Brad Martin’s metal detector barely goes off, but he digs anyway. He finally finds what set off the alarm – and he can hardly believe his eyes. He sprays the circular object with water and grows more and more shocked. He has just made the discovery of a lifetime in the middle of the Vermont mountains.
On his Facebook page, Martin describes himself in four ways: his bio reads, “Treasure hunter, adventurer, YouTuber, Vermonter.” All of those qualities combined when he set out into Vermont’s mountains with a camera and metal detector in hand. His pursuit differed from that of others with the same hobby, as he said he skipped beaches and parks in favor of the mountains.
Martin’s preference came to light in an August 2018 piece he shared through Imgur. He wrote, “I tend to stay away from the beaches and parks, but instead spend my time in the forested mountains of the Green Mountain state.” On his Facebook page, he further explained that he searches the state’s peaks in search of “the treasures the pioneers left behind.”
One particular trip had Martin making “the greatest metal detecting find of [his] life,” as he described it on YouTube in August 2018. At the same time, he wrote on Imgur how he often received permission from private mountain landowners, usually loggers or farmers, to search their properties for treasure.
On his aforementioned treasure hunt, Martin headed toward the mountains once again, this time to a plot of land where an old building had once stood. As the treasure hunter described it, “All that remains is a hole, once a basement, and probably miles of intersecting old walls.” He had hopes of finding something worthwhile on-site, even though the landowner didn’t seem convinced.
Martin wrote, “The landowner said someone detected this area in the 1990s but didn’t find much. That didn’t stop me.” Plus, as he said in his YouTube video, the weather drew him outside, too. With beautiful blue skies overhead and temperatures set to hit 90 degrees, the treasure hunter “had to take advantage of the nice day.”
At first, Martin expected only to find the skeletons of other structures that once stood on-site. In the YouTube clip he explains his mission, saying, “We’re going to look around, do some exploring, see if maybe we can find some more outbuildings, storage buildings, other structures that we haven’t found yet.”
Soon enough, it becomes clear that Martin’s mission is not one destined for structural discoveries. He first swings his metal detector over a “big old coat button,” which the adventurer quickly identifies as tombac. This alloy comes from a combination of copper and zinc, a very popular material in the 1700s.
Eventually, tombac fell out of favor with manufacturers because it proved a brittle button-making material. But finding a large remnant of the 18th century makes Martin realize he is on a good stretch of metal-detecting land for more reasons than one. He explains why in the YouTube video.
Martin explains, “This is good news for a lot of reasons. First of all, this puts us in the 1700s, and it also is good news because this was a big, beautiful, loud target. And the landowner said that he had given permission to somebody to metal detect this area in the ’90s and they missed this, so that looks good for our prospects to find some good old stuff out here today.”
Next, Martin’s detector beeps for a lead nail, the first one he has ever uncovered. He quickly identifies it as lead, explaining, “I can bend it easily, it’s white.” Plus, he can see that the sliver of metal has been “pounded in by a hammer,” cluing him into its past as either a nail or construction pin.
The lead nail wouldn’t be Martin’s only notable find that day. His metal detector later beeps for a circular chunk of metal, which he instantly recognizes as an old copper coin. The YouTuber inspects it further to discover “weird indents” across its surface. He says he has “never seen anything quite like that before.”
After cleaning up the coin to try and discern any identifying features, Martin couldn’t make any certain statements about the age-old object. However, he had a hypothesis for the coin’s origins, which he shared in his Imgur article. He wrote, “Unfortunately it was likely very worn when it fell out of someone’s pocket and the soil conditions weren’t kind, because all detail is gone.”
Martin hazarded a guess that the coin was 250 to 300 years old, which if correct meant it came from one of two sources. He wrote, “It’s likely either a British half-penny or an early colony, such as a Connecticut or Vermont from the mid-1700s.” Either way, he determines the money is a “very cool” find in his YouTube video before continuing onward in his exploration.
After that, the unidentifiable finds continue for Martin. His next one has a unique shape, but the metal-detecting expert knows instantly that it is made of brass. He can also see that the end of the metal item has been damaged or broken off from something else. He says in his YouTube video, “I’d like to know what came out of the rest of this end.”
Again, Martin cannot say for sure what he has found, although he comes up with multiple theories. In the moment, he theorizes that he has found a “very decorative hinge of some kind.” In his Imgur piece, he later wrote, “It’s seemingly a clock hand, but the weight of it points to perhaps the trigger-guard plate of an old musket.” Either way, the strange shape had him “a bit stumped.”
It isn’t long before Martin’s metal detector beeps for even more trinkets hidden in the Vermont soil. This time, the loud sound alerts him to a “really nice target” that waits for him. In his YouTube video, the adventurer says, “I’m optimistic about this one.” And then, he gets to digging.
Soon enough, Martin finds himself pulling a familiar shape from the ground. He exclaims, “Nice! A little round disk.” Within seconds, he knows the purpose such a circular object would serve. He says, “Oh yeah, that’s a coin.” He grabs for a toothbrush to try and clean it off and discern any identifying details.
