Testing their 'metal'

PERU - What started as a hobby for Dan Ferguson has grown into something much more.

The self-proclaimed "modern-day treasure hunter" has been metal detecting for the past two years, sweeping the earth for items lost, misplaced or purposely buried any number of days or even years ago.

"My favorite find was a 1833 Hard Times Token," said Ferguson, referring to a form of unofficial currency used briefly in the United States during the early 19th century. "I found it at my daughter Gillian's farm house in Massachusetts. It took some research to identify it."

Ferguson takes as much pride in his finds as he does studying the history of metal detecting. The hobby, he explained, is one dating back half a century ago.

"Early-designed metal detectors from the 1960s are fairly easy to operate," said Ferguson. "Today, they're really highly-refined computerized machines that not only indicate what the buried item may be, but also how deep it's buried. So, they're quite sophisticated in a lot of ways."

Ferguson's passion has led him to found the Champlain Valley Metal Detecting Club, which held its first meeting in October in Plattsburgh. The meeting saw nearly a dozen people turn out, each interested in sharing stories about hunts and in learning more about what has become an increasingly popular pastime.

"Metal detecting is a pretty fast-growing hobby right now," said Ferguson. "Our first meeting had pretty lively discussion. Everybody was just excited there's a club in the area for this."

The focus of the Champlain Valley Metal Detecting Club will be for members to get together to discuss their finds and coordinate outings. However, the club won't be just about finding for fun. Ferguson said members are getting together to also offer their services free of charge to those searching for items like class rings, bracelets and the like.

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