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user_78351's Blog

20 Aug 2021

Buried Treasure

| user_78351

Like every boy who grew up reading Robert Louis Stevenson, I dreamed of finding buried treasure, and I was lucky enough to unearth two interesting "treasure" coins quite by accident. Both are cherished members of my collection today. I found the first the one when I was digging in my great-grandmother's garden. I was probably eight or nine at the time, and I don't remember exactly why I was digging there. It may have been "suggested" to me by my father to keep me busy for an hour or two, or maybe I needed to earn some points for a merit badge.
My great grandmother's house was around the corner from my grandmother's house in Constableville, NY. Although I visited her often, I admit to having had mixed feelings about her house. On the one hand, her kitchen cupboard was home to an old crockery urn that was always full of the best molasses cookies anyone has ever tasted, and I was invariably rewarded with at least one of these simply for having come to call. On the hand, in order to reach the bright and airy kitchen one had to traverse a dark, narrow hallway that led past her scary sitting room. For some reason sitting rooms in homes of that vintage were invariably stuffy airless places, dimly lit, and adorned with fake Japanese vases and pictures of long dead relatives. No one in their right mind would want to sit in one, and probably no one ever did. This one also sported a nightmarish Fuselian painting of three white horses, with bulging terrified eyes and a fork of lightning in the background. I would always scurry past that grim portal with the hairs standing up on the back of my neck.
Out in the garden on that particular afternoon my spade unexpectedly turned up a coin. It was silvery, about the size of a nickel but much thinner, and very much worn. With dirt brushed away though, you could clearly make out the bust of a doughty looking monarch, the words Carolus IIII Dei Gratia around the rim, and the date - 1783 - visible at the bottom. Carolus, as I later learned, is a latinized Charles, and Dei Gratia translates freely as "God's gift." Given the date, this could only be Charles the 4th of Spain, and that made my treasure coin a Spanish piece of eight! I was going to be rich!
Or so I thought. While they are undoubtedly quite old, pieces of eight are not uncommon. They were a mainstay in new world colonial pocket change, as well as in Mexico and Spain, and the Mexico City mint must have cranked them out by the millions. According to the Red Book, my coin in VG condition (mine wasn't) might fetch $20 from a dealer today. Pieces of eight filled the same numismatic niche later taken up by the silver dollar, and were made thin so that they could be easily cut in pieces. Halves, quarters, and eighths of these coins were considered legal tender (hence the name), and their coexistence with American coins after the mint came on line in 1793 probably explains the need for our curious half-penny: taking the full coin as being 1 dollar, its smallest legal sliver would be worth 12 1/2 cents.
I found my second treasure coin while digging in the ashes of a fire pit three houses down from my boyhood home. I was lucky enough to grow up in one of those tracts or "housing developments" that sprang up like mushrooms in the 1940s and 50s. Built to house the families of returning GIs, and later derided in song by the phrase "ticky-tacky all in a row", they were actually wonderful places to be a kid. All the people who bought these houses were roughly the same age, they almost all had several kids, and at any hour of the day you could round up a group of playmates for a game of tag, a snowball fight, or a sandlot ball game. We flew kites, built tree forts, made maps, cracked rocks and never gave the slightest thought to stranger danger. I'd say goodbye to my mom in the morning, and return only when the hunger pangs drove me home for dinner.
My neighborhood was named "Valley View" and lay at the edge of suburban Rome, N.Y. Behind my house there was a steep little ridge leading to a farmer's field. Beyond that, more fields, then woods and streams for miles and miles. The ash pit I was digging in was on top of this ridge, maybe in the farmer's field, maybe in part of the LaForge's back yard - you really couldn't tell. At any rate, in those friendlier times nobody minded kids cutting through their backyards or even nosing around in their fire pits. The coin I dug up there was rather large and blackened from having been in the fire, but it was in quite good condition for all that. It had One Penny embossed in the middle, and Fort Stanwix Chapter No. 153 , R.A.M. Rome, NY around the rim. I was by this time a savvy enoughcollector to realize that this was not a real penny. I dismissed it as some kind of token, and since I don't collect tokens (you have to draw the line somewhere) it went into my curiosities box where it remained until I recently discovered it will rummaging around in my childhood stuff.
With the magic of the Internet, I was quickly able to discover that my second treasure coin is an example of a "Masonic Coin". When you reach a certain level in the Masons, you receive a special coin in recognition of the achievement. Normally, these coins are treasured by the Mason who earned them, so it was odd to find one that had apparently thrown out with the trash. Maybe its owner got sick of the Masons and joined the Moose Club. I found one just like it recently offered on Ebay for $40.
Maybe you can find your own piece of eight or Masonic coin online, but don't come to me. There's no way I'm selling my treasure coins!

Comments

slybluenote

Level 5

This is a great blog! It is well written and was a joy to read! I have been to Rome, N.Y. many times since I now live in Syracuse myself. I also would NOT give up any of the special coins in my collection either. I'm what they call "emotionally bound" to some of the coins in my collection. Thanks for sharing your memories!

Long Beard

Level 5

Right off the bat I see that you are a seasoned collector such as myself. This generation somehow got short changed on the experiences. A true pleasure reading your blog.

Kepi

Level 6

Nice blog! Really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing. ; )

Golfer

Level 5

Great story ! Always enjoy the personal history involved in a person's collection. I am thinking of using some not so good looking wheat cents and just dropping or burying them in spots for metal detectors to find later. Won't be much of a find, but will give them some excitement?

Mike

Level 7

Enjoyed your search for treasure. Who knows you just may find it!!! By the way you said you dismissed it as some kind of token! Tokens from England to for forty dollars go thousands!. I would not dismiss that!! Civil war tokens the same!!

"SUN"

Level 6

Enjoyed the blog.

Mokie

Level 6

A very enjoyable visit to your childhood adventures. My Father was a Mason and a Shriner, as was my Grandfather, but sadly no coins from them sadly. Thank You for an fun read.

Longstrider

Level 6

Great blog. I enjoyed reading it. Nice childhood you had. Very nice. Thanks.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

What a wonderful blog. You write well and I enjoyed your story!

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