Confessions of a School Yard Coin Shooter

Clinton elementary school building.
Clinton elementary school building.

While stationed at Redstone Arsenal, (Huntsville) Alabama I had the opportunity to metal detect all of the old schools. By old, I mean schools that I knew would give up silver. Huntsville was a very populated city and had quite a few schools that fit this category. Plus, there were all of those county schools that also fit into the category. Huntsville High School was situated right downtown in the "old district" of town. It was built of brick and had beautiful oak woodwork inside. I first metal detected this school in June of 1980. Even then it had been hit hard by other detectorist! It wasn't picked clean, but I sure had to work hard to find silver. I did not think I would make it but I finally popped up a Mercury dime along with 3 wheat and 3 new pennies. Not a very productive site by any means.

Green academy historical sign.
Greem Academy historical sign.

Just down the street from the high school is Clinton Elementary school. I have mentioned this school before on the web site. Clinton school was a brick building situated in the center of a city block and surrounded by lawn on all four sides. There was also a sidewalk along all four sides of the school between the lawn and the street. The first time I hunted Clinton elementary was in October of 1980. I had found 2 Mercury dimes, 11 wheat pennies, 1 tax token, 5 clad quarters, 11 clad dimes, 2 nickels and 34 pennies. I thought it was an "OK" school and really never thought too much more about it. After all, there were a lot of places to hunt. In March of 1981 I hit the school again. I found 1 silver Roosevelt dime, an Indian head penny, 7 wheat's, 6 clad dimes, and 4 new pennies. The Indian head penny made me think twice about the school. I never realized the school was old enough to produce the really good stuff. Out front was a historical sign which I am glad I read. It explained how Green Academy (circa 1812) had been occupied by Federal troops in 1862 and burned to the ground in 1864.

The first school was built in 1882 and the present school building was built in 1938. Now that explained the Indian head penny. On March 29th I stopped by Clinton elementary but didn't stay long. It was one of three places that I planned to hit that day. On the right side of the sidewalk going up to schools main entrance I received a good signal. Digging down six inches (I still remember) I unearthed 6 coins! Two Indian pennies dated 1893 and 1897, and four wheat's dated 1912, 1916, 1918 and 1918-D. Not bad for one hole. Along the side of the school I received a rather strange signal. The kind you are not sure whether to dig or let it pass. Well, I dug down but never found any kind of metallic object. What I did find was an Indian arrowhead. What are the odds in doing that?

On the 3rd of April I stopped by Clinton elementary once again. I was rewarded with 1 Mercury dime, 4 wheat's, 3 clad dimes and 10 new pennies. Also recovered were two civil war bullets. Green Academy was starting to emerge. On the 12th of April things started to pick up. A silver Washington quarter popped up along with 3 Mercury dimes and 1 silver Roosevelt dime. Ten wheat's, 6 clad dimes and 22 new pennies completed the day. Also, 1 Canadian penny, 1950 made its appearance.

This was a good day of metal detecting and one would think you would come back as soon as possible but it wasn't until the first day of May that I came back to Clinton elementary. On this day I found one of my favorite non-coin items, the Bull Durham medallion. Also in the non-coin category was a Union three ringer civil war bullet. In the coin department I found my first Barber dime (1897) at Clinton, perhaps from the old (1882) school. Two Mercury dimes, 1 silver Roosevelt dime, 1 buffalo nickel, 8 wheat's, 2 clad dimes and 4 new pennies rounded out the day.

Bull Durham watch fob.
Bull Durham watch fob.
Silver military ring.
Silver military ring.
Sterling silver statue of Liberty.
Silver statue of Liberty charm.
From Blossomwood Elementary.

I stopped by again on May 3rd (1981). I found a total of 23 coins. Two Mercury dimes, 9 wheat's, 1 clad quarter, 4 clad dimes and 7 pennies. At least the old school was still giving up silver. Again, May 8th proved to be a productive hunt. One Mercury dime (1938), 1 silver Roosevelt dime (1950), 2 wheat's ( 1912, 1935), 1 clad dime and 5 new pennies. Also found were a 5 mil and 1 mil Alabama tax token. Not a lot of coins (11) but four were keepers. On the 10th of May I found 4 Mercury dimes, 1 silver Canadian dime (1943), 15 wheat pennies, 3 clad dimes, 1 nickel, and 13 pennies. Also, another civil war bullet popped up.

