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Researching areas for coinshooting

Old Coin Areas

By far, this is the most requested target class for most detectorists. Mainly because the success rate of a new hunt is high and the results come quick. Cache hunting is more advanced and may take a couple of years to hit one. But locating a coin hunting area, and you get feedback within an hour that your research was good.

Fairgrounds, race tracks, soccer fields, football bleachers, dog races, cock fights, swimming holes. They all are crowd-based coin aggregators. Festival atmosphere with money changing hands will deposit many a coin in the soil. Your job is to find these coin rich areas and recover them.

Because this is the main focus of 90% who are reading this, I’m going to individually list off all the areas that should be productive to you.  Most likely you are more advanced than other treasure hunters, so I want to emphasize an important concept, the Big Four, pointed out by Dick Stout in his book, “Where to Find Treasure!”

When evaluating the list below bear in mind the Big Four, especially the last one: What, Where, When, How Long

  • What – What is the event? Does it generate a lot of coins on the ground in certain areas or statistically spread out over the entire region?
  • Where – Location is where? Is that area still accessible? Private or public land?
  • When – What era of the past did this event occur? Is it pre 1964? Pre 1933? What possible goodies might be on location?
  • How Long – How Long was the event there? Was it a county fairgrounds for 40 years? Or a senior class picnic area for 3 years back in 1972-75? Clearly, you want to give higher priority to long term areas.

Tier 1 – Best performing

Old Schools – Kids are kids. Nothing changes. Kids lose coins, as we all know. Schools are a bit easier to research, yet a bit harder to find sometimes.

There is an emotional attachment to schools we attend, either good or bad. Because of that, every county history book I’ve ever read covers the old schools. They may not give good locations, but they speak of them. So the trick will be to find the primary sources and figure out where they stood. Schools under 100 years old are easier to find, Those over 100 years are a bit tougher.

Look for old Topographic maps from the state, and from the USGS. The schools are often on these. Old plat maps at the courthouse may also show school locations. The historical society may have reference books on local schools you have never heard of, so give them a call. If all you have is a general area, find the local historian, and ask them. As a last resort, find the oldest aerial photograph you can find at the USGS and try to spot soil marks on the photograph. Old buildings darken the soil.

Fairgrounds – Lots of activities, noise, vendors, and money changing hands. These can be excellent areas for coin shooters. Usually well documented where there were. Most importantly, they occurred over and over again which deposits more and more coins on the ground.

Look in local history books, historical society archives, and talk to old timers.

Carnivals – A bit more tricky than fairgrounds, as these are often traveling affairs where they simply set up on open ground outside of town. You may find hints of these in old newspaper archives, personal memoirs, or by talking to old folks in retirement centers. In the newspaper, look at the ads as you may spot dates and places of where it will happen. Unlikely that you can spot anything in the county history books or on old topo maps, but give it a try.

Farmer Markets – Communities sometimes have farmers markets on a regular basis. For example, the first Saturday of the month. These were markets where money changed hands and certainly got lost.

Look in the old newspaper archives, because these events are recurring on a regular basis. Local historians may know, as well as the historical society. Unlikely it is in a history book, as this wasn’t really historically newsworthy.

Military Camps and Bases – Because these locations are occupied, there will be a concentration of coinage. Add to that the bonus of buttons and buckle, and you have a winning target.

The nice aspect of military locations is that they are well documented, either by the government or by military memoirs. Normally, you can find out precisely how long a camp is occupied, and a map of the buildings in the camp.

Resources would be historic archives of the department of defense, and the US Archives, You want to find out the occupation of the base, the layout of the base and how it changes over time, and if any UXO is somewhere on the base. Remember, it may have ended over 150 years ago, but there are still casualties from the Civil War and those people are all metal detectorists.

Athletic Fields – Soccer fields, baseball diamonds, football stadiums etc. These distribute coinage in a pattern around the concession stands and bleachers. Your research should focus on where the concession stands stood, then the seating area. Pay attention that the concession stands may have relocated over time.

The resources that will serve you well are old school yearbooks and old archived newspapers. Look through the yearbooks to find pictures of the ball field to spot the concession stands. Also, take note of trees, as these trees may still be standing. Trees can really help crack a case to get precise locations within 10 feet, I will repeat that wonderful tidbit over and over.

Rodeo Arenas – Same as Athletic Field, see above.

Dog,  Horse, and Auto Racetracks – Similar to Athletic fields but with a wildcard – gambling. There will always be a group who wants to gamble on the outcome. I’ve heard of several gold Mexican coins that were found at a racetrack nearby.

For resources, you may try the newspaper, the historical society, or old USGS topographic maps. Sometimes it may be in county history books, but don’t count on it.


Tier 2 – They perform, but not as good as Tier I.

Old hotels – Any hotel that is 100 years old becomes a very interesting target. Unlike modern hotels that are sterile where the guest rarely mingle, old hotels were much more engaging businesses where patrons had more opportunity buy things at the bar, play a game of chance, and drop pocket change around the grounds. If the hotel owner lived on site, research if a cache is likely.

The life of the hotel is important to determine how high a priority the target is. Obviously, a hotel that was in business 60 years is more attractive a target than one that lived only 5 years.

