Natural Disasters Lead to Gold, Silver & Other Treasures
Disasters of all kinds are a leading cause for treasures being lost. They are also often the reason why many treasures are found. Storms, floods, wars, ship wrecks, fires and earthquakes have resulted in untold numbers of caches being buried or lost. On the other hand, some of these same events bring lost treasures to the surface again.
Hurricanes often create tides which uncover thousands of deeply buried coins along the beaches, or bring them into range of a good metal detector. Drought sometimes lowers lake levels and offers detecting opportunities in areas where the water had previously been much too deep. Floods and broken dams erode large areas, exposing artifacts and treasures of all kinds.
Successful treasure hunters have long known to watch for special situations created by both natural and man-made disasters. They have also learned to research the history of an area to learn where such occurrences have taken place in the past. The more a person knows about the history of a given area the better their chances are for conducting a successful hunt.
On May 5, 1960 a tornado ripped through the small Oklahoma town of Keota. The storm literally cut a path about two blocks wide completely through the middle of town. Dozens of homes and buildings were destroyed, and three people were killed. Many more suffered serious injury. The sky over eastern Oklahoma seemed to come alive with tornadoes that night. Many other nearby towns were also devastated by the twisters. At least 27 funnels were reported in a six county area. It was referred to for many years afterwards as the “night of the tornadoes.”
About 30 years later my old treasure hunting buddy was trying to come up with a good place to coinshoot. He decided to try his luck in a pasture at the north edge of Keota where the 1960 tornado had made its exit. The only sign of habitation in the field is a rock foundation of a home that was destroyed by the tornado. Donald refers to the ruins as the “old blowout.”
Donald seems to have a built-in radar that points him toward good areas to search. I happen to know, however, that this talent has been sharpened by years of research. Because of a lifelong interest and study of local history he has become one of the most knowledgeable people around in that field. But, his uncanny ability to find that one good item in an otherwise empty field, or an area littered with junk, still leaves me somewhat baffled.
Donald had been detecting the “old blowout” site for only a short while when his detector sounded off with a positive signal. To his surprise, when he dug the target, he found he was holding an 1895 barber half dollar. Other coins and interesting items soon followed. They included mercury dimes, liberty head nickels, foreign coins, tokens, rings, and sterling silver items.
He continued to detect the area for several days, and each time was rewarded with more good items. He recovered another silver half dollar. This time it was a Franklin half. Not as exciting as the barber coin, but still a good find.
One of the most interesting finds was a group of nine foreign coins. These coins came out of the ground looking exactly like gold. Until we checked them out with a book on foreign coins and learned they were made of a bronze-aluminum alloy, Donald thought he might have found a cache of gold coins. Most of the foreign coins he recovered from the area were French. But, a few nice British silver coins also surfaced, as well as a few of German origin.
Other interesting items included two silver rings (one a huge man’s ring with turquoise set), a sterling silver belt buckle, trade tokens and commemorative medals, a WWI lead soldier, a crest of arms, and numerous pieces of jewelry. From the variety of items recovered, as well as the wide range of coin dates, Donald believes the tornado had scattered someone’s coin collection across the field he was hunting.
While Donald was at home resting between hunts, the rancher who owned the land where he had been detecting drove up. He seemed to be upset about something and was in a highly agitated state. The landowner asked Donald if he would do him a big favor. He said that he had just lost his ring while delivering a baby calf. They had looked everywhere for the ring, but couldn’t find it. He hoped that Donald might be able to locate it with his detector. The ring had a gold coin for a set, and was valued at over $500. He already knew of Donald’s talent for finding lost items. In fact, Donald had found a valued pocket knife for his father about a year before.
Of course Donald was more than willing to help search for the lost ring. Maintaining good relations with landowners is one of the keys for gaining access to prime hunting locations. Besides, Donald is the kind of person who is always willing to help a neighbor.
When they arrived at the place where the ring had been lost Donald looked out of the pickup window and spotted it before he even got out of the truck. He walked over, picked up the ring, and handed it to the astonished rancher. For a moment he seemed to be in a state of shock, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes. Then he whooped real loud and embraced Donald with a big bear hug. The rancher tried to pay Donald for finding the ring, but he wouldn’t accept anything. Donald told him that he and his dad had always been good enough to let him detect on their property, and that was reward enough for him.
As more and more hunting pressure is being placed on public areas, good finds from places such as parks and playgrounds are becoming more rare. Therefore, it is important to take a look at private property for potential sites to detect. Don’t be afraid to talk with people and ask permission. Most landowners will grant permission to detect if they know you will respect their property. And sometimes, the friends you make in the process, rather than the gold and silver you find, turn out to be the real treasures, after all.