My last entry in the logbook is a combined effort of two schools. Athens high school, Clinton elementary and an old house in Athens. Three Mercury dimes, 1 silver Roosevelt dime, 20 wheat pennies (7 in one hole at the old house), 3 clad quarters, 6 clad dimes, 1 nickel and 23 pennies. I still have fond memories of hunting Clinton elementary. It always seemed to produce the good coins. Probably at this point I began to taper off the practice of keeping a log of what and where things were found. I know now that this was a mistake. I have no written record of the nice silver military ring that was found at Clinton elementary. The style of eagle on both sides of the ring indicate it was probably from Green Academy or at least the civil war era. I also found more than one Barber dime on the site (2 more that I know of from memory, 1896 and another 1897) but again, there is no written record.

Farley Elementary school off of route 231 kept me pretty busy while in Huntsville. I remember when I first heard about the school. Hundreds of silver coins had been dug up in the exceptionally large playground area. I always say, "the larger the area, the easier it is to miss a coin". The Farley school grounds was twice the size of Clinton. In addition, the school grounds were part of the old Farley Housing Project area. I'm not positive, but I believe they demolished the area in the 1960's. All that was left were the roads and the foundations. Of course, the other rumor was that it was "hunted out". I had been in Huntsville approximately two months before I detected Farley. The first time was June 17th, 1980. I hunted the school grounds and I must say that the earlier detectorist did a pretty good job of making the coins scarce! I did pull up 2 silver Roosevelt dimes, 2 silver war nickels, 8 wheat's, 1 clad quarter, 2 clad dimes, 1 nickel and 6 pennies. The place didn't seem that hunted out. I returned again four days later on 21st of June. I got 3 silver Roosevelt dimes, 10 wheat's, 1 buffalo nickel, 1 clad quarter, 3 clad dimes and 27 new pennies. I knew that the term "hunted out" did not apply to Farley. In two trips I had recovered 7 silver coins.

I returned again on the 26th and 28th of June. Total coins found were 4 silver Roosevelt's, 27 wheat's, 3 dimes, and 16 new pennies. Not bad. I found more old coins than I did new ones. I should also mention that Farley was just about right outside the back gate of Redstone Arsenal making it an easy target for me when I got off work. After a month long vacation, I returned to Farley on August 3rd. Searching the school grounds produced 3 more silver Roosevelt dimes, 9 wheat's, 4 new pennies and an Alabama tax token. About this time I was wondering where all the Mercury dimes were. At least one should have popped up by now. I came back on the 17th and the school yard produced another 2 silver Roosevelt dimes, 7 wheat's, 1 nickel, 2 clad dimes, and 12 new pennies. Again, no Mercury dimes.

They say things always happen in threes. Well it did on August 31st at Farley school. I found 3 Mercury dimes, 1 silver Roosevelt dime, 1 war nickel, 17 wheat's (one was a 1933), 5 new pennies and a silver ring to boot. It was great finding more older coins than new ones. That is really hard to do now. Again, on September 6th another group of 3 Mercury dimes came to light (and in my pocket) along with 11 wheat's, 1 clad dime and 7 new pennies. I was beginning to like this hunted out area!

The next three days of hunting (20, 21 and 27 September) produced even more coins but no Mercury dimes. Four silver Roosevelt dimes, 2 silver war nickels, 2 buffalo nickels, 21 wheat's, 2 nickels, 4 new pennies, 2 silver rings, and a gasoline token. During October I hunted the place twice and produced 2 more Mercury dimes, 1 war nickel (1943-D), 35 wheat's, 1 1943 Canadian penny, 2 clad quarters, 2 clad dimes, 41 new pennies and a silver button. Farley was making quite a contribution to my coin collection. Going by my log book, it looks like I stopped by Farley on February 7th, 1981, probably after work as it appears I did not hunt too long. I found 1 Mercury dime, 5 wheat's and 3 new pennies. On March 29th I was hopping around from school to school but noted in the log book is Farley school...3 Mercury dimes. Again, the magical number three.

