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A Lock on the Past

By: Anonymous

My very special Minelab Safari metal detector is almost three years old and it keeps on finding some of the most interesting items that my little home town can produce. I never really gave much consideration to submitting an entry in Minelab’s “Find of the Month” program when I first bought my Safari, mostly because I was too busy with my twice a week treasure hunts, then cleaning and researching my various trophies.


During the first year that the Safari and I were a team, which was also my first year involved in Metal Detecting as a hobby, we were often able to ‘out find’ my more experienced buddies who were using other brands of detectors. The finds of that first year included an amazing 1849 Half-Dime, 4 Indian Head pennies including 1882 and 1884; 39 Wheat pennies including 1910, ’13, ’16, and ’18; there were also several Barber and Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, and other silver coins. Unusual finds included a silver 1939 South African 2 schilling coin, metal buttons that did not have any recognizable details on the fronts, but whose back marks showed their age by including words such as “TREBLE”, “GILT”, and one thought to be from the 1700’s to pre-Civil War period with the back inscription “STANDARD – RICH COLOUR”. There was also a car or truck medallion from the “DODGE BROTHERS – DETROIT USA”, a toy pistol made by Derringer, several minie balls, and many other treasures that this novice found exciting.

As you probably guessed from the types of treasure I listed above, my favorite places to hunt are older homes, especially those built in 1930 or earlier. There is no shortage of them in south central Virginia where I live. My latest really interesting find comes from what is left of an old farm, where there is an abandoned home said to have been built in about 1836. The owner is a wonderful lady whom I met while volunteering at a local community service organization.

When I approached her about the possibility of detecting on her property there was no hesitation at all. The only problem, and it was a big one, was the drought that we are going through at this time. Last year’s scare with heatstroke caused me to use common sense and not go detecting whenever the temperature rises above 85 degrees.

However, there was one day recently when the temperature was ‘only’ supposed to go up to 83 degrees, and since I was bordering on cabin fever due to the prolonged heat, I just had to grab my Safari and go put it to use.

After two to three hours of chiseling away at the hard, dried out ground, with little to show for it, I considered calling it quits for the day. But of course there is always that ‘one more area’ that I want to investigate before heading for the car and its lifesaving air conditioning. So, of course, I decided to take a brief look at it.

Immediately I received a strong signal, not too deep, and so I started attempting to dig. After quite a few minutes of trying to break through the hard ground I was about three inches down. At that point my hands wouldn’t take any more, even with gloves, so I started using a screw driver to chip away at the solid clay that seemed to surround my target.

And then, suddenly, there it was. A large, beautifully preserved brass / bronze padlock. With just a little bit of cleaning with a damp towel, I could make out the inscription, “N & W Ry”. The letters stood out beautifully, and I knew from the “Ry” abbreviation for Railway, that it had to be pretty old.

The padlock measures 3.25”H X 2.25”W X 0.50”D, and weighs 6.75 ounces. It is solid, although I did manage to put two very minor scratches in the surface while trying to recover it.

With just a little bit of research I was able to confirm that the initials stood for “The Norfolk & Western Railway”, which was started in the 1830’s, then merged with a number of other railroads over the years, until it was swallowed up by another company in the 1970’s. I fully intend to keep this padlock as a part of my collection, but there was a bit of temptation to put it up for sale when I noticed that e-Bay sold one of these padlocks back in 1999 for $224.00.

I am not able to get out and treasure hunt with my Safari as often as I would like, but whenever I do have the opportunity I know that if there is something unusual to be found, from a half-dime to a big, heavy antique padlock, I can count on my Safari to ensure that I will be the one to find it. Thank you, Minelab.