One of my hunting buddies, Jonathan James, is convinced that some of the best finds come at the end of the day. He cites example after example to me, especially at the end of a long, fruitless day when I’m worn out. “We need to hit one more property.” he’ll say. “It will probably salvage the whole day.”
Last Friday was no exception. After a full day of detecting, I think I had a single silver Roosevelt dime in my bag. I was tired, discouraged and ready to go home. Jonathan nonetheless convinced me to hit one more site. I checked my site list for one of my nearby backup permissions, an abandoned house, and drove to it.
Knowing the neighborhood had been hunted hard in the past, I chose my Fisher F75, my “deep” machine, over my e-Trac, which I use as my trash/iron machine. I decided to start in the back yard, and almost immediately started getting some good, deep and iffy signals. My very first one was a 1905 Indian head cent, a beautiful green one at about 10 inches. That green patina is my favorite color in the world. With another few minutes I had popped another out, a bright green 1882 at similar depth.
Then got a super clear dime signal about six inches and dug the 1895 Barber Dime. Man that silver looks great coming out of the ground. The shiny brightness against the dark dirt screams “silver!” instantly. I yelled out to Jonathan I’d found a barber dime. It was the oldest Barber dime I’d ever dug but even though I’d been an avid numismatist for years, I didn’t recognize its significance at that point.
As it got dark, I recovered another Indian – a beautiful, deep, chocolate 1899 and an 1869 shield nickel with a clear date. Somewhere in there I also dug a 1920 wheat cent. Jonathan had dug a couple of Indians as well and a few other very old items, and we marveled at how old the coins were in this yard.
After I got home and cleaned up, I did an initial cleaning of my finds and, per my habit, looked up the dates of each online just to make sure I hadn’t found a rare coin. PCGS’s website listed the 1895-O Barber at $495 in Good-4 condition. I flipped that puppy over and saw the “O” for “New Orleans” and kept looking back and forth between the coin and the computer screen trying to convince myself that I was reading it wrong. Then I went to eBay and search for “sold listings” and saw many examples that looked worse than mine but had sold for more than $300. I was very excited to say the least.
With a full rim, I think the coin is in solid Good-4 condition, but I’ll likely have it graded anyway. It is the rarest coin I’ve ever dug, the result of extremely poor economic conditions of 1894-1896 caused by the Panic of 1893 caused by over-investment in railroads and subsequent failure of various banks. With a mintage of only 400,000 or so, examples of the 1895 Barber minted in New Orleans are hard to come by and are sought after in any condition. I hope I’ll never have to sell this one, and will enjoy it for years to come.
Two major detecting principles that contributed to this find:
1) Hunting with a good detecting partner. Jonathan and I push each other. I admit had he not insisted, I would have went home instead of hunting the site.
2) Importance of keeping a Sites List: I keep a list on my phone and iPad of sites to target, sites that I have permission for that I could hunt again in a pinch, and “backup sites” – sites like this one that I didn’t really plan to hunt but could if I needed to. The “backup” sites are often some of the best sites, probably because they usually don’t look very good, which is why they were relegated to the backup list. It stands to reason that for the same reasons I chose to put a site on the backup list, it may have never been hunted before, or hunted only lightly.
I’d been grinding it out all month – hunting a lot of properties with only a find here and a find there, so it was good to finally get a monster find out of the ground. Sometimes you just gotta stay at it and understand the next monster find is just around the corner!
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