Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Treasure Found!

Thanks to my transplanted Tennessee friend for this information!
An unemployed man has unearthed the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found with the help of his metal detector.

Experts are now calculating its value - a process that could take more than a year because of its size.

The find was declared as treasure by coroner Andrew Haigh, which means the cache will be offered for sale after it is valued.

Terry Herbert from Burntwood, Staffordshire, stumbled on the hoard in a private field with his trusty 14-year-old metal detector.
Over five days in July, the 55-year-old dug up a fortune on the farmland near to his home.
More than 1,500 pieces of treasure - including around 5kg of gold and 2.5kg of silver - has now been uncovered.

Archaeologists believe the hoard dates back to the seventh century and may have belonged to Saxon royalty.

Among the riches are warfare paraphernalia, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates, often inlaid with precious stones.

Leslie Webster, former keeper at the British Museum's Department of Prehistory and Europe, said the find would "alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries".

"(It is) absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells," he said.
Dr Kevin Leahy, national finds adviser from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, added that while the quantity of gold was amazing, the craftsmanship was "consummate".

"Its origins are clearly the very highest-levels of Saxon aristocracy or royalty," he said.
"It belonged to the elite."
The exact location of the find is being kept under wraps.

Unemployed Mr Herbert detected the cache after asking a farmer friend if he could search on his land.

"Imagine you're at home and somebody keeps putting money through your letterbox, that was what it was like," he said.

"I was going to bed and in my sleep I was seeing gold items.

"As soon as I closed my eyes I saw gold patterns, I didn't think it was ever going to end.
"I just kept thinking of what I might find the next day."

Now, both men looked set to reap a huge reward thanks to Mr Herbert's 18-year hobby.
"People laugh at metal detectorists. I've had people go past and go, 'beep beep, he's after pennies'," he said.
"Well no, we are out there to find this kind of stuff and it is out there.
"People have said it (the hoard) was bigger than Sutton Hoo and one expert said it was like finding Tutankhamen's tomb.

"I just flushed all over when he said that. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, you just never expect this."

Once a valuation and sale of the hoard have been completed, the market value of the find will go to Mr Herbert and the owner of the farmland where it was discovered.

The treasure is being held in secure storage at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
A selection of items will be displayed at the museum from September 25-October 13.

For more information and pictures, visit The Staffordshire Hoard website.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Would you trust the government to authenticate your treasure?

From the New York Times

Rare Coins: Family Treasure or Ill-Gotten Goods?

Roy Langbord had guessed that someone in his family might have hidden away a great treasure decades before, but not until his mother had him check a long-neglected safe-deposit box did he realize just how great it was.

Inside the box, opened in 2003, he found an incredibly rare coin, wrapped in a delicate paper sleeve. It was a gold $20 piece with Lady Liberty on one side, a bald eagle flying across the other and, at Liberty’s left, the four digits that made it so valuable: 1933.
The famous “double eagles” from that year were never officially released by the government. Only a few had ever made their way out of federal vaults, and only one had ever been sold publicly, in 2002. The price: $7.6 million.
And there were nine more of them in the safe-deposit box.

But after the Langbord family took the coins to the United States Mint to be authenticated in 2004, they got a rude surprise. The Mint said the coins were genuine and kept them.
The government claims that they are government property stolen from the Mint, most likely in the 1930s, by Mr. Langbord’s grandfather, Israel Switt, a Philadelphia jewelry dealer.
The Langbords went to court and recently won an important ruling. A United States District Court judge has given the government until the end of the month either to give back the coins or go back to court to prove that they were in fact stolen by Mr. Switt, a daunting task after three-quarters of a century.

Nearly a half-million 1933 double eagles were minted before President Franklin D. Roosevelt, shifting the nation away from the gold standard, issued an Executive Order that made owning large amounts of gold bullion and coins illegal. Two of the coins went to the Smithsonian Institution, and almost all the rest were melted down.
Some, however, escaped that fate, including the coin sold in 2002, which had made its way into the collection of King Farouk of Egypt and later the hands of a British dealer. The government had seized that coin, too, and arrested the dealer, Stephen Fenton. But Mr. Fenton’s lawyer, Barry H. Berke, reached a settlement that allowed that single coin to be issued officially and sold at auction, with the government taking half of the proceeds.