To find such hotels, you have a two step process:

  1. Discover the existence of the hotel, then
  2. Locate the hotel

You may find oblique references to them in county history books, and in old photographs from yearbooks, or in the archives and photos of the local historical society. Also, you might find ads for them in the newspaper archives at one of the following libraries: historical society, local, or state archive. Due to economics, most hotels should show up in Sanborn maps or other fire maps.

Train stations – There are scheduled train stations and there are flag stations. A flag station is a minor train stop that may not have much of a building structure, if any. Many a detectorist has thought of old train stations, I expect, but few if any would know about flag stops. Abandoned train stations that are long gone, would be idea targets if the location can be found again.

Major train stops are likely to be one per city. These will be likely be known, or found on a Sanborn map, old topographic map, or the historical society archives. An online search of the historical train society my reveal forums that you can join and carefully scan for information. If the forum doesn’t have that info, you could politely pose the question as a researcher. Train schedules may also appear in the old newspapers, so seek out newspaper archives. And of course, see if the current railroad owner of the railroad has an archive as well. Union Pacific has an extensive amount of track and assets, they also were responsible for surveying a huge swath of the West. I expect their archives, if available to the public, to be phenomenal.

Pioneer Camping Grounds – There were areas for pioneers to pitch tents and make a temporary camp. Usually, near a source of good water and some protective features. These camping grounds or layover camps have been reported to be very productive. The source for your leads on this solely reside on local county history books.

Revival Meetings – 80 years ago, there was a big surge of revival meetings. These were community events that drew out lots of people into fields and pastures, with the event often underneath tents. It is up to you to find out where these revivals took place.

Look in the local history books, then inquire with the historical societies. You might even get lucky if you find an old timer who remembers where these things were.

Chautauqua – Few are still around who know of these. They started out in the 1874 as religious training grounds by Lake Chautauqua. The summer camp was for families and meant to “educate and uplift”. The idea caught on and other Chautauquas, also know as assemblies, sprang forth throughout the country often taking root in grooves of trees by a lake. Within a decade they had evolved to become an informational, educational, and inspirational event sometimes to a point of vaudevillian. They would have popular performers of the day visit via a circuit, most of these assemblies.

According to Charlotte Canning, who wrote an report of Chautauquas for the University of Iowa’s website, over 10,000 communities in 45 states had Chautauqua. While I’ve never heard of this event, I’m sure I’m not alone. My wife, however remembers her grandmother was involved in one.

The Chautauqua circuit collapsed in the great depression and few survived to see the second world war. This was more a function of competition from other entertainment mediums like radio and film.

But Chautauquas had great pull, and some big names would bring in lots of people. Lectures were the apparent backbone of the entertainment draw, and some names you might recognize were on the lecture circuit. Such as the likes of William Jennings Bryan. (known for Anti Evolution, Anti Gold Standard, Anti Alcohol)

To find these assembly locations, seek out your local historian, cultural heritage society, local historians, and at worst, check the newspaper archives, these were news! A local history book may have them, but you’ll be lucky if they mention where.

Fourth of July Picnics – Self explanatory. Lots of people went, 100 years ago, there wasn’t competing entertainment.

Look in the newspaper archive for the issue before July 4, should be a quick search. Historical society may be helpful as well. Be on the alert that the location of the picnic is likely to change locations throughout the decades.

Ghost Towns – Here we are talking about a town that faded away and maybe has only a few residents left behind. If you search around the buildings you’ll find some coins, but not a great deal of them. You do have a shot at a random jackpot cache.

There are many books in printed about ghost towns, buy one. I think the main research source for these books is Post Office records, so they can miss smaller hamlets that are now ghost towns. I’d also recommend you research backwards and look into cemeteries in order to find ghost towns. People aren’t buried in a cemetery in the middle of nowhere, they are always near a population center.

Tier 3 – Low performing zones. You may be better off passing these up, unless you have upside points like

  • a) they are close to home or
  • b) a chance for a cache to be found or
  • c) chance for gold coins or jewelry or
  • d) chance for very old coins or
  • e) they have low low junk levels and hunting is easy and pleasant

But in general, your time is valuable, if you are going to spend time researching, prepping, and hunting a new location you should be hunting for a Tier 1. Remember, it is the same amount of effort to research a Tier 1 as a Tier 3.

Old houses – Yes, you may protest that these supposed to be the ideal research targets people look for. Well that is baloney. Pure and simple. Why would a house be a great target? Crowds didn’t drop coins their, people didn’t lose their change in the roar of the festival trying to buy hot dogs, there weren’t throngs of people having a picnic, it is just a homestead with lots of junk and very few coins. Sure, you will have some kids drop some coins as they hang upside down on a tree, but not much. They only thing going for this target is if it is really, really old and you are shooting for barber, seated, or older coinage.

Glen Carson had strong feelings about coin hunting houses. He believed folks really didn’t lose much change there, money didn’t change hands so few opportunities existed to lose some. Yes, you may find the odd coin there, but a house is a secondary target, a consolation prize that you can hunt if you find an old house near your primary target.

Drive in Theaters – There will be some coinage lost, but people stayed mainly in their cars and if dropped, it hit paved ground. The only good hotspot would be the 500 square feet around concessions. This is a bias of the author, there are some who disagree with me and think this is a Tier 1 coin target.

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