Rare Find On Coin Beach

 

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Mark Steelman’s piece of eight with the Templar cross

Once in a while you hear about a penny or two found on coin beach, the old Irish coins from the Faithful Steward shipwreck (1785).  These coins are mostly half pennies, but there were some gold-rose guineas.  There were four hundred barrels of these coins and for years people have found thousands of these “Irish pennies”.   Rarely do you hear about any other finds aside from a hint or whisper of some possible treasure.  Yesterday Mark Steelman, the first mate on the Thelma Dale IV,  found a piece of eight while metal detecting near Coin Beach in Delaware Seashore State Park.  Nope, sorry not giving you exact coordinates, and there isn’t an “X” marking the spot either.  Piece of eight coins date back as far as the sixteenth century.  There are several types and names for a pieces of eight;  real de a ocho, the Spanish dollar, the eight-real coin, or the piece of eight.  The piece of eight coin was worth eight reales, could be halved into two pieces worth four reales,  or quartered  into four pieces worth two reales.  Our modern monetary system is still based on eights, and today’s stock market also operates in eighths of dollars.   These were the original Spanish piece 0f eight coins, which was a one ounce silver coin.

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The back of the piece of eight found on Sunday by Mark Steelman

The one Mark found is much smaller than the Spanish coins, won’t get picked up by a magnet, and has the templar cross on it, which distinguishes it from other piece of eight coins.  The original templar coins date as far back as the twelfth century.  Is his coin that old?  Well that remains to be seen, he is researching it and asking fellow enthusiasts up and down the coast for help.  This coin he found has some distinct marks on it and he says “I just have this feeling there is something different about his coin.  I’m looking forward to the research and finding out its history, that is half the fun, learning about what we find.  So far it is possible it is from Lima, Peru.”  Who knows, maybe the coin belonged to a passenger on a ship, there is no telling the history or source, but as he said, that is half the fun.

 

 

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One of Mark’s metal detectors

Mark Steelman is a serious metal detecting enthusiast, when he is not working the head boats out of Lewes, he is working the sands of Delaware.  You can hear his excitement for his hobby in his voice.  He told me about a lot of his finds.  I have a few friends that are into metal detecting and have been looking into it myself.  The thrill of finding something cool, or historic appeals to me.  Then of course there is the hope of finding real treasure.  Just talking to Mark, I realized there is a lot more to metal detecting than just swinging that machine back and forth, and listening for a beep.  “Everyone detects different, he said, we all have our own techniques.  The guys who are really looking will spend a long time “cleaning” an area before they really start detecting or listening.  You get into a lot of junk on the beaches, so you have to get past the trash.  Metal tent stakes are the worst, they can be as deep as two feet.  We have to get them out of there so we can “look” or “listen” for the real finds.  You would be surprised how many nails and casings we find.”  Mark described how he looks for places to detect on the beach, and it is almost the same way we surf anglers look for places that hold fish.  He has specific conditions he looks for.  “Sometimes you find a perfect spot to detect, but it won’t be there for more than another tide or two, so you have to really hit it hard.  My detectors are so sensitive that signals from cell phones and WiFi at nearby buildings play havoc on the signals.  You need to come out sometime, try it out and see what I am talking about.”    I’m going to try this out soon enough and let you know what I learn about detecting.  It sounds like fun and who knows what I might find.

Fish On!

Rich King

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