15 Minutes of Fame Extended
Who knew that on a warm summer Saturday in 1982 what the "rusty pieces of junk" would amount to? That 18 years later I'd be in a green room being made up for national TV's Antiques Roadshow. That I would next be treated something like a celebrity by Rhode Island newspapers & schools alike. As the neighborhood children ran the yard & played that afternoon in 1982, my TR machine gave a solid sound & I was digging about 6 in. deep to unearth an octagon disc of rarity I'd never imagined. I saw the date clearly; 1800. Then the word HOUSE:SERVANT caught my eye & I'd knew what it was.
Living in Charleston, South Carolina I'd heard all about slavery & even rumors of slaves wearing tags, but had never seen one.
Years of pouring through treasure magazines lead me to believe there was definitely some great value in a relic like this, but at this time; at the ripe age of only 13, I was more excited about finding coins for my collection. I got my start about 25 years ago, digging bottles behind my Aunts house & following my Grandfather around parks in Massachusetts using his old Whites 4D.
As a coin & stamp collector I thought a machine that told you where to dig for coins was the best invention ever! But, at age 12 and as a native New Englander I was saddened to learn of my dad being transferred to Charleston, SC. Saddened that is until I found out our home was being built on the site of an 1820 plantation!
I begged my dad for a metal detector, & finally we went to SEARS one weekend. Soon we were scouring the property with our own newly purchased Whites 4DB & digging old coins, buttons, etc. A 1900 V-nickel the first day & we were hooked! My Mom always called the relics I'd bring home "rusty pieces of junk". But South Carolina has a real history behind it; an unbelievable array of relic possibilities. From Revolutionary and Civil War activity to historical slave tags & even fossil shark teeth were easy to find.
My dads work-stay in S.C. lasted only 2 years, but the relics I uncovered are enough to last a lifetime. Searching year round allowed me to compile nice displays of Civil War relics & Revolutionary finds from the Battle of Camden & Summerville British camps. Who knew that by age 13 I'd found relics with an appraised value of over $20,000?. A "rusty" belt buckle with a dragon I thought was a toy was actually a rare British plate (and I was more excited to have found a Walking Liberty half that day!).
It seemed a shame to have all these museum quality artifacts stored in my parents basement. I'd always wished I could use the relics to help teach kids about history: kinda like the guy I'd read about in W&E Treasures who went to schools dressed up like a Revolutionary soldier.
The Antiques Roadshow & newspaper publicity made that all possible. Teachers called. Detector clubs called & I was off & running mostly by word of mouth. I have done many elementary school presentations to mostly 3rd-4th grade levels. The stuff that they read about in textbooks comes alive when they get to hold a Civil War cannon ball or chewed Revolutionary "pain bullet". I have even been unexpectedly mobbed for autographs often times afterwards, but love to promote history and our great hobby.
Bill Ladd's Found Historical Artifacts:
1800 Slave tag - Front (Charleston, SC)
1800 Slave tag - Back (Charleston, SC)
1851 Porter Slave tag - Front (Charleston, SC)
NH first regiment revolutionary button - Front
NH first regiment revolutionary button - Back
British Revolutionary Dragon Buckle
1806 Swedish skilling coin
Two small arrow heads - one white, one dark
Two 4-inch arrow heads
Two small dark arrow heads
Civil War Buttons & Goodyear button
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