Here is a review all the treasure hunting books in my collection, be they good, bad, or ugly. There is a shortage of treasure hunting book reviews, and this hopefully will become a useful resource. Most of these book are out of print, many are scarce, and some of them rare to very rare. And a few of them are total junk. I’ve taken care to not list any mining related books as that is a collection in and of itself.
Treasure book categories
Here I’m going to break down treasure books into meaningful categories. Some books are meant for certain purposes, and it would be a shame to compare apples with oranges. Phone books shouldn’t be compared with bibles, nor treasure tales with reference guides.
Reference books -
Those that aid the treasure hunter in his craft. It will be a tome that is refereed to over and over.
Treasure tales -
Books written for the armchair hunter, purely for the enjoyment of a good tale. Be careful not to confuse it as a treasure lead book. Treasure tale books often have the word “treasure” in the title, while those books that provide leads should never have ‘treasure’ in the title.
Treasure & metal detecting leads books -
These books may be history books, memoirs, or other books written for a different purpose. However, they give relevant details on locations, events, or people that provide hunters with clues.
Some books just don’t fit nicely in a category above, so this will be the bucket I throw in the oddballs.
Where to find treasure! by Dick Stout, 2006, 144p. – This is a beginners guide to research, certainly a useful book for those starting out and are tired of just detecting their local park. The book clearly is focused on the metal detecting world and has the usual tips on ethics, legal, and where to find your local MD club.
How to Research for Treasure Hunting and Metal Detecting by Otto von Helsing, 2013, 214p. – Can I review my own book? This is a research guide written for metal detectorists written by yours truly. Badly needed in the THing world as well as the MDing world. It is as complete a research guide as I could make it. Click the book image to learn more about it. (added 14JAN13)
Sudden Wealth by Deek Gladson, 1972, 105p – Beginner. Deek Gladson is also known as Karl von Mueller. This book is written in his same wry style. However, it is more grocery list type of book with listings of finds and treasures intermingled with good solid THing advice. Not nearly as complete and thorough as KVM’s Treasure Hunters manual #6 or 7. Sparsely populated with B&W photos. I’d put it on my recommend list for every THer.
Treasure Hunters Manual #7 by Karl von Mueller, 1974, 292p. – Advanced level. Karl writes in a lively entertaining style, very much like he’s sat down with you to share a pint in his living room. His stlye is solid, he delivers very sound advice on treasure hunting, stresses research, puts in good points on ‘what if’ situations to make you think, but the true pull of the book is watching over his shoulder as he explains his process to find leads, research, then locate a target.Absolutely, you should have a copy on your shelf.
Treasure Hunters Manual #6 by Karl von Mueller, 1974, 366p. – Advanced level. Karl again writes in a lively entertaining style, much of the content in this book is later put into #7. However, there is enough different material to justify owning this copy.
Coinshooting II Digging Deeper Coins by H. Glenn Carson, 1982, 96p. – Intermediate level. Well written book in a poorly typeset paperback format. He is clearly an accomplished coin hunter and is freely sharing good information to the reader. As a experienced TH book collector, he impressed me to find and buy all his other books. Few pictures, all B&W and they don’t add much to the value of the book. Overall, definitely buy it.
THing [Treasure Hunting]: A Modern Search for Adventure by Glenn Carson, 1973, 82p. – Beginner level. From the weird yellow cover to the goofy hand drawn pictures inside, this book is not up to the same standard as his Coinshooter series. Written early in his career. No editor or typesetter was involved by the looks of it. There seems to be no logical layout of the contents, it is as if they were blended up and spat into a book all over the place. Some pages are useful, other pages are filler. I’d just pass on this book if I were you.
Hunting the Ghost Towns by Glenn Carson, 1977, 84p. – Intermediate level. A better written book than his first. Here he covers how to think about ghost towns and about having a plan. Few B&W pictures that don’t add to the book much, but the narrative is dense and useful. Very little fluff.
Today’s Treasure Hunter by Lobo and Cubit – 1971, 226p – Intermediate level. This low budget book is green with a creepy eye symbol on the front that gives it a mysterious appeal. It was written back in the day when MDing was just starting. There are leads, and tips, and advice for the THer. The leads look a bit iffy, and I’ve never bothered to vet any of them. However, the real appeal is actually in the stories of past hunts. Some of these stories are quite realistic and likely true, as nothing gets found but clues and confirmations of research. Other stories have engaging pictures of found items, like chinese statues, 11 lb of brass casings from a rifle range, and silver ingots. Both KVM and Carson endorsed this book, but I’m more skeptical. For the tales alone, I’d buy this book.
