Lancaster Research & Recovery Members Use Metal Detectors to Recover Lost Wedding Rings, Antique Coins and More | past years

Dan Pick loses his alliances. “I have a little habit,” he says, recalling what he thinks is the third time his group has gone missing. Pick was cleaning up his family’s vegetable patch and flower garden in the spring of 2020, filling two huge bags with yard waste. “I knew I started with it, and when I finished it was off,” the Willow Street resident says. It’s not that the ring was so expensive; Pick’s previous bands were steel, while this one was tungsten. He simply refused to let this gem miss.

Wife Sarah and two of their three children helped Pick search for the nearly indestructible silver band among asparagus, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and perennials.

The odds of finding the ring were “better than a needle in a haystack, but it was still a tough question,” Pick says of recruiting family members. Their result: No ringtone.

This time, however, the Picks were lucky. A close family friend, Gene Walter, pulled over with his metal detector and located the ring in one of Pick’s trash bags.

Gene Walter, president of the Lancaster Research & Recover Club, stands with his metal detector next to Dan’s vegetable garden on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

“Everyone loses something,” says Walter, who wouldn’t accept money for discovery. He spent 11 years searching for missing jewelry, colonial coins, Civil War memorabilia, and other bits of history buried in the ground or under an ocean. The Columbia resident runs the Lancaster Research & Recovery Club, which brings together metal detector enthusiasts from several counties. The group has about 80 members.

dirt therapy

Those who practice metal detecting speak of their love for exploration, their passion for history, and their joy in bringing people together with valuable and memorable objects. It also doesn’t hurt that the hobby takes enthusiasts outdoors for hours as the effects of the pandemic linger.

A recent chance encounter at a garage sale brought Shana Morrow to the Lancaster club. She discovered the hobby by watching videos online and received her first metal detector as a gift a few Christmases ago. She immediately began combing the creek beds. His finds include a metal base for an oil lamp made in 1869 and a 1 cent coin from 1848.

“I call it dirt therapy,” the Elizabethtown resident says, as the hobby has given her comfort during the COVID-19 shutdowns. She tried to involve her 11-year-old son, but he quickly lost interest. “It takes a lot of patience,” says Morrow, who is married and works at an early learning center.

Morrow has attended one club meeting so far and wants to meet more members. “I look forward to speaking with people who understand that finding a piece of history is exciting.”

Matthew Harding agrees. “I’ve always been interested in history, learning and discovering new things,” says the secretary of the Lancaster Research & Recovery Club. The Mountville resident met Walter through the Nextdoor app around seven years ago.

Harding appreciates the colonial buttons and shoe buckles he found. He cradled spoons from the 1700s in his hands, hardly believing real people ate them nearly 300 years ago.

“You wonder how these things got to where they are,” marvels the social worker.


Metal detecting practitioners use hand-held equipment to send electrical currents through the ground, water, or, as in Pick’s case, an object that might be hiding metal inside. A tone heard in a headset or a needle on a dial will signal when metal is found. Sophisticated detectors use different sounds for different metals, for example, so users can search for gold, silver, or other metals.

Industry experts say a probe scanning an area can detect metals lying on or buried near the surface. Specifically detailed metal detectors, for higher prices, can find metal about five feet below a surface. Machines range from around $100 for basic equipment to around $10,000 for the most savvy edition.

This popular pastime began in the early 1900s as a way to find bullets inside medical patients or soldiers. The military used detectors to locate landmines while miners used them to find ore.

Andy Snell with a book

Andy Snell of Spring Grove runs metal detecting company Lost Boys Rescue. It was featured in the book “From the Ground Up 2”, pictured here.

The research

Historical discoveries may impress metal detectorists, but locating lost treasures also keeps club members busy. “We’re always interested in someone contacting us for help,” says Walter, who joined the search and recovery group six years ago and has been its president for about 18 months. . “There’s nothing better than giving someone a ring back, when you see the look on their face,” Walter says.

Dee Thieme knows that feeling. Spring Grove club member Andy Snell called her several weeks ago after learning from a mutual friend that the woman’s husband, Eric, had lost his white gold wedding band four years ago in the couple’s court in Dover.

Thieme thought the ring was gone forever. She had offered to buy another band for her husband, but Eric Thieme refused, saying a new ring wouldn’t have the same feel.

Snell, who repairs motorcycles and runs metal detecting company Lost Boys Rescue, searched for more than two hours in April before finding the ring where the water had carried him across the yard.

“He wouldn’t give up,” Thieme said of Snell. ” I could not believe it. The ring looked brand new and was four years short.

Andy Snell Medal

An old York Fire Co. medal recovered by Lancaster Research & Recovery member Andy Snell.

Snell wouldn’t accept money either, Thieme recalled. Her husband promised he would never lose the ring again.

“We really try to reach new people,” says Snell, who joined the Lancaster club despite living over an hour away. “It’s a hobby that really grabs you.”

Snell says he is lucky to live next to a farmhouse built in the 1840s and to have the owner’s permission to dig. His finds include a badge from York’s first fire station, established in 1770.

Valuable discovery

Christian Hess of Quarryville lost more than one pendant with an American flag on one side 10 days ago during gym class. The junior forgot to remove his collar before running on the Solanco High School sports field. Within minutes, the locket containing some of Grandpa Brian Wertz’s ashes was gone. Wertz passed away almost a year ago.

Christian Hess with salvaged pendant

Christian Hess, 17, holds the pendant found by Lancaster Research & Recovery Club member Jerry Johns. The locket contains some of the ashes of Christian’s grandfather, Brian Wertz. The reverse of the pendant bears Wertz’s nickname, Foxy.

“I was devastated,” said Jason Hess, the 17-year-old girl’s father. “It’s something very special for us.” Elder Hess contacted club member Jerry Johns, a family friend and fellow volunteer firefighter with the Quarryville Fire Department. Johns and 11 other metal detectorists divided the sports field into grids and searched on a recent Sunday.

Johns, who works as a mechanic for JL Clark, found the pendant after about an hour. “I was really excited and honoured,” he says.

Johns’ grandfather, who taught him metal detecting, was a firefighter, along with Brian Wertz.

“I would do anything for this family,” says Johns.

Club details

The Lancaster Research & Recovery Club began 41 years ago as The Lancaster Treasure Hunter & Coinshooters’ Club. Walter uses social media to increase membership and provide jewelry finder services.

The organization meets once a month in Lancaster County’s Central Park and hosts several one-day events throughout the year that offer seekers the opportunity to delve into an area.

Lancaster Research & Recovery will be hosting a free “Detection 101 Clinic” on Sunday, June 5 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with beginner classes at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Kiwanis Pavilion #22 in Lancaster County Central Park. Participants can also try different types of metal detectors, learn how to properly dig a hole, and win a prize in a seeded hunt, with objects hidden in the ground.

Gene Walter - 1798 coin

Gene Walter found this antique piece, dated 1798, with his metal detector.

Walter’s entry into the hobby came after he and Megan, his then 10-year-old daughter, watched a TV show about metal detecting. “I wanted to get something she and I could share,” recalls JL Clark’s technical service manager.

Finds include an 1895 women’s diamond ring designed by a jeweler who lost his life in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. Walter gave the ring to his wife. His daughter Megan eventually lost interest in metal detecting, but Walter is undeterred.

These days, he searches for treasure with his 3-year-old granddaughter. In fact, Grandpa just bought Madison his first metal detector.

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