A prospecting adventure into the Storm Sewers yields Silver and Gold!

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Plumbata

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[align=center]Hours into a day of rather unsuccessful scouting for areas laden with old bottles and other goodies, I found myself at yet another storm sewer draining into the head of the ravine being scoured for treasures:[/align][align=center] [/align][align=center]
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[/align][align=center] [/align][align=left]Knowing that no bottles were to be had there, and feeling a bit tired from the hours of all-terrain traipsing, I sat down and casually studied the deposits around the rocks right outside the sewer outlet for noteworthy tidbits, and in short-order I saw 2 cents positioned vertically in a crack![/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]Right then I went into "metal-scrounging mode" and began scraping around in locations which would harbor dense items. More coins were discovered with ease, so naturally my eyes turned to the above-picturedsource of the bounty of small change.[/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]Armed with my cell phone flashlight, I squatted low with my feet set wide and waddled like a morbidly obese penguin through the low square passage. Within 50 feet I found myself inside the first of several manhole access/drain chambers, with plenty of standing room to stretch after the rather awkward journey inside.[/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]Zones and pockets of gravel with the more desired iron were present in several spots, so with fingers alone I grabbed handfuls of the material and washed it in the flow of visually clean and clear effluent. Plenty of coins were found, including wheats, which made me hesitantly optimistic about what else might be lurking in the deposits. Soon I found a crunched gold earring, which was a truly inspiring find despite only weighing .53 grams. Clearly "finger-panning" was yielding some good stuff![/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]Shortly before leaving due to the late hour (about 80 minutes inside the tunnels) I found the first silver! Over a dozen wheaties had been recovered by then, so I knew the silver had to make an appearance. It was a triple-drilled sterling Australian sixpence from 1942, with the obverse legend lathed away, likely a jewelry piece. Interestingly it was minted in San Francisco (wartime troubles and whatnot).[/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]Anyway, I was a bit uncertain about the future prospects for finding American silver coins as I left, but the imagination wouldn't let me rest until I had made some quick tools to ensure that I could go back in there and actually sift the deposits efficiently.[/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]As is my style, I delayed a few things so I could get back in there the following day and tear it up! It started "slow", as I was finishing up the long detritus and gravel bar started at the upstream end the day before. 5 or 6 wheats came out, but overall the coins were diminishing per-unit of gravel/crap being processed. I sifted a storm sewer on a whim several years ago, and although no precious metals were found then, the experience and common-sense observations gleaned suggested that I abandon the spot and travel upstream to richer hunting grounds.[/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]I spotted a healthy stretch full of large chunks of stone, brick, concrete, and iron, and the upstream tip was saturated with rusty dense iron chunks, nails, wires, etc. This is an awesome sign![/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]In the first load ran through the sifter, I found 2 wheats, a 1953 Roosevelt dime, and the violet pink corundum/gold jewel which likely popped from a ring (1.12 g). The excitement and adrenaline went through the roof![/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]On the 3rd load from the spot, I got the dateless Standing Liberty quarter! From then-on I was doomed, muscle-strain and soreness be-damned! [:D][/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]Here's a load in the submerged sifter with a dark grey 1964 Roosevelt sitting on the surface. It was moved slightly, but literally poured out of the strategically-bent shallow aluminum sheet scoop moments before:[/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]
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[/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]I am rather certain that this storm sewer was laid/finished in 1935, so the treasures weren't lost too terribly long ago. One can only imagine what sewers from 1835 might have secreted inside![/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]The Gleanings:[/align][align=left]
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[/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]It won't make you rich, but sifting through the old gravels and finding bits of gold and coins (plus minerals, fossils, scrap, etc) is a stimulating way to hunt for treasures free of technology fancier than a flashlight (headlamp). Just imagine if one gained access to some 19th century storm drain/sewer networks, the potential goodies are mouthwatering![/align][align=left] [/align][align=left]Happy hunting people, however you do it. [/align]
 

fer_de_lance

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Plumbata , Nice finds & good thinking. I'm curious is this sewer discharge near center of a town or is there a old school near by? Just wondering how far this stuff would be carried before depositing.
Tim
 

2find4me

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WOW! I wonder if we have some of those around here. That has gotten me excited, I will keep my eye out for one of those. Do you think a lot of storm sewers are like that?
 

