Digging for glory with Long Island's beachcombers
Hopes&Fears went to Jones Beach with the metal detector enthusiasts of the Atlantic Treasure Club to observe them in their natural habitat — sweeping the sand for treasures of all kinds, many purely sentimental.
“It’s kinda like a slot machine,” treasure hunter Mike Cogan tells Hopes&Fears, eyes on his metal detector. “You get a beep and the wheels start spinning. You start digging and it comes up goose eggs; most of the time it’s bottle caps and pop-tops and nickels, dimes, and quarters. Every now and then it comes up stars, it really does.”
Around 60 club members — retired firefighters, police officers, teachers, bankers, Vietnam vets — gathered at Jones Beach Field 6 last Saturday morning for the "big one," the Super Fall Hunt; a timed hunt in a field that has been seeded with coins of all ages, silver rings, and other metal objects by the hunt master and helpers.
What is treasure, really? Cogan recalls finding two platinum treasures at Robert Moses State Park: a wedding band and a 1.3-carat diamond engagement ring. The engagement ring alone was appraised for $12,500. Instead of selling it, Cogan used the Internet to track down the woman who lost the rings. It was a big to-do, news cameras and all, Cogan recalls proudly. But that Saturday, it wasn't about glory. Some people just really love the thrill of the hunt.
Super Fall Hunt
Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY
The Atlantic Treasure Club is "the oldest treasure-hunting club in the tri-state area," founded in 1973.
Members take part in a "Finds of the Month" competition in six categories: Gold Water, Gold Land, Silver, Coins, Buttons, and Unusual. A prize is awarded in each category.
“I’ve torn up my own backyard, but I’ve only found gross stuff. I found a broken toilet seat elbow, a lid to a 20-gallon drum, nails, and screws. My house is old, and not one old coin did I find. All the coins I find are new, but I enjoy it. Everybody asks, 'What’s the best thing?' and I say, 'Monetary or the best thing I found?' They give you that puzzled look. My favorite thing was the very first ring I found. It was a small gold ring with a couple little diamonds on it. That’s my best treasure.
You just get lost in the zone. You’re doing this, you’re doing that. It’s fun. One night, I was coming home from work around 11 o’clock at night, and some person got stuck in the snow after making a turn. [Me and another person] got out to help them. We got them out of the snow bank, and the other person who was helping them, without knowing it, had dropped their car keys in the snow. He’s digging and digging and digging, but luckily I had the metal detector still in the car!”
“Yes, we make house calls. There was a guy who lost a ring a year ago. You know how bad the winter was. It was on his driveway, but it was in a bed of ivy, which made it a little more complicated. I met up with him, and he told me where it was. Then, I told him where I thought it was. Within an hour, I decided to go my own way. Sure enough, I found it. I pulled out his wedding ring. He was shocked. He even said, you [are] correct. I told him because of the heavy snow and the plowing, he was lucky it was there.
It was his 60-year anniversary wedding band, and his anniversary is October 8th. Nobody thought he would ever find it again. The man is in a wheelchair now, so that makes it even more heartbreaking. They were going to replace the ring, but there was no value in it. It was mostly sentimental. He was ecstatic, and then he told me that his birthday was in a couple of weeks, so I said,'You know what, happy birthday and happy anniversary.' And that was it. You can’t put a price on anything like that.”