Buried Treasure

Captain Kidd's Buried Treasure

Being at the Outer Banks makes me ponder pirates and buried treasure. So I did some research. One of the most interesting stories is that of the famous or infamous Captain William Kidd. In 1698, Captain Kidd, sailing his ship Adventure Galley, captured the Indian merchant ship Quedah Merchant with a cargo valued at 710,000 pounds. In the vessel’s hold was a cargo of gold, silks, jewels, muslins, sugar, iron, and guns. As the ship was flying under French colors, Kidd declared the ship his legal prize. But it turns out the ship belonged to Muklis Khan, an influential and highly placed member in one of the eastern kingdoms who demanded that the East India Company, the English trading company in the East Indies, make restitution. Not kewl for England or for Kidd.

Taking this ship lessened Kidd’s reputation as a stellar citizen—he was aiming for the more respectable privateer label—and added to his growing reputation as a pirate. So Kidd sailed for Mona Island located in the channel between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (present day Dominican Republic) a no man’s land and safe hiding place. The cargo was sold on the spot, except for the gold, of course, and the Quedah Merchant burnt and sunk to the bottom of the River Higuey.


Realizing everyone was on his tail, Kidd decided to sail to New York where he had influential friends and petition Governor Bellomont for a pardon. Before heading north, he transferred gold bars, gold dust, silver plate, jewels and silks to the fleet sloop, Saint Antonio. Then Kidd and 21 pirates sailed to New York, where he buried some of his treasure on Gardiners Island. To someone who thinks finding even one gold dubloon is wealth beyond belief, this was a likely a major haul. Kidd continued on to Boston. After Governor Bellomont heard talk of buried treasure on Gardiners Island, he ordered John Gardiner to recover whatever goods he could find. Gardiner dug up 11 bags of gold and silver and delivered it to the governor in Boston.

Ever scheming, Captain Kidd attempted to negotiate his freedom by sending the governor’s wife a jewelry box filled with gemstones and gold bars in a silk pouch. But her husband wasn’t playing the pirate game and made her return the treasure. Being a spoilsport, he refused to meet Kidd privately. His plan awry, Kidd was arrested, imprisoned, and shipped to England to stand trial where he was hung on May 23, 1701. So much for trying to be a good pirate. However, he went to his death without revealing where he’d hidden the rest of his treasure. Which means it’s still out there, somewhere.

One of the many possibilities is Clarke’s Island which lies in the Connecticut River in Northfield, Massachusetts, just off the upper end of Pine Meadow. It seems Captain Kidd and his men ascended the Connecticut River in search of a secluded place to bury a treasure of gold, while still being somewhere they could go back and find it later. It’s said they buried the treasure then drew lots to see which of them would be killed so that his body could be left on top of the chest to protect it from all hunters. A real bummer for the unlucky winner of that draw.

Over time, a legend grew up around the treasure that the gold could be dug up only by three people at midnight when the moon was full and directly overhead. The trio must form a triangle around the exact spot and work in complete silence, as any words would break the charm. In the early 19th century, a man named Abner Field and two of his friends tried to find the treasure by following these directions. At the witching hour, under a full moon shining down on them, they fell too and dug in absolute silence, despite the miserable sweaty work and swarming mosquitoes. They couldn’t swat or swear for fear of breaking the charm. Finally, unbelievably, there came the echo of a crow-bar striking iron. But just when the men saw a corner of the chest emerge from the earth, their hard-won prize began to sink out of reach.


Maybe you’ll have better luck. Let me know.



British - circa.1850--(chain/non-dug)

British Crown 1641 (silver)



At one time I thought all coins found in the wet sand and in the water were, indeed, headed out to sea. I like to say the more I learn the less I know.

John You 'hit the nail on the head' for me, too, John. I have studied the Outer Banks beaches (NC) for many years, as part of my metal detecting hobby and can say, without a doubt, that I don't fully understand what makes certain movements of the sands, materials (including coins/jewelry) occur at the time and manner in which they often do. I will debate with anyone....that beach metal detecting is one of the most difficult of the hunts connected with the hobby. Unlike highland hunting, where the targets lay, generally undisturbed from the time they are lost and later recovered.....beach targets are, most often,constantly on the move.. I have reached the point, after many years of beach hunting, where I categorize our beaches, pretty much by the four seasons... with a much broader description being a 'summer beach' and a 'winter beach'.. Both are as different as 'sweet' and 'semi-sweet' chocolate!!.. However, I will say that I am predominantly a 'winter beach' hunter.. ..due to several reasons...the main one being the higher degree of erosion and greater probability of discovering the 'older/true artifacts'.. Silver coins and older jewelry are nearly impossible to find on NC beaches during the summer months....Recently dropped clad coins and new jewelry...are the only sure bets.....and even they, in my opinion, are not as easily found until the late fall and winter months..Water hunting (wading over knee deep) on our beaches is difficult, if not impossible during 90% of the summer days...due to constant onshore waves, the sudden drop-off of the beaches and bad rip-tides, which often result in closing of the beaches for swimming. However, these same elements add greatly to the 'erosion factor' during the winter months.. of course, as they occur with much greater force.