Mr. Langbord, an entertainment industry executive, said he first learned about his family’s involvement with the storied coins in 2002 on a flight to Las Vegas, when he read an account of the Farouk coin’s odyssey in an advertisement for the auction. He was stunned, he said, to see that the dealer who first procured the coin was his grandfather. When Mr. Langbord got off the plane, he said, he called his mother, Joan Langbord, and asked, “Do we have any more of these?” About a year later, the search turned up the safe-deposit box in Philadelphia.
The Secret Service, which polices currency crimes, has argued that all of the double eagles that escaped government control passed through the hands of Mr. Switt, working with a corrupt cashier at the Mint. A Mint spokesman declined to comment on the case because of the litigation.
According to a history of the coins by Alison Frankel, a journalist with The American Lawyer, a United States attorney decided not to prosecute Mr. Switt in the mid-1940s, saying the statute of limitations had passed.
Ms. Frankel wrote in her 2006 book “Double Eagle: The Epic Story of the World’s Most Valuable Coin” that Mr. Switt was “a thoroughly nasty piece of work,” and that a dealer who traded with him called him a “gold coin bootlegger” who continued to sell gold coins long after the practice had been prohibited. The book details the government’s contention that Mr. Switt worked with a corrupt Mint cashier.

Mr. Berke counters such arguments by quoting the Secret Service report on the coins, which explicitly admitted that its investigation “did not conclusively establish when, how or by whom the coins found in circulation were taken from the Philadelphia Mint.”
The Langbords insist that Mr. Switt, who died in 1990, acquired the coins legitimately before the ban, most likely through a gold-for-gold exchange process used by the Mint in those days.
In fact, Mr. Berke said, Mr. Switt was a frequent visitor to the Mint, had plenty of gold to trade for gold coins and probably did so. Proving otherwise will be extremely difficult, he said. “There’s really nobody with contemporary knowledge from the Mint who’s still living,” he said, having sought out former Mint employees for the earlier litigation.

In an interview, Ms. Frankel called Mr. Berke’s success in persuading the judge to shift the burden of proof onto the government in the case “quite an amazing accomplishment” that forces the government “to prove a negative — that the coins could not have gotten out legally.”
Armen Vartian, the general counsel of the Professional Numismatists Guild, agreed. “Nobody can prove conclusively what happened,” Mr. Vartian said. “Anybody who has to do that, I think, is going to fail.”

Mr. Vartian said he would be happy if the Langbords were allowed to sell the coins. “Maybe they were stolen in the 1930s,” he said, “but they certainly weren’t stolen by the people who are holding them now.”

Mr. Fenton, the coin dealer who sold the Farouk double eagle, said that if the coins were allowed to be sold, he would advise selling just one or two a year. With the right timing and a good market, he said, they could bring $4 million to $6 million each, because there are many people who would want to own one.

“This coin,” he said, “has got so much charisma.”
Charisma? For six million bucks each who cares if it has charisma!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The essentials for working a site

For a lot of you this information may be old hat but I thought I would write this article for any beginners out there that may have questions. Some of this information I have covered before.

The essentials to working a site will vary greatly depending on where you are working and under what circumstances if you are including such things as fluids, clothing, detectors, first aid and survival supplies, etc. For me, the essentials usually weigh in around thirty pounds and that’s before I add in water and any detectors I may need.

For the purpose of this article I am going to define “essentials” as the things I think everyone should have to investigate a site and these items are strictly for documenting the site itself and don’t take into consideration any special needs items or items that aren’t directly related to helping you interpret the clues and locate the hole.