Another school that I hit was on route 431 south going out of Huntsville. I cannot recall the name of the school. In my log book it is referred to as "School, Old Highway 431". On October 12th, 1980, the "Gods of Silver" were shining down upon me as I popped up 4 Mercury dimes, 7 silver Roosevelt dimes, 22 wheat's, 2 clad quarters, 6 clad dimes, 3 nickels, and 58 new pennies. Not too bad for a place called "School"! Eleven silver coins makes for a great day even back then. I hit the place again on the 18th and came up with 1 silver Washington quarter, 1 silver Roosevelt dime, 17 wheat's, 1 clad quarter, 8 clad dimes, 2 nickels and 41 new pennies. I hit the school one more time on the 25th of January, 1981. I dug up 2 silver Roosevelt's, 9 wheat's, 2 clad quarters, 5 clad dimes, 1 nickel and 34 pennies. There are no more entries in the log book for "School, Old Highway 431".

Blossomwood Elementary school in Huntsville was one of my favorite schools to go metal detecting. It was close to where I lived and it produced lots of silver coins. It is also one of the least understood schools I ever hunted. By this I mean it was built in 1956 yet it produced lots of silver coins. Not one to argue logic, I just hunted the school grounds. The first day I hit Blossomwood (February 8th, 1981) it produced 1 silver Washington quarter, 2 Mercury dimes, 3 silver Roosevelt's, 15 wheat's, 7 clad quarters, 19 clad dimes, 1 nickel and 44 new pennies. Plus a silver ring. This was great metal detecting territory considering that silver was only around about 10 years before it began to disappear from circulation. You can bet I was back the following weekend. On the 14th and 15th of February the school yard gave up some good silver finds. Two silver Washington quarters, 5 Mercury dimes, 4 silver Roosevelt dimes, 1 buffalo nickel, 23 wheat's, 11 clad quarters, 32 clad dimes, 3 nickels and 73 new pennies. I also popped up a beautiful silver charm bracelet.

On the 28th I was back again and found 1 more silver Washington quarter, 1 Mercury dime, 3 silver Roosevelt dimes, 20 wheat's, 1 clad quarter, 14 clad dimes and 36 new pennies. I still have vivid images of metal detecting at Blossomwood elementary.

March 7th, 1981 was another good day at Blossomwood Elementary. (Could there be a bad day?) Five silver coins popped up that day. 1 Mercury and 4 Roosevelt dimes, 11 wheat's, 3 clad quarters, 6 clad dimes, 46 new pennies and a sterling silver Statue of Liberty...another favorite find. The last entry in the log book is dated April 4th, 1981. Blossomwood produced yet another silver Washington quarter, 2 Mercury dimes, 10 wheat's, 5 clad quarters, 8 clad dimes, and 20 new pennies. Also dug up was a brass pin marked S.S. Reward, 1926. (Sunday school). This is the only item that I dug up that gave just the slightest hint that maybe, just maybe some other building was on the grounds before Blossomwood was built. If that is true, it would account for so many silver coins from a school built in 1956.

There was a host of other schools that I hunted while stationed in Huntsville. New Market and Riverton schools produced Barber and Mercury dimes. Rison school, which is now under the Interstate produced Mercury dimes. Athens High School and Athens Bible School both produced lots of silver coins. If you recall, Athens high school is where I found the civil war identification pin. Athens State College produced an 1840-O half dime in the front yard. St. Mary's Catholic School in Huntsville produced my first gold ring with a notable diamond. There was not a whole lot there to detect but I did find a silver war nickel and 7 wheat's along the sidewalk. Lakewood Elementary is another entry in the log book. On March 1st, 1981 I found 3 Mercury dimes, 2 silver Roosevelt dimes, 12 wheat pennies, 4 clad quarters, 7 clad dimes and 22 new pennies. I also popped up an 1833 Large Cent. It was only 1/2" deep. You just never know!

Clinton Elementary, Farley Elementary, Blossomwood Elementary and "School, Old Highway 431" will forever remain in my memory as four of the best schools for pulling up silver.

Epilogue

Sterling silver charm bracelet found at Blossomwood Elementary school.
Sterling silver charm bracelet
found at Blossomwood Elementary school.
Blossomwood Elementary School in Huntsville, Alabama.
Blossomwood Elementary School
Huntsville, Alabama.