Hunting Optimist Park with My Metal Detector
The Following Story was Published in "Treasure" Magazine February 1984
In the city of Huntsville, Alabama on the corner of Oakwood Avenue and Andrew Jackson Way is a ball park now known as Optimist Park. This park was made into a softball and football field back in the forties. Before that, it served as the football field for Rison High School (built 1921) located on Oakwood Avenue. Just looking at this piece of territory would make any coin hunter drool immediately. We first stumbled on this site back in October 1980. I say we as my treasure hunting buddy Robert Hoard was with me. Permission was granted to hunt the park by a woman that ran a class for pre-school children in a YMCA located on the park grounds. One small problem developed; she didn't have the key to the gate but told us to enter in through the ticket window by the gate as it is always open. Needless to say we were inside the park before she barely got the words out of her mouth.
Now I'm not much on judging ground cover but I would say the park covers at least 3 acres. (We didn't know then but this was virgin territory.) The outfield of the ball diamond also serves as a football field. The sidelines extended another 75 feet on three sides to a brick wall encircling the entire park. Me and Robert went to work right away and I walked about ten feet and WHONK! my metal detector sounded off. The first coin, three inches down was an 1956 wheat penny. Hmmmm. This place has opportunities. We did just fantastic that day. I worked on old path between the ticket booth and grandstand and came up with three silver dimes and some wheat pennies. Coins were ranging in depth from an inch to four inches down.
That day we spent three exciting hours turning up coins like never before. I finished the day with a total count of 80 coins broken down as follows: 1 Mercury dime, 7 silver Roosevelt's, 16 wheat's, 7 clad quarters, 7 clad dimes, 41 pennies and a 1959 cinco centavo from Mexico.
If you all have read the spring issue of Treasure Found you pretty much know my philosophy and techniques about coin hunting. I just wanted to write a story about this park as it can be found in almost every city in the United States.
We returned to Optimist Park on the ninth of November 1980. That day Robert and I spent exactly an hour and a half coin hunting. I worked a small area that day. It was located behind the end zone of the football field. I started by the brick wall and worked toward the grandstand. I'm never going to forget this day. About three feet from the wall I got a loud signal. Two inches down was a silver quarter (Washington). I shouted with joy over to Robert at what I had found. Robert is smiling back and holding up two silver dimes. I proceeded forward about ten feet and got another loud signal. I cut a small but deep plug in the moist ground and lifted it out and there shining back at me is another silver quarter. I retrieved it and in the process moved some dirt around the bottom and there were two more silver quarters staring at me. Plus a silver Roosevelt was among them. Eighty five cents in silver in one hole! What next? I pushed on toward the grandstand. About five feet further I got a signal that sounded like a dime at two inches. I cut a half round plug this time and folded it back and there was a beautiful (1922) silver dollar on edge at three inches down. I put all my equipment down and ran over to Robert and said "Hey, you gotta come over here and see this." We looked at it for a few seconds and then I carefully pulled it up out of the ground. The weight of the coin is what I first noticed. It's hard to imagine a "coin" that large being dropped and one, not hearing a loud thud and two, not being able to find it. It now has a nice home in my coin collection. I walked on a little further and was busy digging up silver dimes and wheat pennies. I turned around and started working toward the brick wall. Another loud signal turned out to be a bronze commemorative medal from the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina. A few more feet and yet another loud signal. This time a Walking Liberty Half two inches down. I was in total ecstasy. Could this be happening to me? In that one and a half hours I found 58 coins with a breakdown as follows: The silver dollar, the Walking Liberty Half, 4 silver quarters, 5 silver dimes, 18 wheat's, 2 clad quarters, 7 clad dimes and 20 pennies. My best day ever for silver coins and it still stands for my record.
Two days later I went back to the park alone during the week as it was a government holiday. This time I worked the opposite end of the football field. It was an area 150 feet wide by about 50 feet deep. I found 52 more coins that day but most of all I learned an extremely important lesson. I almost bypassed a really loud signal thinking it was a piece of trash. Instinct told me to check it out anyway. You aren't going to believe it, but up popped a 1960 Ben Franklin Half! You just never know. I finished the day out with: the Ben Franklin Half, 2 Mercury dimes, 1 silver Roosevelt, 13 wheat's, 2 clad quarters, 10 clad dimes, 23 pennies and a silver ring.
I want you all to know that I used a White's 6000-D during this period and operating in the GEB/DISC mode at pull tab reject discrimination. I bought two 6000-D Series II in March of 1981 and have had fantastic results with these detectors.
Optimist Park was loaded with pull tabs but I knew if I wanted to find gold rings and nickels the discriminator would have to be turned down. Well down it came and boy did I ever dig pull tabs. Hundreds of them, but every one was worth it as I found two gold class rings (1935, 1947) and a gold wedding band. I found the owner of the ring for the class of 1935. It took very little research to find the owner. The 1947 ring had the school name worn off but the initials were inside. I called all the schools in Huntsville that were in operation in 1947 but no luck as of yet. I haven't given up.
Well I finished my last day at Optimist Park on the 11th of March 1982. That day I found 1 silver Roosevelt, 4 clad dimes, 9 pennies and a gold wedding band. There are still coins there to be found but being in the military it is time to move on as I've been selected to serve as an Army Recruiter and will be leaving soon.
As I mentioned earlier all cities have an "Optimist Park". They are out there, just do a little research and find them. Huntsville has two old ball parks but the other park only turned up around "200" coins. Just ask for permission to hunt when you find your park and make it look like no one was there when you leave. The following shows the total amount and type of coins that I alone found. My coin hunting buddy's, Robert in particular, also did extremely well.
Total number of coins: 928. Silver face value: $11.45. Total coins face value: $45.31. Silver dollar: 1. Silver Halves: 2. Silver quarters: 15. Silver dimes: 57. Silver War Nickel: 2. Buffalo Nickel: 2. Indian Head Penny: 1. Wheat Pennies: 186. Clad quarters: 49. Clad dimes: 136. Nickels: 31. Pennies: 44. 1 Canadian Penny and 1 Mexican Nickel.
Jewelry: 2 10K gold class rings, 1 14K gold wedding band, 1 silver bracelet, 1 silver religious cross, 1 silver skate charm and 2 silver rings.