Overlooked Locations Yield Coins and Caches
As the popularity of treasure hunting increases, at first glance it appears that there seem to be fewer places to search where someone hasn't been there first. Yet, regardless of how many times a site has been searched, experience has proven that there are certain places that the average treasure hunter tends to overlook.
Over the years I have been careful to list these hidey-spots in and around dwellings where coins and caches have been most frequently missed by our competition. This edition covers those spots that others usually overlook. I consider this information to be important because, sooner or later, most treasure hunters get a chance to search an abandoned dwelling for caches. Knowing the right places to look can allow one to make the most of the opportunity. A treasure-sniffing dog is also a valuable tool in such instances, if you have access to one.
Another point to remember is that just because one cache has been recovered, it doesn't necessarily mean that all the caches or lost coins at one site have been found. It is also important to remember just how much metal detectors have improved in the last few years. The caches, which an older detector may have overlooked, are often easy targets for newer instruments.
One of the better places to find older coins at old rural home sites is a spot that coin shooters almost always forget to check: It is around the site of the old mailbox. In earlier days, it was common for rural people to leave change in the mailbox for stamps or just to mail a single letter. Over the years a few coins were sure to be lost.
Try to find sites were the home is gone and then locate the area where the mailbox once stood, and chances are good that you will be the first one there. Look for the rotted post that held the original mailbox or search the locations, which appear to have been the most likely spots for the mailbox.
Another good spot near the mailbox is the place where the kids were picked up by the rural school buses. It is not uncommon to find the remains of a small shed, which sheltered the kids while they waited for the bus. If you know of spots where children still wait for the bus, check it out, as this location will almost always produce coins, as the youngsters are notorious for losing lunch money and change. If you can locate a site where several generations of kids have waited for the bus, you will have found a bonanza of old coins where your competition will never think to look.
Speaking of bus stops, don't overlook the locations where people wait for the city buses. Bus stops are often good coin producers.
Another spot that others tend to miss is the area under the old doghouse, or the area where the beehives were located. These spots have always been favored cache sites for rural hoarders. If an old homestead has an orchard, just assume that there was at one time a beehive to pollinate the fruit trees. Look for beehive sites near any older fruit trees or the orchard itself. You are looking for a level site or one that has flat rocks, which were frequently used to help level the hives. The bees were, in all probability, kept some distance from the house itself.
When an old abandoned dwelling itself is searched, there tend to be certain hidey-holes within the dwelling that are almost always overlooked. I suspect that sometimes the average treasure seeker misses the best spots because the locations seem too easy, even too obvious. Just remember that hoarders come in varying degrees of intellectual capacity. The only sure thing that can be said about where they hide their money is that “it varies.”
Another point to remember about previous generations of hoarders is to realize that almost everybody hoarded coins. Today, with inflation and without easy access to gold coins, it is much more difficult to hoard enough coins to match one's life savings unless the cash is converted into the new gold bullion coins. Expect to find coin caches hidden at locations where one would not expect to find currency caches, as currency must be kept relatively dry. I mention this so you will not look for just one type of cache and overlook the other.
The old-fashioned bathtubs were perfect places to hide one's cache. They were often freestanding and not enclosed. There was just enough room for one to slide things in behind the back of the tub, between it and the wall. In addition to caches, expect to find many UNUSUAL things hidden there.
If the tub has been enclosed, look for the part of the enclosure that opens to expose the plumbing. It may be cleverly hidden, but chances are it will be there if you look for it. Open it and check for caches in this area carefully and don't forget to check behind the backside of the tub---between it and the wall---if necessary, use a small mirror and a flashlight. Small mirrors with telescopic handles are available at auto parts stores.
Make it a habit to always lift the lid of the toilet tank and see if anything is taped or glued to the bottom of the lid. This is an old one that everybody assumes the other guy must have checked. Beyond that, if the lid is one of the old-style `hollow' lids, be suspicious if the lid has been broken and then glued back together. Shake it. Look for breaks in the lid that would allow one to access the hollow area within the lid.
The toilet's water tank itself has been frequently used as a cache site. Currency sealed in weighted glass jars and then placed in the tank has long been considered to be a secure and fireproof safe for several generations of hoarders. Be very sure that you check the space behind the toilet tank, between it and the wall.
