Scavengers scan beaches seeking valuable trinkets; reporter digs up coins, earring and metal junk

August 31, 2009 at 6:44 pm Leave a comment

The economy is down, the price of gold is up and I’ve got a kid who needs to go to college someday.

So one hot Sunday afternoon, I did what any sensible working stiff might do: I rented a metal detector and hit Coney Island.

For years, I’d seen leathery old men scanning the sand with their wands, and I’d heard tales of treasure hunters finding Rolexes gone missing on the beach.

Making a mental note of all the gold earrings I’d lost over the decades, I headed to Brooklyn’s Metal Detector Distributors on Flatlands Ave. for equipment.

They had a dizzying array of detectors for sale and rent. I went with a cheapo model – the Garrett 150 Ace – that rents for $37.95 a day and plunked down $25 for a yellow sifter.

“What am I likely to find?” I asked an employee.

“A lot of nickels, crushed cans,” she said.

No Rolexes?

“Maybe you’ll get lucky,” she said unconvincingly.

Undeterred, I shlepped out to Coney around 5 p.m., strategically figuring people would just be leaving the beach – and, hopefully, leaving their metallic valuables behind.

The detector was easy to use. Just turn it on, wave the coil over the sand and wait for it to beep. The monitor indicated if it sensed coins or jewelry, as well as how deep I should dig.

Two minutes in, my Garrett 150 Ace started beeping like I was standing over the treasure of the Sierra Madre.

I handed the sifter to my 3-year-old, Charlie, and told her to start digging (hey, it’s her education). As she shook out the sand, we heard a clinking sound that could only mean one thing: Pay dirt!

There in the bottom of the sifter, it lay: one very tarnished quarter.

Officially a successful scavenger, I forged on, stopping every few feet to dig in the sand.

Sometimes I’d get a false positive. Other times, the detector flashed “gold” and I found a bottle cap. It soon became sadly clear that the “PTAB” setting on the monitor wasn’t for platinum, but aluminum pull tabs.

The sun was wickedly hot, but every time I found a coin it gave me a burst of energy to keep going.

The stragglers on the beach gave me odd looks. A crowd of children gathered to watch, but quickly lost interest.

“What are you doing?” one friendly guy asked.

“Oh, I’m a reporter for the Daily News …” I started to explain.

“Damn, they need to pay you people more,” he said.

I explained I was working on a story about treasure hunting. “Treasure? At Coney Island?” he said, a note of mockery in his voice.

My detector started beeping again and I started digging – and didn’t stop until I found my target – a battered supermarket-brand can of orange soda.
BY Tracy Connor


Entry filed under: Brooklyn, Get Wet, Public Waterfront. Tags: , , , .

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