Search! by Warnke, 1982, 136p. – Beginner level. Not a well done book, all the photos are clearly staged. However, it focuses entirely on how to properly search an abandoned house. From attic to the pier and beam foundation. I don’t think he did a very good job on it and it could be done better. However, it would be useful to estate managers or executors having to search a house of a deceased.
Diamonds in the Surf, 1982, 50p – Beginner level. Explains the big returns from surf metal detecting. Discusses tidal effects, gear to use (now obsolete), and other useful tips or tricks. I’d recommend to new water hunters.
SUCCESSFUL COIN HUNTING by Garrett, 1974, 226 – Intermediate level. Garrett of course builds excellent detectors, so he had every motivation to put out high quality books to help sell said detectors. Much of the technology in this edition is now obsolete, but the ideas and concepts are very much up to date. What classes of areas are good hunting, how to clean coins, how to research, and lots of pictures of finds. Carson writes better coinshooting books, however.
Treasure Caches Can Be Found by Garrett, 2004, 194p. Treasure Caches Can Be Found [Paperback]
Intermediate level. As usual, Garrett delivers good advice, promotes his detectors, and entertains the reader. The pictures in this book are actually in color, and can get your blood pressure up. Overall, it is a good book to keep cache hunters motivated and belongs in your collection.
Ghost Town Treasures by Charles Garrett, 2002, 156p. Beginner level. Garrett as always, delivers with an informative narrative of how to hunt for treasure peppered with stories of successful recovers. This time, it is about Ghost town and how to hunt them. He pitches using his detectors a little hard, but that is his prerogative.
How to find lost treasure by Charles Garrett, 2006, 72p – this tiny book is 4 inches tall and 3 inches wide. Pre-beginner level. If I had to pay for this book I’d be pissed. I think these were given away. It just covers how to use a detector, recommends you research, and tells you how to dig a target. I shelve it with my ‘junk’ books.
Advanced Coin Shooting Or How to Get the Edge on the Competition by Patrick Fahey, 1981, 68p – A far cry from the Carson books, this knock-off want to be is poor. Almost entirely focused on now-obsolete detector technology and tricks. Definitely a junk book. Currently lists at $85 for a used copy, That is $84.75 too much.
Historical Atlas by Shepherd, 1911 – The oldest atlas I could find. Sometimes countries and localities change names and this is a good way to figure out what they are talking about. I’ve used it for researching and planning international expeditions. I’d recommend everyone find a damn old Atlas for reference. You can see a copy of this one at UT’s library.
Treasure tales -
Follow the Signs by Dayne Chastain, 1997, 297p. – A folksy rambling memoir about treasure hunting. There are chapters of tips for treasure hunting with advice that truly is useful. Then there are many pages wasted on signs and symbols, but I’m biased against symbology. Overall, it is a good read, entertaining, and you may glean some tips to make yourself a better hunter.
Treasure Hunt, The sixteen year search for the lost ship Atocha by George Sullivan, 1987, 150p – Of the many books on the Atocha, this one received good reviews. I found it to hold well just-to-the-facts and not embellish as much as other Atocha, Fisher-worshiping books out there. Photos in B&W.
Panorama of Treasure Hunting by Harold T. Wilkins, 1940, 582p – A wonderful tale of treasure stories from the turn of the century. Many photos I’ve never seen before of Spanish chests and old archival island maps. A good book and hefty tome.
Oak Island Gold : Startling New Discoveries in The World’s Most Famous Treasure Hunt by William Crooker, 1993, 217 – Well written and documented with good citations. Of all the books on the Oak Island treasure, this one received the best reviews and I concur as well. The author addresses it with his engineering background and a little personal knowledge of living in the area. This should be the only book you’ll need if you want to full story and meaningful analysis.
Money in the Ground by Ed Bartholomew, 1974, 144p – This author published many book and usually does a good job in his research. Here, he just covers potential leads and the occasional found treasure. I’ve actually vetted a few of these stories and found the people mentioned in them on the Census record living in the county at the time. In another case, I have held in my hands the treasure that was found due to the kindness of the collector who owns it. Very nice to find a truthful writer. Almost no pictures, and more a shopping list of leads than a flowing narrative. Overall, it is a rare book for a reason. Good in the THers tales collection.
