July 14, 2011 -- Searching for treasure isn't only for movie characters. Real-life adventure hunters have unearthed treasures worth thousands of dollars in their own backyards.
Take Tim Saylor and George Wyant, who have their own metal detecting-themed company called Anaconda Treasure. By day, Saylor writes software for an insurance company and his friend Wyant is a copper miner. But on weekends, the Montana men have taken metal detecting to a whole new level.
"We're not exactly normal," Wyant said. "We don't think fun and comedy and treasure detecting have to be mutually exclusive."
What started out as a hobby six years ago with the aid of a basic metal detector that they used in local fields and old swimming holes has blossomed into a treasure trove of loot worth thousands and thousands of dollars. They've unearthed silver coins, rare saloon tokens and badges, and civil war belt buckles -- and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The friends are part of a growing community who say that if you want to find money and have some fun, invest in a metal detector.
"Anyone can buy a metal detector and do what we do," Wyant said. "You can dig up coins all day at the park with a $200 machine. It's very inexpensive."
Saylor and Wyant's Tips:
Head to the Beach
When people put on suntan lotion, rings tend to slip off more easily.
Check Concert Sites the Morning After
Check out public spaces where there have been concerts. The morning after big events, there are almost always valuables, including cash and electronics, to be found.
Look for Trees in the Middle of Fields
Out in the country, look for clusters of trees in the middle of otherwise sprawling fields. That's the sign of an old homestead, where there are often buried treasures.
Know the Law!
Finally, the men say, be aware of the laws regarding metal detecting. National parks are a no-no, but it's often permissible to detect in city parks. Consult park websites to find out where you can and can't detect.
* * * * *
If silver isn't your thing, how about diamonds?
Raffi Stephanian is the self-described city miner of New York City. On most days, Stephanian can be found on his hands and knees on 47th Street, in the heart of the diamond district, hunting for diamonds, rubies and gold that, he said, are dropped and stick in sidewalk cracks.
On a recent day on 47th Street, within three minutes of searching with a tweezer, Stephanian found a sizable piece of gold. Within five minutes, he found a diamond.
Diamond dealers in the area said it's no joke. Apparently, precious stones and metals are dropped on 47th Street every week.
"I've lost things in the city," said Matthew Gabriel, a diamond dealer. "Every day runners drop things -- jewels, gems -- when they're making deliveries."
Since starting his 47th Street mining expeditions, Stephanian has found pearls, amethyst, emeralds, diamonds, rubies and lots of gold dust, all worth thousands of dollars. His passion for mining city streets has earned him not only attention, but even an agent.
Bonanza of Loose Change
You don't need to invest in a metal detector or gold panning materials to put treasure in your pocket. You can score hundreds, even thousands, of dollars with just a set of observant eyes in a parking lot.
When members of the Humphery family of Brooklyn run errands, their eyes are peeled for loose change. In just longer than five years, the family has found more than $1,200, mostly in pennies, nickels and dimes. The family documents the rewards of hunting for change on its blog, Changepot.
According to the family, among the best places to find change are mall parking lots, college campuses and in and around the security checkpoints at airports.
"We've found that in lower-income neighborhoods, we find the most change, and it's usually pennies, nickels, dimes. In higher incomes, we don't find anything," said Barbara Humphery. "I'm guessing maybe they carry credit cards, debit cards."
The family's biggest find was a $100 bill in Atlantic City. They said they find loose change almost every time they go out.
All you have to do is look.