Robby Raccoon

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Goodness. I love how you wrote this as a story and included images. That's quite a bit. Incredible tale, dang lucky too. The best I've found at storm-drain areas only go back to the 1920s. I'm doubting you'll find many more like that, unless your area is special. I've never heard of one being that spectacular. But, who knows. Most drainage areas are hardly if ever explored, let alone excavated.
 

ironmountain

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Holy cow. That's sweet. What a haul. I like the write up as well. Nice humor!!Im going to have to look at those with a bit more interest now..if I can find some.There's one of these at the hotel I dig at that was right in front of the hotel and goes across to the area where there used to be town meetings and stuff. the entrance is caved in (this one is only a few feet high..will be rake/pull time) but we've almost cleared it out. (this is on the topside of the area we were working on Leon..where the hotel sat).
 

Plumbata

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Thanks for the comments people! The sewer drained some sections of an old main road, as well as a couple 1920s-40s residential streets. No schools or other sensible reasons for the coin density were located nearby. What I found seemed to be an assortment of bits lost at a slow but steady rate between 1935 and the present. Here are the coin tallies:169 Copper Lincoln memorial cents74 disgusting crusty rotten zincolns21 nickels (plenty from 40s-60s)36 clad dimes14 clad quarters41 wheaties5 canadian cents (oldest 1943)and a 1973 Austrian Schilling Most wheaties were 40s and 50s, but the older ones are as follows:1 19131 19181 19193 19261 19291 1936The most common dates were 1941 (6), 1958-D (5) and 1948 (4). The sewer I sifted several years ago was rather recent (or recently refurbished, anyway) so aside from a singular wheat out of 6 bucks in change no noteworthy coins were saved. Several pieces of plated jewelry came out though, plus 7 brass weed hitter pipes, 4 or 5 live handgun bullets, and several pounds of hard lead wheel-weights, which I like collecting to melt and cast into things. It was proof enough for me that if a gold chain or silver dollar got lost down a drain, such dense items would be caught by the gravel/rock/metal chunk deposits. The best stuff in both storm sewers was always located in the upstream half (or third) of a stretch of water-sorted gravels (and dense stuff like metal, metallic minerals, etc), and my impression is that the top half contains 80%-90% of the heavier metal items and coins. The lighter zinc cents, which get even less dense as they deteriorate, tend to "float" better and are found somewhat more evenly distributed than the clad/copper/silver coins. Basically, you need to think like a placer gold miner. Where are the cracks? Where in this bend or stretch would heavy items fall during times the water is blasting through? Where are the large dense rocks/bricks/pieces of cast iron which create "traps" for the desirable heavy metals? Just a couple weeks ago, I scrutinized a stormwater discharge of far more recent origins (early 90s), and solely at the outlet I got exactly 1.00 in change and a 1.7 gram sterling charm from a bracelet. I didn't bother going inside, and despite only newer goodies being available the fact that silver was in there is encouraging. This goes to show that all storm sewers have the potential of harboring valuables, even if they aren't old. Best of luck to anyone who tries searching sewers for treasures. Remember to go slow, look carefully, and seek out zones at the upstream end of "gravel-bars" with abundant large and/or heavy objects. Please post in this thread (or this subforum) if you get out and try it out!
 

MIdigger

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Plumb you write a story with the best of them!. Congrats on your finds. It was almost as if I were seeing it first hand right there. I can imagine there are a few of us who would jump right in as you did. Great story and pictures! Thanks for sharing--Rich.
 

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