Empty Money Pits or Texas Treasure Finds by Ed Bartholomew, 1974, 96p – In his usual grocery shopping list style, he rattles off dozens of treasures finds that have occured. Normally known for good research, he yet again doesn’t cite his sources. Rare book.
Western Treasures Lost & Found by Jessie Rascoe (aka Ed Bartholomew), 1971, 127p – A shopping list of treasure stories and leads, no tips, no narrative text, just a list by state. Rascoe was known for good research, but never used citations. Rare book.
More Western Treasures by Jesse Rascoe (aka Ed Bartholomew), 1962, 130p – A shopping list of treasure stories and leads, no tips, no narrative text, just a list by state. Rascoe was known for good research, but never used citations. Rare book.
Hidden riches ;: Searching old abandoned and deserted houses for treasures and antiques by Albano, 1974, 62p – While it has no citations, it does have a shopping list of treasures found. Occasionally he throws in a tip or two for hunting, but this is predominantly a list of treasures found. Most likely his source is newspaper stories. Many photos. B&W.
The Romance of Treasure Troves by Charles R Beard, 1933, 372p – There are crappy treasure hunting books, and there are great treasure hunting books. However, there are few awesome treasure hunting books. I have found an extraordinary one, and wish to share. Written in 1933, somewhere in Great Britain, this tome clearly represented a lifetime of passionate research. At first, I believed it was a PhD thesis on the history of treasure troving in the UK. Then I came to realize it was too broad for a thesis, but simply the work of a passionate and focused man who was very academic in his research delving deep into dusty libraries to extract glimpses of past trovers. He has chapters on the re-curring themes in treasure legends, such as the Norse legends of dragons guarding treasure hoards (Bear in mind this was before Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings!) and of the sustaining belief that “gold was thought to be concealed in the the heart of every burrow” There are chapters on treasure hunters during the middle ages, and on trovers during the sixteenth century. And he paints them into context of the times and places of the era, full of references and tantalizing leads to books 200, 300, and even 900 years out of print. Then the references to the hundreds of roman and ancient hoards that have been ploughed up over the centuries and the history behind each one as best as can be proscribed. A damn fine read, dense and delicious. Great for a rainy day or mid winter.
Dig for Pirate Treasure by Nesmith, 1958, 302p – This is written for a young adult audience. Covers Oak Island, Silver Shoals, Cocos Island, pirates, and other well known treasure tales. I like Nesmith’s spin on tales, but this book is a bit too dumbed-down for my taste. Good as a gift to a pre-teen.
Treasure Hunter’s Guide by Nesmith and Potter, 1975, 152p – also released under Treasure…how and where to find it. A remarkably good book on treasure recovered. Lots and lots of photos of treasures, artifacts, historical buildings, and coins. In fact, if you removed all the text, I’d buy the book for the photos alone. There is a uniquely enjoyable chapter on junior treasure trovers, where they outline recoveries that kids have made. Although this book lacks citations, many of the stories have enough info to vet them. K.v Mueller endorsed this book as one of the best written at the time. The treasure hunting advice is now out of date, but overall a good book for the shelf for snowed in days.
Treasure…how and where to find it – see Treasure Hunter’s Guide
Unfound Treasures of Mexico by Kenworthy, 1995, 96p. – From first glance you know something is wrong with this book. THE ENTIRE BOOK IS WRITTEN IN UPPER CASE. No citations, no source references, one mention of thanks to a family who brought forth their long held Spanish/Mexican treasure maps that they didn’t understand and the author could. If you understand authority with sources and authors, this book has neither. Complete crap. I keep it, as I do my other junk books, as a reminder so I don’t accidentally buy another copy. Have I mentioned that this is shit?
Treasure, Signs, Symbols Shadow & Sun Signs by Kenworthy, 1991, 63p. – Packed full of treasure symbols and not a shred of proof it isn’t all invented. I’m not a believer in treasure signs, I’m very much a skeptic. However this gets worse, this is Kenworthy who also authored the terrible Unfound Treasures of Mexico. The book is poorly written but at least this one is not in all caps. Still, avoid this guy, he has no credibility and isn’t entertaining.