In fact, the bathroom itself has proven itself to be a favored place to hide cash. It provides locked privacy and it also provides many unique hidey-holes to conceal that cache. Look for loose boards and moldings, and of course hollow areas, such as the shower curtain rod. If the bathroom also held the hot water tank, be sure to check the area between the tank and the wall.
People tend to forget that most of the old-fashioned medicine cabinets in the bathrooms will lift out from the wall with the removal of as few as two screws. This must be a rather common stash spot, judging by the number of caches found hidden in the wall behind the old medicine cabinets. Here again we have an excellent cache spot that the average treasure hunter almost always overlooks. Eliminate your competition's errors and you eliminate most of your competition.
Always pay close attention to the use of wood screws that are used in place of nails. By using screws, one could have easy access to a hidey-spot. Look for screws that show use and look for screws that seem out of place.
In those instances where an old abandoned home had large furniture items left behind, don't forget to check the back of the couch for coins lost from pockets. Put on a pair of thin cotton gloves -- such gloves protect your hands yet they still allow you to feel -- and reach your hand down into the crack at the back where the coins would fall into the bottom of the sofa. This is always good for a few old coins that most don't bother to recover. If the house you are searching is a very old homestead, the dates can be quite old and well worth the effort. Don't forget to check the couch itself for caches, be very suspicious of couch pillows that unzip. If the sofa is a hide-a-bed, be sure to open it up.
Pay special attention to closets, particularly the ones in the bedrooms. If the closet has a hollow metal pipe used for the clothes rack, remove the pipe to see if it has currency stuffed in it. Racks were excellent places to hide cash, as the clothes on the rack would have to be removed before the cache could be accessed. Then closely inspect any closet light fixtures to see if they are easily removed to allow access to the hollow area in the wall or to the closet ceiling. Many light fixtures can be removed by simply turning the fixture to allow the holding screws to come through offset oversized holes. When the fixture was mounted, one would mount the screws and the oversized holes would allow the fixture to slip over the screws, then, a twist would lock the screws into the narrow ends of these holes. Look at some of your light fixtures to see how simple an operation this is.
Remove the light fixtures carefully to look for wires or heavy strings hooked to any wall light and/or plug-in fixtures, as the areas behind these fixtures were frequently used to access the hollow area within the wall, where the hoarder would then hang cans of money down inside the wall. This was done by putting a string or wire onto the can of money and then anchoring it to the fixture itself.
If the house shows signs of children, it is a good idea to shake any doors that locked as small children liked to slide coins through the keyhole. The coins would then fall into the drill space without bothering the lock. When the door is shaken you will hear the old coins rattle.
Another sure bet is the dead space beneath the windowsill in windows that face the back of the house. Treasure hunters have found many caches hidden under these sills. Some of these windowsills were not even nailed down. They were simply held in place by the closed window itself.
Around old abandoned home sites, experience has shown that some items should be considered cache markers until proven otherwise. These include birdbaths, sundials, benches, in fact all permanent garden and/or yard ornaments should be considered markers, be they miniature gazebos or small-scale windmills. Don't forget to check the ground under the compost pile site.
Garden spots were excellent areas to bury one's cache. Regardless of how long the dwelling's garden spot has been abandoned, chances are good that the perennials* will still be there. Begin your search of the garden area around the perennials (such as rhubarb or even flowers such as rose bushes or bulb flowers) as this part of the garden would not have been tilled each season; the perfect marker for one's caches. *(Plants that are permanent and not started each year from seed.)
Any fencing built around a garden spot should be carefully checked for posthole banks. Over the years I have kept track of where most posthole banks have been found and they have been most frequently found around the garden area.
The last place that anyone searches is under the house. If you are up to it, the choices are few. The hoarder didn't like crawling any farther than he had to, so the cache will be close to the crawl space entrance itself and it will be buried in a shallow manner. It will be buried beside something such as a foundation post. Around the crawl space entrance itself, be sure to look up at the floor beams to see if a cache box has been attached between the floor joists.
While under the house, watch for pipes sticking up in the dirt, if the pipe does not appear to have been a functional part of the home's original plumbing, it may be a pipe bank. Caches have also been found under houses in large metal sewer pipe sections that were simply lying on the ground.
If you are eyeballing under a house for buried caches, there is often no need to crawl under an old house that is, in all probability, beginning to fall down. If the home's former owner had pets, chances are that over the years the pets will have spent time under the house and in so doing they will have packed-down every inch of the surface under the house and any digging done by a hoarder will show itself in a very obvious manner.