I am positively convinced that it would be impossible to write a comprehensive article on beach metal detecting, with facts and/or pointers that can hold true for every beach around the country and world... I've tried it.....and each time I find myself making statements which I know to be true for 'my beach'.....but find to be unreliable for other beaches I have hunted or read about.. Obviously, we will agree that 95+% of all lost coins (excluding shipwrecks). ..were first dropped on dry land (sand)...But, we also know that many of these coins were washed into the sea..and returned to land, often many times before they were recovered.....It is what happens during that in-between time ....that may be difficult to understand. Here is my 'take' on the NC beaches.....and you may find it interesting..and certainly may not agree with some of it.....It is however, a conclusion, that I have reached...after many, many years of beach hunting.... MOVEMENT OF BEACH COINS/JEWELRY ON THE NC (OUTER BANKS) BEACHES 95+% of all coins/jewelry lost.....are dropped during the summer months of June through September....98+% of these coins are lost on the high dry beach sand. A large amountof these coins/jewelry is picked up by summer metal detectorists.. ..with the largest amounts foot-trodden deep into the sands.....or picked up and pulled to sea by an ensuing tide. (I will add here that I feel that only a minute percentage of the unfound summer coins find their way into the ocean during the summer months. And these are the ones which are lost at that point between the high tide line and the ocean, or those lost by someone trouncing around in the shallow waters near the shoreline. There are practically no coins washed onto the beaches during the summer months.. ...while there may be a few coins found in the wet sand (that sand between high and low tide)..during summer months...those coins are predominatly newly lost coins which have endured very little movement.....and for all practical purposes have not 'been to sea'.... The prevailing summer winds on NC beaches are out of the 'southwest'..these winds do not 'blow the ocean level' back, as offshore winds may do...on say ..Gulf Shore or shallow-water beaches...instead, they result in a very direct onshore wave action...which will take the 'outer bars' created by winter weather and push them gently onto the beaches....bringing 'new sand'....with them... and little else in the way of other materials.....Summer sand on the NC beaches is very clean and usually void of many shells and other materials.. It is not until fall (late Sept.)...that more prevalent northeasterly winds begin to blow.....resulting in higher tides...which begin to 'strip' the beach of its 'summer sands'.....uncovering many of the deeper foot-trodden coins lost during the summer..... sweeping many more of them out into the waters.. (how do they return?...we'll see later, below) As a regular beach hunter....it is very easy to determine when the above is occuring.....almost to the point where I can tell when the 'current summer season's coins have disappeared.....and coins several 'seasons old'.. ..begin to make their appearance!!.....aside from the obvious appearance/condition of the coins themselves!!......It is when the summer beach sand disappears that beach metal detecting is at its finest!!!!!! You recall that I said above that I believe that very few coins either 'go to sea' or are 'returned from the sea'...during the summer months.. Of this factor......I am postively sure (in my mind, at least)....after 20+ years of trekking NC's beaches.... Now, using the two broader terms of describing beaches.... that being 'summer beaches'..and 'winter beaches'......what is occuring on NC's beaches during the winter months? Beginning in late September and running through mid to late April...NC's beaches are going through a constant (sometimes almost daily)...stripping, eroding, rebuilding......stripping, eroding, rebuilding...process....until ....around Jan. or Feb. the erosion process...has gained on the rebuilding... which usually follows.....to the point where the beaches have reached their lowest point of erosion. During March and April, the rebuilding cycles will outgain the erosion cycles..until early May....when the summer beaches will begin to rebuild. OK!!!!!...the trick to winter beach metal detecting.... simply is to catch the beach...during those prime winter months (Sept./April) ...when the erosion cycle is occuring!!...Simple enough.....watch the weather, the wind direction, the times of the tides, the time of full moon (important!!), WATCH THE BEACH!! A beautifully eroded beach can be totally ruined by just one 'high tide'.. on a beautiful winter day!!.....one or two inches of new sand may be all it takes to turn a 200+ coin day.....into total ZILCH HUNTING!!..."You should have been here yesterday!"