Legends of Texas, Vol. II by Frank Dobie, 1924, 224p – The classic Texas legend book.
Buried Treasures of Texas, Jameson, 1991, 202 – This is just a rehash of Dobie’s Legends of Texas, dressed up twice as long and half as good. San Saba, Hendricks lake, and some new unverified tales. He does list sources, but I notice all his sources are secondary. More than half are treasure magazines, egad! But these are myths and legends, hard to cite primary sources for a legend.
Yes, the Sun will Rise! by H. Kent Craig, 1981, 108p -A self published book of woe about an early treasure hunter, Gene Ballinger who apparently got prosecuted for fraud. The author interviewed Gene and this is about some of his tales. A quirky book that definitely breaks the mold of other treasure tales. It covers treasure tales told to Gene while in prison from drug dealers and smugglers.
The Treasure Hunter by Moore and Jennings, 1974, 261p – An excellent tale of a treasure hunter who dredges gold in Central America, digs Peruvian gold artifacts and smuggles gems out of Columbia. What is not to like? Well written, edited, and a good read.
Handbook of Treasure Signs and Symbols by Mary Carson, 1980, 60p. – This book is by Carson’s wife, I believe. It is printed by Carson Enterprise so he’s related to it somehow. Anyway, this is yet another BS symbol book. At lease there is a citation of sources it is based on: Handbook of Treasure Signs by Kortejarvi, and books by Penfield and Terry. Both Penfield and Terry have low credibility and are just rehashing a secondary source anyway which implicitly gives them low authority. I have no idea who Kortejarvi is, but any book with “treasure” in it’s title is suspect. His book is published by Galleon Publishing out of St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, so I’ll lower his authority rank further. Overall, there are some old chemical symbols in the book, some rescue symbols, and some alleged treasure symbols. If you like mythical treasure symbology, you may enjoy this. I consider symbology to be poppycock so this is categorized under treasure tales.
Buried British Treasure Hoards by Edward Fletcher, 1996, 113p – Lots of tips on cache hunting in the UK, I’d dual class this book as both a reference book and a treasure tales book. This excellent and extraordinary book gives you a window into the astounding good luck the British detectorist have. A country with a great, long and proud history with lots of loot being buried over centuries. Not only is this a great book, I’ve even bought extra copies to give as gifts to non-detectorists. Buy a copy!
True Stories of Sunken Treasure by Bob “Frogfoot” Weller, 2005, 110p – A Florida native, Frogfoot recounts his exploits along the coast and fills in with local history and legend. I can tell more once I read this. Quality looks good and one of my friends have meet with Frogfoot.
Shipwrecks Near Wabasso Beach by Bob “Frogfoot” Weller, 2006, 96p. – Appears to be the definitive monograph on the Wabasso Beach shipwreck. Haven’t read it yet. Lots of B&W pictures, maps and diagrams.
Galleon Alley by Bob “Frogfoot” Weller, 2001, 314p – Again, Frogfoot appears to have put together a well document monograph on the Spanish Treasure fleet of 1733. Many B&W photos, lots of sources listed, even copies of original Spanish manifests. It also includes a page of the only legitimate treasure symbols I’ve seen, but they are really Spanish mint marks for bars.
The Great Basses Reef – An excerpt from an unknown academic journal documenting the Great Basses Reef wreck that Arthur C Clark helped recover silver rupees from near Ceylon. Available here.
Excavating Buried Treasure by Rufus Graves Mather, 1945, 120(?)p, (Harvard Uni. Press) – A book on old archivists discovering old records in Europe, mainly Italy. Not a true treasure tale book. Find it here.
Treasure & metal detecting leads books
County History books should always be on your shelf. They are indispensable. As for the average treasure lead book, they should never have ‘treasure’ in the title. Just a general rule.
Trail Dust, A quick picture history of the Santa Fe Trail by Gene and Mary Martin, 1973, 57p – Lots of B&W pictures of the cattle driving times. Bits of useful history to the THer, including some maps, and a chronology with useful tidbits. This should be difficult to use as a secondary source due to lack of citations of the information.
Barefoot in Eden, 1962, 236 – The story around Macfadden, who was known to bury money. Of course, in the book it just covers his wife stories about him. It does mention in the story at times, when he wanted to bury some money. Clearly his wife wasn’t sure if he did, but this book is critical for those who seek other Macfadden caches.
