Man unearths treasure trove with metal detector

Julie Lewis | The Daily StarNate Coughlin displays some of his recent finds, at his home in the town of Milford on Friday. Items include a metal baby rattle. coins, rings, bullet casings and a six pound canon ball.

A Milford man recently unearthed a trove of antique items on a property in Milford.

Nathan Coughlan is an antiques dealer and also does some metal detecting when time allows, he said. One day in early August, after getting permission from the property owner, Coughlan was using his metal detector on the property. There, he said, he made the find of a lifetime.

From an approximately 40-by-40-foot area, Coughlan found three wedding rings from around the 1880s, coins from as far back as 1861, silver dimes, shards of Native American pottery, buttons from the late 1700s and early 1800s, the first type of padlock to use the pin system, a 6-pound cannon ball, a sterling silver baby rattle with the name Deborah engraved into it and more, he said.

“It’s like a walk through history,” Coughlan said.

Coughlan said the three wedding rings were among the most interesting things he’s ever found while metal detecting. Finding even one coin or ring in a summer is a good discovery, he said. Coughlan said his antiques expertise allowed him to accurately place the items in their specific time frames. He said the property he found them on is one of the oldest in Milford, going back to the 1790s.

Coughlan said he will likely donate the antique items to the Milford Historical Society if it wants them, but as with every item he finds, he won’t sell them.

“I feel like people should see it, he said. “It’s part of Milford’s history.”

Coughlan said he has a theory, shared with him by his grandfather, for why so many valuable items ended up concentrated in one area. Around the turn of the 1900s, people may have been burying their valuables so they wouldn’t get stolen, he said.

The three wedding bands are all the same size and may have belonged to the same person — maybe Deborah from the baby rattle, he guessed. There are also a few broken pieces that looked like parts of a jewelry box. He said he wondered if the jewelry was in that box but fell out over the years as unknowing landowners plowed the property and shook up the belongings underneath.

Coughlan said this may not be the entirety of the items in that area; he said he only dug 6 to 8 inches deep and there may be more unique items farther down. He said he plans to check the area again in the spring.

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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