It's not every day you find a 14-karat gold ring buried in an old Boy Scout camp. For Larry Ehlinger, this is just one of the many fascinating finds he has uncovered in his 20 years of metal detecting.
In Rome, New York -- a small town five hours north of Manhattan -- residents will gladly tell you about the 200-year-old fort, or the country's first cheese factory, both proud landmarks nestled near the town center. Dig a little deeper and you'll find the town's local metal detector group, The Earth Club, which is dedicated to unearthing buried treasure, historical artifacts, and lost possessions. Stan Blazek, the founder and a vendor of detector equipment, hoped that by starting the club he could help members combine their knowledge to discover bigger and better finds.
Larry believes there are several different breeds of detectorists. "Some of them like to hunt just coins. Other ones like to try to find the oldest things possible, and others like to beach hunt, look for the rings."
In the spectrum of detectorists Larry is a bit of a purist. A good find, for him, carries a story with it- a battle lost, a family heirloom, an old question answered. His wife, Patty, wants him to turn his treasures to profit.
Metal detectors first came into the public eye in World War II, as two man teams would wield the heavy device to unearth mines and weapons caches.
In the present day, the machines are lighter and far more sophisticated than their predecessors. The detector usually consists of a handheld unit connected to a sensor probe. The sensor probe creates a magnetic field that is altered when in close proximity to metal. When the machine gets a signal, it plays an indicator "beep." The detector will increase the frequency of its beep until it is hovering directly above the object. Detectors range greatly in price and size. Some of the more expensive versions are even made to be waterproof, used when scanning riverbeds and beaches.
“Discriminators” added to the hand-held device provide a number value for each type of metal, allowing detectorists to identify the make-up of their find and decide if it’s worth digging.
Although the club usually searches historical sites, they also receive distress calls from friends and strangers alike, asking for help in finding a missing possession -- rings tend to be the most common lost item.
On a hunt at a 1950s era Boy Scout camp, Lori Fealey -- one of the Earth Club members -- made a miraculous find beneath a thick tree root. Pulling out a shining object, she found it to be a wedding band- weighty in her hand, indicating a higher valued metal.
Under further examination, Larry and Lori found the ring to be 14-karat white gold. A lucky find, even luckier with no discernable owner for them to return it to under their club rules of ethics.
"It's definitely not a junk ring..." Lori said, as she polished off the decades old wear on the ring. She has no plans to sell this ring at the nearest pawn shop or jewelry store.
What may be most interesting about the Earth Club is this principled approach to their finds. Value isn’t monetary for these detectorists -- value is in the search, the story and the memories packed into each immaculate display case.
And since Larry has found so much joy unearthing treasures left behind by others he and his wife decided to share that gift and leave their own cache for future hunters to discover.
Patty told Circa, "When we redid our kitchen, there was an old stove pipe hole up in the wall. So we put a picture of ourselves, we put a letter, and we put some money. So one day somebody will find that... So that will be our legacy."