Be aware that if the former dwelling is quite old or in a rural setting, it was probably served by a well. If the old well had a pump house built around it, this is a choice spot for caches. Please be careful around the well. If the water was supplied by a spring, check within the spring's cistern itself. In any event, always be sure you find out just how the dwelling was supplied with water.
Another spot that most treasure hunters overlook is the in-ground water turn-off boxes; use a probe to check them for hidden caches. If the water went to more than one building, was there an exposed junction box with a turnoff valve where the water was split between the house and the other building? If the other building was a major user of water, such as the milk house for the barn, was there another turn-off box for that building? Were any of the turn-off boxes hidden from view so they would be particularly safe to use while hiding money within them? Remember that the turn-off boxes were perfect cache sites for a few gold coins. They were too small for a lot of silver, but perfect for those $20 gold pieces, though coins of every denomination have been found within the confines of old turn-off boxes.
If there are any old outbuildings, look for caches behind anything and everything that is nailed to the walls, particularly hubcaps and old signs. Hoarders tend to avoid burying currency, so currency caches will usually be found hidden in or behind things.
Think of outbuildings with dirt floors as your best friend. Few sites are as perfect for burying coin and gold caches as an outbuilding with a dirt floor.
Recently, a treasure hunter found a large cache in an old outbuilding. The cache was hidden at the back of a drawer built into the workbench within the old shop. The drawer held an assortment of worthless nuts and bolts, however, when the drawer was completely pulled out, it had a small metal box nailed to the outside back of the drawer that contained the cache. If the drawer had not been completely pulled out the cache would have remained hidden. Never underestimate just how sneaky a hoarder can be.
When you are searching for caches it is good to remind yourself that at an earlier point in time, almost everyone stashed some of their money somewhere, and there are a lot of `somewheres' for you to look. If one cache has been located, one should assume that this former resident was partial to hoarding and they probably had more than one cache. Remember also that upon the death of the hoarder, one of the last things on the survivor's minds is looking for hoarded cash.
A clue to where a hoarder would have logically hidden their cash is to learn as much about the former resident's life-style as possible. Look for signs, ask yourself where the man of the house spent most of his time, did he have a shop where it appears he spent much of his time? If so, start looking for caches in the shop. If the property was a farm, start with the barn and pay particular attention to the ground directly below the cow's food stall in the manger. More than a few caches have been recovered directly under the portion of the manger stall where the animal's food was placed. It goes without saying that every square inch of the chicken house floor should be carefully scanned with your detector, farmers loved to bury their cash in the chicken house, chickens are excellent watch-dogs and make quite a fuss when intruded upon by strangers. If the chicken's nesting area still remains (the boxes in which they laid their eggs) be sure to carefully check under the laying boxes, and for false bottoms within them, for currency caches.
During research, it is wise to try to learn the ways and customs of the people living in the locale where you search. Strange local beliefs and superstitions can help you locate caches.
When searching the back yard of an early-day dwelling for caches, pay close attention to any dogwood trees. To many pioneers, the dogwood was a symbol of Christ's crucifixion and considerable religious significance was attached to the dogwood. It was believed that caches buried under this type of tree would be protected, so search under these trees with great care. Learn to recognize a dogwood on sight. Any nursery can show you how to recognize this tree.
The old site of a garage is always an excellent place to shoot for lost coins, but it is usually quite junky. Try raking the area first and then picking up any stray metal with a strong magnet. Many tool supply catalogs even carry “push broom” style magnets, which are frequently used by contractors to clean up nails after re-roofing and siding jobs. Remember that the side where the driver got out of the car will yield the most coins. If the location is really old, ask yourself where people would have dismounted from a horse. This was usually at a hitching post at the front of a building, particularly at commercial establishments, such as stores or the saloons.
Whatever you do, don't assume that the hoarder is a one-idea person. Over a period of time it is possible for the hoarder to have found literally dozens of places to hide their cash. Each time you come up empty, you have in fact just narrowed down the possibilities.
In your search, take nothing for granted. Assume nothing except that there are many caches out there with your name on them. You need only do a little more, a little differently, than those who got there first.
© Copyright 1989, 2002, 2012, by E. Earl Webb, all rights reserved.
© 2012, by E. Earl Webb, all rights reserved