners, and from my partners motivating me to get out and detect when I didn’t feel like it, or challenging me to hunt one more site at the end of a day.
CANI YOUR DETECTING SKILLS
Constant and Never-ending Improvement (CANI). Always work to improve your skills and gain just one more small edge out in the field. Find the unfindable. Win anyway. Work hard to get better. Master depth, heavy iron, trash, and water. Free your mind from discrimination, VDI numbers, and auto-sensitivity, and make your own dig decisions instead of allowing the detector to do it for you.
MIX IT UP AND KEEP MOVING
Move around and hunt different towns. Hunt good yards, woods, water, construction and fields. Try to keep your coil on new ground that you haven’t run over before, and keep really good sites on a backup list to re-hunt in a pinch. That works better for me than just pounding each site to death.
JOIN A LOCAL CLUB
Joining a club will make you a better detectorist for a lot of reasons. One of my favorite things about the club is the opportunity to show my finds each month. I am motivated to get out and find something to show, and if the meeting is looming, and I don’t have anything to show or enter, I am more apt to put in some extra hunts and hunt even harder to be able to do so. And extra hunts mean extra finds, and every find might be the next “rare” one.
Most of us dream about finding the unimaginable, the unfindable, the “good stuff”. Believe me, those things are still out there, just keep swinging smart, and you’ll get your share of them.
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