Plundering the beach for buried treasure

With all the new-found attention on pirates in Saint Augustine, local Historic City News reporters headed to the beach this morning to see just who might be burying, or retrieving, a cache of jewels and gold.

We didn’t discover any pirates, if you don’t count the seagulls pirating every morsel of food from the eager sandpipers, but, we did find a modern day treasure hunter who tells us that searching the area’s beaches has become a regular part of his retirement activities.

“I get good exercise, it gets me out of the house in the mornings, I make a few extra dollars and you never know when you’ll make that once-in-a-lifetime find,” Crescent Beach resident Arthur Franklin told Historic City News.

Franklin, who served in US Navy during the early 1950’s, retired to St. Augustine three years ago. He said he picked up his first metal detector soon after moving in. Franklin lives within walking distance of the beach and took many sunrise walks with his wife; before her passing, two years ago.

“I don’t think you’ll discover a fortune in hidden Spanish doubloons,” Franklin said. “But, if you pick up just two or three coins every day, along with the junk, you’ll accumulate some valuable pieces, as well.”

Last year Franklin decided it was a good time to sell some of his treasures — he sold some silver coins to dealers at shows and he sold some jewelry pieces.

A thousand dollars in silver coins returned Franklin almost $11,000.00 early last year. “This is the only hobby I’ve ever had that actually pays me back,” said Franklin. He says it has been very easy to get a great return on small lots of silver coins on e-bay.

The weaker economy keeps Franklin from getting top dollar for his “best” finds, however, he said today that there is a steady market for “scrap” silver and gold.

“The Florida weather is slowly becoming cool enough to make coin-shooting more enjoyable,” Franklin said. “I can hardly wait — and yes, the water is great for coin and gold finding too.”

Since pirates didn’t have metal detectors, they had to rely on accurate maps.

Franklin told us that only half of his success can be attributed to his newest detector; a Bounty Hunter Quicksilver (cost about $150). “You have to know where to shoot, or the best detector in the business won’t do you any good.”

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer

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