Digger's Diary flashback: "I call this one 'THE Coin" (1998)

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by lordmarcovan, Dec 13, 2016.

  1. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    As of early 2010, when I dusted this story off and reposted it on the Internet, this remains my oldest coin found so far.

    (UPDATE: not anymore! In April, 2011, I found a Roman coin from circa 395 AD on a colonial site here!)

    That's only part of the reason it's my favorite coin find, however.

    When I found this piece in the fall of 1998, Hurricane Earl was blowing across the Florida panhandle to hit us from the landward side. I was out at a site in the woods that had been cleared (bush-mowed but not root-raked), and the wind was blowing 40-50 MPH gusts, but there wasn't much rain. I wasn't getting many signals at all, and the few I did get were old iron nails. I was using a Fisher 1280-X underwater detector, which worked very well as a dry-land relic hunting machine. I was digging just about every signal.

    One signal, near a big tree, was "hotter" than the rest, and I had to whack through a web of small roots to get into the soil. From a few inches down, a part of the neck of a very old black glass bottle came up, which was encouraging. Then, a a few more inches down, almost a foot deep overall, there was a little squarish piece of copper. I didn't recognize it as a coin, at first. I thought it was a seal of some sort.

    My examination of the find was cut short when some men strolled into the clearing, asking if it was my van parked out by the road. I told them yes. They asked me to move it so they could clear the big tree that had fallen across the road, right in front of it! Off in my own little treasure-seeking world, I had been completely oblivious to things like dying hurricanes and wind and fallen trees! The hardwired headphones on that Fisher were very snug and shut out a lot of ambient noise.

    A few months later, I met Bill Hendrick of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who was doing a story about the sinking of two tankers off our island by the German submarine U-123, in 1942. When my hobby came up in conversation, he expressed an interest in doing a little sidebar piece about my coin and its connection to the lost Santo Domingo de Asajo mission. (By this time I had identified the coin and sort of figured out the historical connection. A lot of the other details were filled in by Dr. John Worth, the scholar who Mr. Hendrick contacted for the story).

    When the story ran in the paper, it was picked up by the AP and run in various places around the country. As a matter of fact, somebody I don't even know clipped it and submitted it to Western and Eastern Treasures magazine, where it ran under the "Treasure In The News" column- I was surprised to read about my own find there!

    Aside from its historical and archaeological significance, this coin has a very important sentimental value to me, as well. I was showing it and the newspaper clipping off at work, and struck up a conversation with a nice lady there.

    We struck up a friendship, and were married in October of 1999. (She's not really that interested in coins, but at least this one served as that initial conversational icebreaker.)

    So you can see why this coin is special to me on so many different levels. Even if I one day get to travel up north or overseas [*update: I did], and find an older coin, or am lucky enough to find a gold coin one day, this one will always be "THE" coin.


    Transcript of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article from February 25, 1999:

    St. Simons Island-- Robertson Shinnick has found a tiny piece of Georgia's past-- lost for more than 300 years. Searching the ground on this resort isle with a metal detector last fall, the 33-year-old coin collector dug a foot into the black soil and found an odd-shaped coin. "I had in my hand a small, squarish piece of copper with a strange design on it," Shinnick said. "I knew the Spanish colonial mints struck millions of silver coins, but this was obviously copper. "It was a mystery until I identified the design as the monogram of Philip IV of Spain, who reigned from 1621 to 1665." Turns out the four-maraved coin, a low-value sort of penny of its era, had been hand-forged in Spain about 1658. It isn't particularly dear to collectors-- it's worth about $65-- but it's valuable to Georgia historians. John Worth, director of programs for the Calhoun-based Coosawattee Foundation and one of the top experts on 17th century Spanish missions along the Georgia coast, calls the coin "quite a find." He says Shinnick's coin gives a clue about the long-lost mission of Santo Domingo de Asajo, built in 1595 to convert Native Americans to Christianity. It was destroyed by English-backed slave traders in 1661, rebuilt a year later, then burned by British pirates in 1684. "There were about 30 men, women and children, and friars, but no soldiers. A small garrison of soldiers was located on nearby St. Catherine's Island," Worth says. Other traces of the early Spanish period, such as olive jars and pottery shards, have been found on St. Simons, says Worth, who's done extensive studies on the island. But coins such as the one Shinnick found are rare along the Georgia coast. Shinnick's may be the first found on St. Simons. "Its significance is in our common state heritage," Worth says. "It is a bit of actual, concrete evidence of the Spanish missions, right here in Georgia." Shinnick, a bellman at the King and Prince Resort, found the coin on private land at Hampton Point, where million-dollar mansions are being built. One side of the time-blackened coin shows the royal monogram of Philip IV and a Roman numeral for the denomination. The other shows the letters "RX" _ for "rex," or "king," according to Worth. "Because the friars couldn't touch coins, my best guess is it was dropped by a passing soldier or an Indian," says Worth, whose Coosawattee Foundation aims to protect former Native American sites in the Southeast. "It's just a good history lesson from an era that's been lost."


    Last edited: Apr 30, 2023
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  3. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    It's really cool to be able to see these threads again. Thanks for sharing.
  4. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Thanks for reading. A lot of them are pretty much dead over on CU- not just forgotten, but all messed up by the formatting changes, dead pix, etc. Some deserved a new lease on life, I thought.
    Cliff Reuter and Theodosius like this.
  5. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random guy on the internet

    Only if I had coins that would bring me such luck. ;)

    Fascinating read. Thanks for sharing!
    lordmarcovan and Theodosius like this.
  6. wrappedinsky

    wrappedinsky Active Member

    Nice story. The initial treasure led to a much, much greater treasure. Too cool.
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  7. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Thanks! And thanks for bumping this one back up into the sunlight. I don't think very many people saw it when posted, as I tend to post in the wee hours of Eastern US time, during my overnight shifts.
  8. kSigSteve

    kSigSteve Active Member

    Great read.

    Awesome finds. ;)
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  9. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Revisiting this old repost of an even older story of mine, and thought I'd shamelessly bump it back up into the sunlight for the 2020s, since it hadn't been seen in so long. The topic of Spanish maravedis just came up in another thread, which brought me here to dust this old thread off.
  10. l.cutler

    l.cutler Member

    Some threads deserve to be brought back, very interesting.
  11. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Supporter! Supporter

    Great adventure and find, along with 15 minutes of fame and life time with a wife. One coin did all of that.
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  12. mrweaseluv

    mrweaseluv Supporter! Supporter

    That was a good read and a great story :D thanks for sharing it :D
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  13. numist

    numist Member

    Great story. Thanks for re-posting and look forward to more!
    lordmarcovan likes this.
  14. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Since I was fetching the link to post elsewhere, I'll bump this oldie back up into the sunlight again. It is a fun memory.
  15. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    That is so cool..... I plan to hit the beach with my detector this weekend to see if Idalia churned up any gifts from the ocean floor.
  16. canudigit

    canudigit Active Member

    What an awesome story with my morning coffee! As an avid metal detecting nut for 25+ years (double carpel tunnel to prove it!) reading this jump-started by blood flow more than the java! Thanks for bumping this amazing find. Now... where's my wrist braces and fresh batteries!
  17. masterswimmer

    masterswimmer A Caretaker, can't take it with me

    Rob, that's a great find and an inspirational story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    @Randy Abercrombie good luck on your post Idalia hunt. I'd be all over that if I were down there too. Hoping to see some historic finds from you my friend.
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