The first time Steve Baird went treasure hunting with a metal detector, he found less than $1 in coins.
"But I was hooked," recalled Baird, 44, of Simi Valley, whose first detector was a Whites 6000DI.
Baird was treasure hunting for about six months when he met Jack Hiller, a dealer for Whites metal detectors.
"Jack is a longtime member of (a treasure hunter's) club. I told him I was learning the hobby, and he invited me to a meeting. I have been going ever since," he said.
Baird is the vice president for the Gold Coast Treasure Hunters. The club meets the third Thursday of each month at the Simi Valley Senior Center.
"We have 20 to 40 members that attend the meetings. After introductions, we ask for any good find stories from the past month," said Jerry Crocker of Oxnard, club president. "We talk about new areas to detect ... plan a hunt for upcoming dates."
The club also conducts a class, when needed, on how to recover a "target" with a detector without destroying the area around it.
"We find a lot of 'sharps' in play areas of schools and parks — we remove them," Crocker said. Sharps are sharp items like tacks, safety pins or nails.
The treasure hunters particularly love to find old coins.
"Gold and silver jewelry is also nice — the wife likes that, too," Crocker said.
Club members also try to locate the owners of lost items, Crocker said. "The Internet has helped in finding people."
One day on the beach in Oxnard, Crocker found a Vanderbilt University class ring with a name inscribed inside the band.
"I went on the Internet, found Vanderbilt, found alumni and contacted someone," he said.
Crocker later learned that the owner of the ring was in Oxnard playing football on the beach.
"He took his ring off, put it in his pants pocket and thought he zipped it shut. He forgot to zip," Crocker said.
Crocker met the man to give him the ring, which held more sentimental value than Crocker expected.
"He was the first one in his family to go to college," Crocker said.
Though Crocker didn't expect a monetary reward for the find, "he gave me $140 in cash," Cocker said.
For Baird, "I have found a lot of good stuff in the short time I have been detecting. Nothing like some of the other guys who have been at it since the '70s," he said.
Baird's finds include rings, bracelets, pendants, watches and chains.
"My best find was a 14 karat yellow gold ring with five small diamonds found at the beach," he said.
He took the ring to a jeweler to discover it was worth $800.
"Like most of my jewelry finds, it ended up on my wife's finger," he said.
The fun is in the hunting, Baird said.
"Very old parks would be a great place to start. You can find this stuff just about anywhere — parks, schools, the beach and even your own yard," he said.
Baird's most unusual find was a piece of rusty metal in an old neighborhood in Simi Valley.
"I took it to the Strathearn Historical Park Museum and it turned out to be a relic of Simi Valley's past. It was a piece of farming machinery that was used to gather hay on one of the local farms," he said. "They loved the piece and asked if I would donate it to the museum, which I did."
Clubs like the Gold Coast Treasure Hunters will always be important to the hobby, Baird said.
"Our club strives to put metal detecting in a positive light in our community," he said.
As a hobby, "it can be lonely out in the field," Crocker added. "A group helps grow the hobby."
Courtesy Ventura County Star
“Treasure – If it’s out there, we’re going to find it!” (Tommy Vawter)
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