The first thing to have, in my opinion, is a GPS. These days you can buy a decent GPS pretty cheap and they are invaluable if you are working more than one site and spending months or even years going to a site. With a GPS you can plot the coordinates of anything you find that you think may be relevant. Notice that I said “may think” is relevant. When you are working a site you never want to discount anything until you have good information that tells you that you can.

The second thing everyone needs is a good compass. You can get by with a six dollar compass from Wal-Mart but things will go quicker and easier if you spring for a little better compass. I use a military compass that I paid $50 for at a gun show many years ago. It’s in a metal case and it works very well. You can spend the big bucks on a Bruton or other high dollar compass but you don’t need to. When I find a clue in the field I will take compass headings off of anything that could be a directional like a point or straight edge or a line, etc. You never know when you might need it.

The third item would actually be two things. You need to have a pen or pencil and something to write on. I keep a separate little notebook for each site I work. You can buy a pack of 3-4 at Wal-Mart for a buck or two and they fit right in a shirt pocket. Even though I have the coordinates to the different things I have found in my GPS I always write them down in the notebook with a description of what the clue is and an approximate location to the next closest clue. I know this seems a little redundant but I don’t trust technology so I try to keep hard copies of everything.

With your notebook you can write down the compass headings you get from the markers you find, you can keep an accurate description of the clues/markers you find and you can keep the coordinates and any other relevant information all in one spot where it is handy the next time you go to the site or when you are trying to figure something out while at home. I have worked with some people before that didn’t have any of these first three things and I don’t know how they managed. For the most part I don’t think they do because one in particular was always asking me “where was that again?” People always think they will remember everything when in reality they can’t and usually don’t. Take the time to write things down. It will slow you down a little but it will be worth it in the long run.

Item four should be a camera. Even if it’s a camera phone or a cheap digital, anything is better than nothing. I prefer to have a little better camera just because I like photography but the better the camera the better the photos. With a digital camera you should be taking photos of everything and from several different angles and even at different times of the day. You’re not paying for film or developing so just have at it and don’t miss anything. A lot of people think one photo of the thing they find is plenty but in most cases it’s isn’t. Take several photos from up close and even step back some and get a few with the clue and the surrounding terrain in it. You will thank me later!

Besides these things you will need the detector(s) of your choice and hopefully a shovel.

Keep in mind the type of treasure you are looking for and how it was probably hidden. In general, and there are exceptions to every rule however, in general, most outlaw caches will be less than four feet deep. Spanish caches on the other hand can be jammed back into tunnels or caves that have been sealed up and can be as little as a few feet to 60 feet or more back. You won’t find any detectors that will give you a reading on something that far back in the ground unless the tunnel is running just under the surface which rarely happens.

I should say at this point that out of all of the things I have listed, the most important thing, before anything else, is your mind. Have a clear head when you are working a site and use your head. Think logically, pay attention to those nagging little feelings you get telling you to “look over there” and do your homework before and after going to a site.

Something else that I consider to be essential but may not be in every case is a topographical map and/or a satellite image of the area I am working. This allows me to see the terrain around the different clues and can help in interpreting the clues. I have found that in working Spanish sites these are invaluable as a Spanish trail may take you for a long distance and being able to plot the clues and see where you are heading can be essential.

I should mention that even though I'm not a big fan of technology I prefer to use a good computer based mapping program instead of individual maps. It makes it easier to plot lines and points on the maps more precisely.

I know some of you are thinking that I left out several things right about now but I am only covering what I think to be the essentials. The rest is up to you based on what you think you need for a particular site. Climbing ropes, ascenders, saws, axes and so on might be essential at one site but not at another. This falls under the heading of using your head. Think about what you might need and make sure you have it with you.

Even if you don’t use it, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


A few days ago I was advised to take a look at a post made on a well known treasure hunters blogsite, as it was thought to pertain to me. I won't mention this treasure hunters name or blogsite, since what I found was a post with no useful information and words that were insinuating, if not a bit slanderous.

If you happen to come across this blogsite you will notice how it contrasts with this one. On that blogsite you will find very little useful information, but many promises of future explanations of treasure maps and sites. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for this to come about, but his post did motivate me to update our readers about a book I've been working on for the past several years.

