By Jeanette Liebold-Ricker
The Sandusky County Fair ended Sunday night. It is likely that Monday morning several “treasure hunters” were working the fairgrounds with their metal detectors, seeking coins or other treasures that may have been lost there this past week.
Two of these hunters were Carolyn and Jim Smallets, of rural Clyde, who have been having fun with their metal detectors for more than 30 years. Jim, now retired from Whirlpool, said he had always had an interest in metal detecting, and received his first metal detector as a Christmas gift. He quickly tried it out on the frozen ground. He got a strong signal and worked hard to dig up his first find — a large metal spike from an eavestrough. Since then he has found real treasures.
Jim said his first detector had misfiring problems so one day he asked an experienced hunter and co-worker, Bill Rohe, now deceased, for tips.
“Bill said to meet me on the grounds at the Fremont Drive In Theater and he said he would teach me about metal detecting,” he said. “This was in 1983, when most coins contained 30 percent silver.”
The pair soon became good hunting buddies.
They went on to hunt at Whirlpool Park, schools and the fairgrounds.
“When I first started, the fairgrounds was a gold mine,” he said.
COINS AND CLASS RINGS
It was a rare day when they didn’t find a silver dollar or an Indian head penny or two. He has found two-cent pieces, three-cent pieces, seated Liberty coins and even a coin called a half-dime which was in use before the nickel was coined. Numerous class rings have been found, which he tries to return to the rightful owner. He even found a friendship ring lost by his wife, the former Carolyn Thomson, when she lost it at the fair as a teenager. Carolyn recalled when she went to the county fair with a friend.
“I told Jim it had to be my ring, because of the worn places where the hearts were worn off,” she said. “It was amazing that my husband found my ring.”
Another find at the fairgrounds was a metal token with “Annie” engraved on it. Carolyn said she had learned that once Annie Oakley held shooting matches at the fairgrounds and she wondered if it was a token that may have been given to shooters with whom Annie competed.
Jim once found a yellow ladies brooch there with a protective cover of eisenglass. “It was the silhouette of a southern belle in a long dress, holding a parasol,” he said, “I cleaned it off and once the air hit it she disappeared, but I still remember exactly how she looked.”
A diamond engagement ring appraised at $3,500 was found on a Florida beach.
“I wanted to pawn it,” said Jim, “but Carolyn wanted it resized so she could wear it.”
Another time a wedding band was found, which Carolyn kept.
“Now I have a wedding ring to leave to each of our two daughters,” she said, “mine and the one we found.”
When Carolyn became interested in hunting, Jim bought her a metal detector, and the first thing she found was a roll of dimes. Another time she found $10 on the ground, which Jim said didn’t count as a find because it wasn’t buried.
THEY TAKE REQUESTS
Jim said he and others get requests to find lost wedding rings or property landmarks. Once the Fremont Police Department requested his assistance to find stolen items. A thief at a flea market had made off with a display case of tiny pins, which was later accidentally dropped. Jim said they were able to recover most of the pins for the owner.
“So metal detecting is not just finding things, it is also helping the community,” he said.
Carolyn said metal detecting is fun, but one should always fill in the holes left behind after digging. Once they were denied access to grounds because others had left unfilled holes, which creates safety hazards.
“Make sure you step on and fill your hole,” she said.
“One thing about metal detecting, you never get it all,” said Jim, who prefers to hunt in the fall because the weather is cooler and moister. He explained that items buried in the ground shift with freezing and thawing or get moved by squirrels or groundhogs. Dry ground doesn’t yield much treasure, and wet ground easily enables the detector signal, he said.
In the springtime he has other interests — fishing, gardening and golf.
“But I would go hunting then if I had a hot lead,” he said.
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