Surprising Facts about Three Common Metal Detecting Finds

Surprising Facts about Three Common Metal Detecting Finds

Detectorists pull these three things out of the ground all the time.  But what do we really know about them?

#1:  The Pull Tab

Chances are if you have ever shaken your fist at the sky cursing yet another pull tab you just dug up at 14 inches, you unwittingly cursed Mr. Ermal Fraze.    Villainized by metal detectorists everywhere, Mr. Fraze invented the pull tab in 1959.


Ermal, obviously not an avid detectorist, took over ten years to realize his scourge upon the detecting world and, probably chiefly motivated by that indian crying in that 70’s litter commercial, arguably partially redeemed himself by inventing the fixed pull tab in the 1970’s.  As all detectorists know all too well, people remove them anyway and toss them to the ground for us to find later.

What you might not know is that pull tabs are worth something to somebody today – sick children.

The Ronald McDonald House Pull Tab Collection Program was established in 1987 by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Ronald McDonald House Community.  Last year over $40,000 was raised in Chicago alone – funds that make a difference in the lives of sick children and their families.


Two of my worst nightmares cancel each other out for the common good.

You can read more about the Ronald McDonald pull-tab collection program at  Remember this cause the next time you contemplate slitting your wrists with yet another one of those awful tabs!

#2: The Minié Ball

Any competent Civil War relic hunter that digs these beautiful things understands that they are not named for their size.  That would be an oxymoron anyway.   The name is not short for “Miniature Ball”.   Heck most of them are not even a ball.

But did you know that we are actually saying it wrong?

The Minié ball is, of course, named for French army captain Claude-Étienne Minié.  His last name, however , is actually pronounced “min-YAY”.   Rhymes with “Beignet”  – the killer donut-like pastries doused in powdered sugar found at the Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter in New Orleans.   Think about that next time you dig up a nice Spencer Carbine 3-ringer!

Another ironic fact about the Minié ball is that it was never adopted by the French army.

carter house

This outbuilding at the Carter House here in Franklin, TN is riddled with Minié balls, and is still standing 150 years later. 

#3:  Clad Coins

Note:  For those of you who don’t detect or collect, 1964 was the last year that U.S. dimes and quarters were made of silver.  Starting in 1965 they were minted from a copper/nickel alloy that detectorists call “clad”.

I don’t mind finding a couple of bucks in non-silver change during a detecting outing in a park or playground.  What really sets me off, though, is finding a dime or quarter dated 1965.   If I find one and you happen to be within like a 50 yard radius of me, you stand a percent chance of being hit with it.    If the ’65 was at 4 inches or greater, my first thought is whoever dropped it probably had a pocket full of silver coins and dropped this “gem” instead.

It’s flawed thinking though, because almost 2 billion 1965 quarters were minted compared to 100-200 million or so each year from 1961 through 1963.  Two freaking billion.   It’s a miracle we don’t dig up a ’65 every time we go detecting.

Were you aware that the main driver for the U.S. government converting to clad was not, as widely assumed, the price of silver?    In the early 60’s there was a national coin shortage, and the problem was being blamed on collectors.   The solution?   Mint 2 billion cheap quarters so that no one in their right mind would want to collect them.

Proof that silver prices weren’t the culprit is that the government  initially tried to solve the problem with massive volume alone – without changing the silver content of the quarter.  In 1964 over 1.2 billion silver quarters were minted, over 5 times the number minted in 1963!  And only after that came the clad.

So next time you find that ’65, just chalk it up to sheer probability.

What do you think?   Your comments are welcome below.

Best of luck on your next hunt!

Photo Credits:

Title Photo: Detecting365 All Rights Reserved.

Angry Mob:  Adapted from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by Robert Couse-Baker

Ronald and tabs:

Carter House: Flickr:  Some rights reserved by AWJ-photography


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