This book deals with Joe Hunter, who was a fairly famous Oklahoma treasure hunter who had ties with J. Frank Dalton. Several times I thought I had completed my work only to have information fall into my lap that has changed the course and scope of the book. This last bit of information I have uncovered is no different and has been cause for me to delay publishing while I investigate further. I believe when all is said and done we can nail the coffin shut on Dalton being Jesse James. In 1948 one of the greatest scams was perpetrated by Joe Hunter, his partners, J. Frank Dalton, and Orvus Lee Houk. The trail is like a spiders web and has taken a great deal of time to unravel and sort out. I doubt that we will ever answer all the questions there are about Dalton, but you can rest assured he wasn't Jesse.

I have been able to gather possibly more information about Hunter than any person living. Much of this will be in the book to include never before published photos. My hopes are to have the book published in time for our next treasure hunter get together.

For those waiting on the book please be patient as I'm working full time and raising a family. I want the book to be the best it can with as much well researched information as I can give. For the other blogster all I can say is that there will be nothing in my book that will plagiarize anything in the book you are writing. My book is well researched and truthful, so I have no need for anything you may have written.

For our readers I thank you for your continued support and praise. Ron has done a fine job of bringing you useful and interesting stories and information. May God bless you and our nation.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Civil War treasure in Tennessee

Yea, I know, that's pretty much a no brainer but..............

For those of you that get to Crockett County, TN you may want to spend some time looking around the Forked Deer River.

Back before the Civil War started there was a man by the name of Solomon Shaw who owned a factory and a mill near Quincy, Tennessee. Mr. Shaw liked to keep his liquid assets close to his home. These liquid assets, in the form of hard gold coins were kept in his home until the start of the Civil War. At that time Mr. Shaw felt it prudent to load all of his gold coins into three wooden “nail kegs” and bury them in separate spots.

In 1863 some nefarious characters showed up at the Solomon Shaw plantation and tried to force Mr. Shaw into telling them where his money was. They did this by stringing him up in a tree hoping he would beg for mercy and give up the gold. However, either the bad guys weren’t paying attention or Mr. Shaw was more stubborn than they thought because Mr. Shaw died while hanging from the tree, never giving up the locations of the gold coins.

After the civil war ended Mrs. Shaw found out that her husband had loaded the three kegs of gold onto a wagon with one of their trusted servants and headed to the Forked Deer River about two miles north of the plantation. Once there he and the servant buried each of the kegs in separate spots. It is said they traveled along a well used wagon road which today is known as Nance Road. The servant told Mrs. Shaw that the three kegs were buried “just off the road between the river and the plantation”. I wonder how many feet are in a “just”? Apparently it is more, or maybe less, than some people think because Mrs. Shaw was unable to find the three kegs of coins.

The plantation was located four miles north of present day Alamo at the spot where Nance Road and Highway 152 meet.

Hopefully the location of the three kegs hasn’t been paved over by now. Keep in mind that the nail kegs are probably long disintegrated but the gold should be sitting there in a nice little pile for the lucky person who finds it. Providing of course it hasn’t already been uncovered by accident in the past. Make sure you do your research!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Got an extra 2.6 Million Dollars?

What? Doesn’t everybody have an extra couple of million lying around the house?

If you do and you like property up north, specifically in Couderay, Wisconsin, you might want to get your checkbook out. Al Capone’s “summer getaway/hide-out” retreat is going up on the auction block on October 8th. It seems that the economy has struck hard and the property has been foreclosed on.

The property, all 407 wooded acres of it, includes the main house which has eighteen inch thick walls (hmmmm, I wonder why?), a “massive” fireplace, a 37 acre lake, an eight car garage, a caretaker’s residence, several out-buildings and a guard tower. Just the kind of place a successful treasure hunter needs to keep the masses away.

The house and other buildings are located in the center of a piece of land that used to be owned by Al Capone. The original property owned by Capone was five hundred acres in size.

