OCEAN CITY — Fred Croasdale joined 100 people on the Seventh Street beach Saturday to scour the sand with metal detectors in search of buried treasure.
The odds of finding something of value were better than normal because this was a staged treasure hunt, sponsored by a metal-detecting club called the East Coast Research and Discovery Association.
This stretch of beach was replenished with new sand just days ago as part of a federal project that has continued south past 10th Street.
Participants used their own detectors to search the beach, which organizers seeded with bags of pennies and tokens that competitors could redeem for prizes.
Everyone was in competition to find the most booty — prizes such as rare coins that were kept safely under a glass case at the Music Pier.
Croasdale, of Middle Township, spends his free time traveling around the country in search of untrammeled ground to explore. After coastal storms, when the surf exposes acres of fresh beach, he walks the eroded strands in Cape May County in search of the unexpected.
Once, he found a 1746 Portuguese gold coin in Strathmere just south of Ocean City. He turned it into a charm he wears around his neck.
“I like it because you never know what you’ll find,” Croasdale said.
Coincidentally, the meet was one of two metal-detector conventions this weekend in South Jersey.
A club called the Gold Digger Metal Detectors gathered Saturday on the beach in front of Bally’s Atlantic City for its own treasure hunt.
Metal detecting is a popular pastime on South Jersey’s beaches. But local hunters said they have even better luck walking fallow farm fields across the East in search of old coins and artifacts.
Croasdale said he has helped reunite several people over the years with their missing class rings. Once, he returned a Cartier ring that he found on the beach. The owner lost it six months earlier and offered a small reward.
Dick Pepe, of Mahwah, Bergen County, said he often knocks on strangers’ doors in the country to ask permission to search their woods and fields. These hobbyists normally negotiate with the property owner to share whatever they might find in case the discovery is substantial.
Former Ocean City resident Jack Palinsky, 72, now of Massachusetts, said he has been a fan of metal detecting since 1970. He and his wife, Sharon, tried to cover as much ground as possible in the half hour allotted for the hunt.
Beachcombers scooped sand with plastic sieve buckets that separated the sand as they walked. The detectors pick up the magnetic field from gold, silver and other metals. Palinsky said he uses a mid-priced detector that cost about $1,200. But some are many times that.
He did not have much luck in the first hunt of the afternoon, discarding dozens of broken shells amid the few pennies he found, none of which was a prize winner.
“I do a lot of hunting in the woods. Sometimes I’ve found pre-colonial stuff,” he said. “The doctor tells me to walk, so this is great exercise. You’re out in the fresh air. What are you going to do, sit on the couch?”
The club sponsored a children’s hunt Saturday along with three hunts for members and visitors. The club’s treasure hunt continues from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. today in Ocean City.
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