FALMOUTH – Trevor Ponte does not attend a church, but he goes to a lot of them, especially old churches like St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, which was built in 1890.
On Saturday morning, Ponte, 31, of Kingston, was on the lawn of St. Barnabas, a beautiful granite church, trimmed with mountain meadow red sandstone, walking patterns in solitude with his top-of-the-line metal detector.
Ponte said he prefers to hunt for treasure at churches where people have been meeting for decades. If it was used in the past as a meeting house, where perhaps there may have been some drinking, all the better, he said.
Asked if anyone at a church has ever stopped him, he said he has only been asked a few times what he is doing and then left alone. “Churches said, ‘All are welcome,’ he said, as an explanation.
While he has been to many churches near his hometown of Kingston, and he has begun making his way through Sagamore, Sandwich, Mashpee and Falmouth, Ponte said, “In Fairhaven there is an entire block of churches. You can bounce back and forth across the street. It’s awesome. It’s like a metal detector’s playground.”
While he does find things on church lawns, especially at a church that has, like St. Barnabas, a weekly lawn lobster dinner in the summer, Ponte said, “The good stuff is the stuff in the ground. I’m looking for the old stuff, usually. I like to find a lot of silver.”
But he was just hoping to find treasure, any treasure. Mostly, he likes coins. “I have a crazy obsession with coins,” he said. “Coins are so nice looking.”
Ponte is a longtime coin collector but said he recently sold most of his collection to invest in crypto currencies, which, he said, “are going to change the world.” It was an unexpected twist from a guy with dirty hands digging for quarters in a church lawn.
While continuing to scan for treasure, Ponte gave an interesting quick lesson on blockchain, crypto currencies, and why he believes in them as much as he believes in the joy of metal detecting.
Ponte said he wanted to get into metal detecting ever since he first saw one when he was a small child. At 21, he bought his first machine for about $700. It was rudimentary compared to the $1,800 metal detector he owns now.
His new metal detector was a gift to himself after hitting on three scratch tickets in one day and winning $11,100, he said. The $1,800 investment for the metal detector has paid for itself and more, he said. And while he loves to find treasure, he really likes looking. Metal detecting is a hobby, almost like surfing is to a surfer, he said. It happens to be his thing.
Finding coins and other treasure, he said, is “all about how you’re feeling. You have to want to find something.”
While explaining that the major appeal is “the hunt,” Ponte was running his metal detector over the church lawn when he stopped, smiled, and said, “There’s a quarter right here, four inches down.”
So he dug a thin hole four inches down in the soft wet dirt and, sure enough, Ponte found a quarter, caked in mud. He replaced the earth, put the coin in his pocket, and continued. Just after a lot of rain, he said, is the best time to find thing buried deep.
The owner of a construction company, Ponte said, “I wish I could do this for a living.” Instead, he gets out metal detecting as often as he can. In recent months, as he has learned to use his new high quality metal detector with several settings and the ability to detect what kind of metal it is finding, he said he has put more time into metal detecting.
While he likes finding any kind of coin, Ponte said one goal is to find silver coins. Finding a half dollar silver coin, he said, “is like finding a ten dollar bill in the ground.”
He has found several silver dimes and even 1896 Barber Quarters, a style of coin minted between 1896 and 1916, which can be worth $40, said Ponte. In the previous year, he said, he found 350 pieces of silver. He has also found rings, gold chains and other things, but mostly coins – lots of coins.
“Have you ever seen a five gallon bucket filled with coins?” he asked. “A five gallon bucket filled with dimes is about $6,000,” he said. He has filled those, he said. So the hunt can be profitable, although it can also be worth as little, as on this day, of about $2 for one hour.
But no matter how it goes, he said, “It’s always a plus.”
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