What does this have to do with treasure, you say? Al Capone was rumored to have several things that went missing that were never found, including a lot of money. You remember the live TV debacle of the opening of Al Capone’s vault don’t you? Poor Geraldo Rivera, he just couldn’t seem to get anything right! The vault was empty so where is the stuff that should have been in that vault? Is it hidden somewhere else? Did Capone spend all of his money before he died? Could there be a stash or two of guns or prohibition era liquor from the 1920’s hidden on the property?

Maybe it’s just a nice piece of land with a couple of houses but since Capone spent up to a month each year there in the summers between 1925 and 1931 it begs the question, did he use the property for anything besides a get-away/hide-out? Keep in mind that The Lexington hotel in Chicago where Capone lived and ran his operation was later found to have a hidden shooting range, the hidden vault and several secret tunnels that could be used as escape routes leading to different places. One of the tunnels was found hidden behind a medicine cabinet in Capone’s room. Even though Capone was convicted of crimes and jailed in 1931 the shooting range, the vault and the secret tunnels weren’t found until the 1980’s. Has someone already gone through the Wisconsin property looking for things like that? Possibly, maybe even likely but just how thorough were they? We all know that treasure can be hidden for centuries even when the clues are in plain sight!

If you do a little research you will quickly come to the conclusion that just about everyplace that was connected with Al Capone, property that he owned, places that he stayed at repeatedly and businesses that he operated all (or most) had hidden tunnels. Some of the tunnels were made to connect a series of illegal business such as brothels and “speak easies” and other tunnels were for smuggling contraband in or escaping from the coppers. You'll never take me alive you dirty copper! Come on, admit it, you were thinking the same thing just now. Where's my violin case?

If Capone was that adamant about having tunnels for escape then what are the chances of a building with 18 inch thick walls owned by Al Capone on 500 acres not having any tunnels connected to it? I’m just saying……… maybe this could be a place to check out with a ground resistance machine after the sale. And about that fireplace, a "massive" fireplace? Is it bigger than it needs to be around the firebox? Hmmmmm. Maybe the new owner will be curious too.

I might mention that the 2.6 million dollars is the opening bid for the auction, just in case anybody has plans to make a trip.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A little bit of gold in Wyoming

Are you looking for something that you can find with a “regular” metal detector? Maybe something that would set you up for life but wouldn’t require digging a hole sixty feet deep to find it? Well folks, have I got a deal for you!

If you find yourself in Wyoming, hopefully during the summer, you may want to take a trek over to Washakie County and do some looking around the mountains near the Big Horn River. You could walk away with your own pot of gold.

Back in 1863 Allen Hurlburt and two cohorts found themselves a glory hole along a creek in the mountains near the Big Horn River and began pulling large amounts of gold out of the mine. They were finding so much gold that they built themselves a little cabin in the area so they would be comfortable while making themselves rich. There was just one little problem with this plan, they were smack dab in the middle of Indian country and this didn’t make the Indians very happy.

The three men were only at their mine for less than a year, accumulating $90,000 in gold through the one and only winter they spent at the site. Keep in mind this is supposed to be $90,000 in 1863 money so do the math. As they pulled their gold from the ground they promptly put it back in the ground by burying it in the floor of the cabin for safe keeping.
As with most treasure stories this one doesn’t have a happy ending. The Indians became aware of Mr. Hurlburt and his friends during the winter of 1863 and took it upon themselves to burn the miners’ cabin to the ground and kill two of the three miners. Only Mr. Hurlburt escaped the melee and was found a few months later wondering along the Platte River, several miles southeast of where the cabin was located.

Allen Hurlburt chose to stay away from the area for several years after that due to the ongoing hostilities of the local Indians. When he did finally try to go back and retrieve the gold that had been mined by the three men he couldn’t find the spot.

That leaves a nice size cache of raw gold just waiting for a treasure hunter to find. Granted, there are several creeks in the mountains near the Big Horn River but there still may be some remnants of the old cabin left to find. There may also be some “trash” left behind by the miners that could be found with a detector that would let you know you are in the right area.