Spanish Expeditions into Texass by Foster, 1995, 339p – Recommend as the best translated edition. This is the translated daily diaries of all Spanish expeditions into Texas. By Spanish mandate, every expedition had to have a diarist record the daily events. This is a critical work for those seeking anything from the expeditions. It also documents on page 140, what I believe is the only true Spanish treasure lost in Texas. Namely, the governors raft sank that was carrying clothes, cookware, and silver set. So there is a Spanish treasure somewhere on the Trinity river. Read the book to estimate where.
Estevanico The Black by Terrell, 1968, 155p. – Another Texas History book.
The WPA Guide to Texas, 1940, 718p – Every hunter should have his local WPA guide on his shelf. A huge collection of detailed information and useful for all kinds of leads. The WPA issued local guides for all states during the Great Depression.
Notes of a Military Reconnaissance, from Fort Leavenworth, in Missouri, to… by Albert – A military recon mission in 1847 with notes on the journey. Available online at http://archive.org/details/notesamilitaryr00johngoog
The Worlds Largest Treasure Book Catalog by Research unlimited. Listing of hundreds of books on THing, MDing, gold mining, western history, etc. Contact them for your free catalog. Tell them Von Helsing sent you as they have no idea who I am and it will confuse them.
The Treasure Hunter’s Information Source Guide by Wainwright, 1995, 96 – Appears to be a crappy spreadsheet of names and number of detector dealers, government agencies, detector clubs, and other organizations peripherally involved to detecting. When it was in date, it was still useless. Don’t waste your money, it is on my junk shelf.
Modern Metal Detectors by C.L. Garrett, 1985, 524p. – A monster of a book, this was meant to sort of be a textbook on metal detecting. It looks like he had no idea what audience he wanted to write to, but he covered a huge swath of ground very well. At this point, all the tech is mostly obsolete. However, it does cover the styles of hunting and has lots of B&W pics to get excited about. If you see a copy for under $5, pick it up. Definitely worth the price of a hamburger, but not with a side of fries or cold drink.
Shipwrecks and their coins: Volume 3 The 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet by Ernie Richards, 2006, 48p – Very much a reference book on Spanish Main coins. Covering mint marks, symbols, history, etc.
1200 treasure books : a bibliography, by Jesse Rascoe, 1970, 60p – A raw list of what I’m calling reference books, treasure tale books, mining, and treasure lead books. No narrative, not a book just a list. I have a plan to put out my own bibliography that updates this to current date. I estimate I can take this up to 1500 books, put front cover shots in, and and better descriptions. Is there anyone out there who would be interested in buying a copy? Comment below.
American Coin Treasures and Hoards by Q David Bowers, 1998, 456p.- This is a 3 1/2 lb., 8 1/2″ x 11″ book is published by Bowers and Merena Galleries. It documents all the major coin hoards reported. Some hoards are found by banks in their storage vaults, some by governments, but most in what we’d call caches. Printed for the coin collecting industry. Rare book. The ANA has a lending library that you can borrow a copy from if you are a member.
Where to Metal Detect in South Florida by Harry H Rainey, Jr., 1996, 41p. - A crude 8.5×11″ booklet with yellow cover. Self published on a printer it looks. Simply lists general leads of historic places by county, including shipwreck locations off the coast. Quire rare.
Waybills to El Dorado by Karl von Mueller, 1988, 71p. – KVM as usual has put together a good compilation of dozens of cache stories that remain unsolved. Due to the popularity of KVM, I have no doubt that every last one of these leads has been investigated multiple times. Not really worth putting it in your library.
Links to other books
The Wreck Tavern has a hard to get list of books – http://www.wrecktavern.com/shipwreckbooks.htm
And the Rare Treasure Book folks.
Wish list of books:
Pirate Tales by Arthur Harris (1923)
Ghost towns of Texas by Dick King (Hardcover - 1953)
Louisiana – Mississippi treasurre leads McCarty 1966
Forts of the West: Military Forts and Presidios and Posts Commonly Called Forts West of the Mississippi River to 1898 by Robert W. Frazer (Paperback - Apr 15, 1975)
Arrows Over Texas by Robert S. Reading (Hardcover - 1961) – indian campsites, caves and digging for artifacts
Research Techniques for Treasure Hunters Practical Treasure Hunting Volume II A – Eckhart