...applies to beach metal detecting, just like it does to fishing!! Enough rambling.....but one last point I want to make which very may well intrigue a lessor student of beach metal detecting...and may bring forth argument from some of the more serious ones. I have dug coins on the beach during the winter months which, I know have been to sea and back to the beach many, many times...before they were finally recovered....modern coins which were worn, almost to the point of being unidentifible.....yet vintage coins (1600's)...which looked as good as the day they were lost!!!!!.......Why?......How do shipwreck coins find their way to the beaches?......When do modern coins wash ashore? Last first..... Remember, I believe coins leave the beach and wash ashore, mainly during winter months (in NC)....they leave the beach, obviously, when the storms and heavy surf strip the beach of more than minute layers of sand... More importanly, when do they come back???? I believe that (during winter months)...coins are being washed upon the beaches at times WHEN THE BEACHES ARE ACTUALLY ERODING.....NOT REBUILDING.. ...does this seem strange??....not really.....yes, the beach does go through a small amount of rebuilding during winter months.. but while is throwing new sand up on the beach...it IS NOT THROWING UP COINS...this can be proven by the fact that, as I said earlier, YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN HERE YESTERDAY, REMEMBER??....after heavy erosion, during the winter, when things settle down...the beach usually rebuilds, slowly until the next storm...I never, I REPEAT, NEVER,....hunt the beach during this phase.. ....because the coins simply are not there!! How can coins be washed upon the beach when the beach is eroding? Simple...These coins have been pushed into the deep trough which lays close to shore during the winter months....they lay there for days, months. ...being tossed about and aggitated ....as if being in a washing machine.. At times when the ocean currents (and thats another story..because its ocean currents more than wave action that erodes the beach)...are eroding the beaches.....these coins are pushed to the very edge of the beach drop offs....where they will be 'flipped up on the beach' AT THE CHANGING OF THE TIDES, LOW TIDE TO HIGH TIDE,.....at times when erosion is actually occuring.....It is at this time, on low tide,......when the the greatest concentration of coins can be found washed ashore on the beach!! I have hunted the beaches at these times when....it was tempting to just lay the detector aside....and eyeball and pick up coins!!!!!....I am sure others have, also. TO REPEAT AGAIN, DETECTABLE COINS ARE WASHED ASHORE ON NC BEACHES, DURING THE WINTER MONTHS, IN EXTREMELY GREATER NUMBERS THAN SUMMER MONTHS, AND ARE PUT THERE DURING PERIODS OF BEACH EROSI0N...NOT BEACH REBUILDING!!... OLDER, VINTAGE COINS, SHIPWRECK COINS..... I am not an ocean salvor, scuba diver....or treasure hunter....in the "Mel Fisher" sense of the word.....I have, however, found my fair share of older, shipwreck coins along NC's Outer Banks.... I have noticed, of late, a newer theory emerging among some of the Florida beach hunters....that many of the 'treasure coins' yet to be found on Florida's Gold Coast....are not, yet to be washed ashore....but are already there!!!!!!!.....laying beneath the high dunes....and below the very sands which are trampled on, every day of the year!!! I say, 'welcome to the club'!! My hunting colleagues and myself..have determined some time ago...that there are very, very few, if any,......ancient shipwreck coins 'washing ashore' along NC's shorelines today...There may be, and no doubt are, many ancient shipwreck coins laying beneath NC's oceans...But, if they have found their way onto the beaches during these modern times.....I am not aware of it... We do, however, find a good number of 1600/1700/1800 coins on NC's Outer Banks beaches......but, we find them after many, many hours of winter beach hunting ...when we are able to find the areas where, obviously....shipwrecks landed ON THE BEACH...in years gone by... We have shipwrecks marked on the beaches....many of them to become uncovered.. ..only every few years...and for only a day or two at a time....or perhaps just a 'plank' or 'ship's spike'...popping up.....but they are there...you just have to be there at the right time!!!! To close that topic....I believe that 99% of all shipwreck or ancient coins to be found on NC's beaches are already there.....and have been there for hundreds of years...waiting for the right person to find them.....at the appropriate time.....when the eroding beach...will let them appear... In closing, I wouldn't trade NC's Outer Banks beaches for any that I am aware of....even Florida's wonderful Treasure Coast!!!..... Seaweed(Ray Midgett)Copyright