Aside from the occasional Gold Eagle in a Salvation Army bucket around Christmas time, gold coins are scare outside of a vault or collection. One of the cool things about silver coins is that you can still find them out and about in circulation.
A few weeks ago, the clerk at the local Arco station was staring at a handful of coins she had just received from a customer. She was confused because although the coins said one dollar on them, they didn’t look familiar to her. She kept turning them over and over in her hand, trying to figure out what they were. When I got to the counter I sneaked a peek and asked her about the Morgan Dollars she was holding. She told me how a customer came in and handed her the 4 Morgans and 1 Peace Dollar to pay for $5 of gas. She was thrilled when I told her what they were really worth. I recalled getting change at a gas station in Georgetown CA, and being given silver quarters. Her little jackpot got me thinking about some of the other places I have found silver coins.
In between semesters at college, I worked for awhile at a gas station in Stockton CA where I was given a roll full of War Nickels. I had no idea what they were at the time. I just knew they were old.
I got interested in geology and history in college and eventually bought a White’s Eagle Spectrum metal detector. I had heard the stories about people finding old coins in basements, attics and walls of old pioneer homes, in old out houses and wells. Many folks 160 years ago stored their money in the ground in “post-hole banks”. My plan was to explore the old ghost towns and mining camps in the western United States. Maybe I would get lucky and stumble into one of those caches. I practiced with the detector in town. The first thing I found was a sterling silver serving spoon in the front lawn of my apartment complex, buried about 6″ down. I found a few dimes and quarters in the old parks around town.
I spent a lot of time in the desert and mountains of Utah, Nevada and Arizona, but never found any large treasure. The history and the geology was enough and it was amazing. I did have some success though and found a few neat items from the 1800’s like bits, and spurs, old bottles, china, etc. and I did find a few silver coins.
The weirdest place I have ever found a silver coin was in, of all places, a gold mine.
One weekend in the early 1990’s, I was in the Star Range in south western Utah. My grandfather had been a barber in Milford and was often paid by old prospectors in gems and minerals from the Star, Mineral and Wah Wah mountains. Seeing all of the quartz specimens laden with gold, labradorite, topaz, realgar, and curly horn silver from the Frisco mining area is probably what started my love of gems and minerals. I knew the Star Range had flourite mines and a few gold mines that might have some nice specimens in their tailings piles. I didn’t find any gold that day, but I did find some really nice Fluorspar, and at the mouth of one of the gold mine tunnels, I found a 1920’s Mercury Dime.
It makes sense that I would find something there at the mouth, but it was so unexpected because I was so focused on finding gold, that the dime seemed out of place and strange. The dime wasn’t worth a lot, maybe a gallon of gas at the time. But it was fun to imagine the life of that coin in the mining camps of Utah during the Depression.
What is the strangest place you’ve ever found silver or gold coins?