November 28, 2022
1864 Abraham Lincoln Presidential Campaign Button found in an Indiana field. Photo provided.

Midwestern agricultural fields appear very different than they did centuries ago. Don’t overlook them when metal detecting.

Chicago, IL (May 6, 2021) – Once the decision is made and you finally purchase your first metal detector, the big question becomes, “Where do I hunt?”

Magazine articles and advertisements always seem to show someone finding large caches of Roman coins somewhere in Europe, or depictions of detectorists picking up Spanish treasure along the Florida coast. Others show off the many Revolutionary War artifacts or Civil War relics they are finding with their detectors. Unfortunately, many of our hobby’s participants don’t live in Europe, in Florida, or along the East Coast or Deep South. So, where do those people search for treasure?

When most folks drive along country roads, they simply see the corn or beans or other crops growing in the fields. Brant Jones of East-Central Indiana looks below the surface and pictures the coins and artifacts hiding in the soil. He researches local areas on his computer, finds old homestead sites from a century ago where crops now grow, gains permission to metal detect from the owners, and begins swinging his Minelab Equinox 800 in search of the lost or buried treasures he knows are just waiting to be found.

Brant started metal detecting in 2008. He was walking along the banks of the Mississinewa River with his sons. On top of a hill covered with old brick and glass, one of his boys found what he thought was an old coin. It turned out to be a flat button. He later borrowed a detector from a friend and returned to the pasture where they had found the button. “I soon found a large cent,” Brant recalls. “I was instantly hooked on detecting. I bought the rummage-sale detector from my friend and have been hunting ever since.”

EQUINOX 800

Like many other beginners, Jones tried many different models of detectors from entry level to advanced. In 2012, he bought an Explorer XS model, which became his introduction and gateway to the Minelab brand and technologies. He really liked the machine and found many deep targets with it, but technology was changing fast and Minelab was making better and lighter detectors. He used the Explorer XS for a few years, then began looking at the Minelab EQUINOX series. He was impressed by the Multi-IQ simultaneous frequency technology built into these machines, which would allow him to find any of the items for which he searched using just one detector. He also liked the lightweight design of the machine, which would allow him to hunt hours at a time without becoming fatigued. As fate would have it, just before Brant decided to purchase the EQUINOX 800, he attended a seeded hunt and won the exact Minelab machine he was ready to buy. After using this machine for many years now, he says his Equinox has changed the amount of finds he digs. “It goes deep, and I don’t miss much,” he says. “And if I do, it’s my own fault for not digging it!”

Detecting Midwest farm fields limits Jones to the months before the fields are planted and after the crops are harvested. This means mostly late-fall and early-spring hunting, but he also includes winter in his detecting plans. “Snow doesn’t stop me,” he says. “Only frozen ground slows me down.” When he is unable to get into his favorite hunting grounds, he is on the computer researching new sites or knocking on doors to ask for permission to hunt a new field. He also seeks permission in local yards and parks.

So, what kind of treasures does Jones find when hunting these areas? Well, the various displays of items he brings to the East Central Indiana Treasure Hunters Club every month show that he finds a wide variety of great targets. While many detectorists are happy finding a buffalo nickel or an Indian head penny, Brant brings in large cents, seated and bust coins, and historical tokens. Crotal bells which used to hang on horse harnesses are also a common find in farm fields, while Civil War buttons lost off the uniforms of returning soldiers also frequently end up in Jones’ pouch.

Reverse side of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Campaign Button. Photo provided.

When asked about his favorite find to-date, Brant doesn’t hesitate. “Without a doubt, the Abraham Lincoln 1864, campaign button,” he says. “It is worn and has a hole in it, but I think it’s my best find ever.” He also finds a lot of trade tokens from various businesses which were common a century or more ago. Of course, he finds coins, too. Since most of the fields he detects have not had houses for many decades, any coins he finds are usually more than 100 years old. He is still looking for his first gold coin like one of the ladies in his club found recently.

Not all of Brant’s finds go into his collections. On a hunt last year, he found a 1924 gold class ring in a field. After much research, he was able to identify the owner of the ring who had passed long ago. More research led to a meeting with the ring owner’s 83-year-old daughter. Jones asked what her father’s full name was, and her answer matched the initials in the ring. He then asked from what school he had graduated. Again, her answer matched the ring. When questioned about the year he graduated, the woman didn’t know. Brant said it was 1924 and then showed her the ring in his hand. The daughter lit up and asked if she could buy the ring from him. “Of course not,” Jones replied, as he handed the long-lost ring to its rightful owner.

24-carat gold ring found and returned. Photo provided.

“Jewelry in the fields is kind of rare, but it is there. I normally find one or two rings a year in farmland,” says Jones, who also collects many marbles, non-metallic buttons, and a wide variety of Native American artifacts while searching the fields.

Most of the time, Brant enjoys detecting with other people. His wife, Kristin, and their youngest son, Noah, are able to hunt with him often. Like most others in the hobby, he carries out all of the trash he uncovers, and if possible, shows it to the landowner. This practice often gets him many more permissions to hunt other fields – both from that particular landowner, and often the landowner’s neighbors and friends.

Jones says finding old house sites is fairly easy. He suggests logging onto www.historicmapworks.com, where you can enter your state, county, and township. This brings up several choices of maps. Click on the oldest one listed and the screen will show your area. The small, black squares are houses which were standing when the map was created. It also shows buildings with a cross on top (churches), structures with windows (usually schools), toll houses, roads, and much more helpful information.

While valuable hoards or caches of lost treasure can be difficult finds for the normal hobbyist, almost anyone who owns a metal detector can discover old coins and interesting, historical artifacts in farm fields. All it takes is a small amount of research and a bit of friendly initiative with property owners… and a quality detector. 

Story by Richard Creason

Andrew Jackson Victory inaugural button found in an East-Central Indiana field. Photo provided.

ABOUTMINELAB:

Minelab is an Australian, multi-award-winning business that has successfully scaled world markets to command global leadership in its key areas of operation. Based in Mawson Lakes, South Australia, with regional offices in Cork, Ireland, Dubai, UAE, Chicago, U.S., and Itajai, Brazil the company specializes in advanced electronic technologies. Since its origins in 1985, Minelab has been the world leader in providing metal detecting technologies for gold prospecting, treasure hunting and landmine clearance. Through devotion to research and development and innovative design, Minelab is today the major world manufacturer of handheld metal detector products. Over the past 30 years, Minelab has introduced more innovative and practical technology than any of its competitors and has taken the metal detecting industry to new levels of excellence. Minelab is a Codan Limited company (ASX: “CDA”). To learn more about Minelab, visit minelab.com.