You never know, a little research and a lot of walking and you may just find your own retirement. What else do you have to do?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mobster Money in Illinois, really?

Are you tired of searching for those “ancient” treasures where the clues have disappeared over time and the terrain has changed? Are you looking for something a little more recent that might be “easier” to find? Well, I may just have the thing for you if you want to look around Cook County, Illinois and you‘re not bothered by mobsters.

William Daddano, Sr., AKA “William Russo” and "Willie Potatoes” was an Enforcer, Loan Shark and thief for the “Forty-Two Gang” in Chicago. As an enforcer he was prone to torturing his victims with ice picks and blow torches, keeping them alive for hours, apparently for his own enjoyment. Before joining the Forty-Two Gang Willie Potatoes had his own career in bank robbery, auto theft and larceny so you could say he had previous experience for his new position.

During his illustrious career Willie Potatoes was arrested for several things, the most notable was in May 1966 for the heist of a truck load of silver bullion. The stolen bullion, approximately 40,000 pounds worth, was estimated to be worth about four million dollars in 1968. Willie was acquitted of the charges involving the theft of the silver but was arrested again later for conspiracy to rob a bank. That charge stuck and Mr. Potatoes was sentenced to fifteen years in federal prison in 1969.

This is the good news for treasure hunters. First and foremost is that Willie Potatoes died in prison in 1975 of heart failure so you don’t have to worry about somebody with a fondness for ice picks and blow torches coming after you if you find this treasure. Secondly is that Willie took the location of the majority of the stolen silver bullion to his grave. It is thought that about 25% of the silver was sold in New York prior to Willie being sent to federal prison in 1969, the rest he buried somewhere.

Willie liked to keep several rural locations in Cook County as hiding spots for the items he “acquired” during his career. He was known to rent barns from farmers where he kept some of his trucks and stolen goods. It is also known that the remainder of the silver was supposed to be "buried", possibly in more than one spot. Personally, I think it would make sense for it to be in more than one spot. With that said, I can't vouch for the intelligence of Mr. Potatoes so anything is possible.

Now before you run out and start digging up the country side you may want to check some records at the Cook County Sheriff’s office. There is information that says the Sheriff’s department was set to make a search for this hoard of silver in 1979 but no follow up information came out, at least nothing that I found in my quick search. Did they find it and didn’t tell anybody? Unlikely, given the more current timeframe of the heist. Could the information about the search be wrong? Possibly, but maybe they were acting on information that was later proven to be false. Did Obama get his greedy little paws on it? Geez, let's hope not! This is where more research will prove to be beneficial.

And just in case, you might want to keep a look out over your shoulder if you go looking for this treasure. This is around Chicago after all and there just might be somebody else from the past that might want to lay claim to the silver and they may not want to go through the legal system to do so, if you know what I mean!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Silver doll and lead plates found in Oklahoma

We had a reader send in a comment wanting to know if we had a photo of the silver doll that was found in Oklahoma in conjunction with "Lost Canyon" and if the story about the lead plates is true. I posted a story about this in May of this year on the blog.

To answer those questions simply, no and yes. To my knowledge there is not a photo of the silver doll available. There are some photos of the lead plates, and I call them plates when in reality they are rectangles, however I cannot share any photos of the lead plates because they are currently being used by a friend of mine trying to solve the treasure mystery.

Lost Canyon does exist and if I remember correctly it is not a very big "canyon". The story says the canyon is about three miles east of Comanche Lake however it is more likely it is northeast instead of due east based on the terrain in the area.

I have not been there myself so that is the closest I can get you at this time. I apologize for not being able to share photos of the lead plates however I can't infringe on another treasure hunters spot without their permission and I know having the plates or even having photos of the plates could put a treasure hunter ahead of the game. I beleive Okie has more on these lead plates and will post something on them soon.

I may be able to come up with some additional information about the location of Lost Canyon and if I do I will post a little blurb about it so you will know.