When Treasure Wasn’t Treasure

As one of the older members on this forum, I have a unique perspective on the subject of so many posts and hunts featured here: namely silver coinage. Like most hunters, I am thrilled when my detector signals the possibility that silver is just underneath the surface where I stand, and I am positively gleeful when my digging reveals that lovely untarnished glint of precious metal, seen in sunlight for the first time in many, many years– perhaps 60 or 70–who knows? 

The satisfaction that comes with finding treasure is but one of the many aspects of this hobby that make it so rewarding. But I can remember when silver wasn’t treasure. It was common. So common in fact that a handful, or more likely a pocketful of silver coins was a nuisance rather than a wonder. Something to be consolidated into bills for convenience–after all who would want to carry around a heavy clanking load of coins all day? 

As a paperboy in the 50’s I would get paid every Friday by my customers, almost universally in silver coins, which I dutifully carried to the bank and traded for dollar bills to pay my route manager. Silver wasn’t rare then, but it was collectible, and like many kids my age, I had an assortment of blue folders in which I assembled a coin collection. I looked for the rare dates and was lucky enough once in a while to fill a slot with a choice specimen of some importance. Before heading to the bank with my newspaper money I would pick out the better coins, those with little wear and high luster, and put them into my folders, often replacing one coin that I had already stored with a better one. But that was the extent of silver hoarding for me and I’m sure, for many like me. Just another boyhood hobby, like collecting stamps or bottles or bugs–interesting pastime but not a treasure hunt. But that was then and I moved on to other things. 

The paper route gave way to real jobs after school and in the summer, and I was always paid in bills or by check, not in silver. And of course there was school and later, cars and girls.  So before long, silver was not on my mind at all.  It was still common then, but of no importance to me, being nothing more than pocket change. My Dad worked at the Post Office and he demonstrated that he was smarter than I was by latching on to silver  when it was replaced by modern coinage in the sixties. He would routinely exchange five or so dollars of sliver coins with dollar bills from his pocket and then bring them home to be stored in boxes that he kept in his desk. I don’t know that he thought of silver as treasure, but he realized that it was scarce and getting more so each day. He knew that scarcity meant an increase in value and collectability. I still have those folders with my silver coins, and I never take them out for a look that I don’t regret that I didn’t pursue my hobby with more diligence. The few coins that I saved pale in comparison to the thousands that my Dad put away, and when I examine them, I can’t help wondering what might have been.

I got my first detector about 1971 or so, and it was crude by today’s standards, but it was a coin finder none the less. Though finding silver coins in general circulation was a thing of the past even then, they were still readily found in parks and school yards near where I lived, because detecting had not caught on with many hobbyists, and those places were still pretty much virgin ground.  It was easy to find ten or more silvers in an outing and it was repeatable.  It was fun of course and a rewarding hobby, but I have to admit that I did not see the bigger picture– that silver coins would truly be quite rare and hard to recover in  30 to 40 years. I guess for me at that time finding silver coins was more of a novelty than a quest. I don’t know just what happened to all those coins. 

I can remember selling some of lesser quality when silver bullion traded at a premium, and I do know that I cashed in quite a few to buy our wedding rings, exchanging one form of treasure for another. The rest I imagine are mingled in with those my Dad saved and put into his boxes. Times changed, and marriage, kids, and a career became more important than a hobby. Detecting fell by the wayside and only now, so many years later has it once again become an item of interest for me. So while I was busy with the matters of life, other detectorists took up the hobby, often with a passion, looking diligently here and there for the ever diminishing supply of silver coins. In the process, some 50 years in the making, silver changed from simple currency to rare treasure. And so what was once common, so everyday as to be totally unremarkable has  now become a topic of great interest on every detecting site in existence. 

We suffer with our fellow posters who search all day without seeing a Barber or a Standing Liberty, and we share their joy when one of those beauties comes to light. We search and we dig and all the while we yearn for better machines, for revealing research, and for new territory–and we carry on. Such is the nature of treasure hunting. I am fortunate that in my memory I can revisit the time when silver wasn’t treasure. At other times, when I am more practical, I join my Treasure Classifieds family in the use of a detector as a time machine to journey back to another era.

5 Responses

  1. Digsit
    Digsit April 10, 2016 at 10:01 am | | Reply

    Being born in 64 , I unfortunately do not share the memories of common silver . I do (sometimes with regrets) remember having silver coins like Franklin halves and silver dimes and quarters pass through my hands , usually getting spent for candy or a little toy.
    If only I had known better , I would have quite a coin collection now….
    Thanks for the great blog and the memories.

  2. Updownup
    Updownup April 11, 2016 at 7:13 pm | | Reply

    Shadeseeker I really enjoyed reading this time of your life. Thank you for sharing this true and personal moments. Hope you sniff out a silver on your next hunt and activate the reminiscing of good times. GL HH

  3. Dick Stout
    Dick Stout February 22, 2017 at 8:59 am | | Reply

    Silver is always a welcome sight in any hole I dig, though those holes have become less frequent thanks to a few aches and pains. I remember too coming home with ten, fifteen, twenty silver coins of various denominations and I’ve always been thankful that I started when I did (70’s).

    I remember cashing in silver coins when the Bass brothers artificially inflated the market price and the next day it came tumbling down. Used it to pay bills and it was nice to be able to do it that way.

    While there’s still a lot of silver to be found there’s the law of diminishing returns as more and more people enter the hobby (and yes it is a hobby). I won’t be around but if we don’t all wake up and be groundskeepers there won’t be a pastime ten years from now.

Leave a Reply