Fortunately, Martin has finally found an object that has some identifying features on it. The coin appears to have a Britannia on the back, a detail that first appeared on British money during the Roman era. At that time, Emperor Hadrian chose to put the female figure on Britain’s currency, as she seemed to personify the country’s values and power.
Of course, Martin hadn’t found a Roman-era coin in Vermont. As it turned out, Britannia had disappeared from the country’s coins for several centuries. In 1672 King Charles II decided to restore the figure to his nation’s currency. As the Royal Mint’s website explained, “Britain’s maritime strength was under threat and the king hoped that Britannia would inspire the nation.”
Since then, British coins have always come embossed with the image of Britannia. Even the corroded coin that Martin found featured her likeness. He points out her barely-there features in his YouTube video, saying, “I don’t know if you can see that, her hand up here on the left side holding that big, long spear stick.”
On the other side, Martin can almost make out a few letters that identify where the coin had been manufactured. If it had been a British coin, he explains, there would be a Roman numeral to indicate which King George reigned at the time of its issue. However, the coin seemed to have two letters etched into it: C and O.
This detail tells Martin that he has found a state coin from Connecticut. He says in his YouTube video, “Connecticut copper, this is probably a 1787, or at least very close to that.” Such a discovery was one of his favorites to make. He explains, “I love finding state coins, so much history behind them. I wish it was in a little bit better shape, but certainly not complaining.”
Soon enough, though, Martin realizes that it is time for him to leave the mountains behind after a fruitful day of treasure-hunting. He later wrote on Imgur, “I decided to slowly make my way back to my truck, detecting along the stone walls on the way.” It was then that he heard a beep he couldn’t ignore.
Martin explained, “My metal detector will give a number reading based on what it thinks the metal is in the ground. Very roughly speaking, the higher the number the better. I got a solid target, 79, and proceeded to dig it up.” And, when he did, he couldn’t believe what he had found – based on its size alone.
In his YouTube video, Martin exclaims, “That is so big! That is so big! What the heck is that? Oh, my gosh.” To help him see what he has uncovered, the adventurer reaches for a small spray bottle of water, cleaning off his discovery to help him identify the extra-large object.
As water drops clean away dirt from the circular object, it becomes clear that Martin had found yet another coin. But this one is different from the rest. Firstly, its text appears to be written in Spanish, not English. When he realizes this, the YouTuber says in his video, “Look at that. That is insane!”
Holding the coin, Martin gets a good sense of its weight, too. “It’s so thick and heavy,” he describes. Such a large piece of currency “would have been so much money back then,” he explains. And he makes all of these statements before he even cleans off the coin; he will soon know precisely the type of coin he has found.
As Martin later wrote on Imgur, “What I had found was an incredible 1780 Spanish Eight Reales, the fabled ‘Pieces of Eight’ from pirate stories.” The silver currency was minted in five denominations – one-half, one, two, four and eight. As such, the coins became known as Pieces of Eight, with the largest coin becoming an internationally accepted trade coin.
To get the coin’s different denominations, the mint used a very straightforward process. Martin explained, “Sometimes, one of these huge Eight Reales were actually cut into pizza-shaped pieces to create the different amounts.” However, he’d had the good fortune of finding a complete circle, a “very rare” discovery, he wrote.
It had all of the markings of an Eight Reales, too. Not only did the coin feature Spanish writing, but it had an encircled M on it. This detail indicated the location where the coin was minted: Mexico City. In the video Martin carefully uncovers this information, making sure not to scratch the coin’s surface.
In the end, Martin could barely believe his luck in finding such a special coin. In his YouTube video, he says, “This is definitely the biggest piece of silver I’ve ever found and it being so old and Spanish, definitely ranks up with one of the coolest things I’ve ever found in my life.”
What did confound Martin was the fact that his metal detector had registered the coin at such a low number. He says, “An Eight Real, and it didn’t even ring that high in the metal detector! It was less than normal copper.” However, the adventurer theorizes, “Maybe it was standing up on its edge.”
After the high of finding such an incredible coin wore off, Martin started to think hard about this final detail. Why didn’t the metal detector blare when he hovered it over the massive silver coin in the ground? He started to do some research into the history of the Eight Real – and he found out some even more shocking information about the coins.
Martin later wrote on Imgur, “After some research I learned this was one of the most counterfeited coins at the time. In fact, Britain was pumping out tens of thousands of these made of brass or tombac plated in silver to drive down the value of Spanish bullion and disrupt the Spanish economy during the Anglo-Spanish War.” This conflict lasted from 1796 to 1808.
As such, Martin quickly realized that he probably hadn’t found an Eight Real; rather, he had found a counterfeited one. He explained, “This is likely one of those. The low number [on the metal detector] and green patina are the giveaways.” But this didn’t devalue the explorer’s discovery one bit.
Indeed, when Martin first found the supposed Eight Real, he said it was a day he’d never forget. In his YouTube video, he says, “That is… memorable, for sure. Unbelievable.” And realizing he had a counterfeit didn’t change any of that because, for one thing, fake Eight Reals have serious value, too.
For one thing, the silver-plated coin was still from the same time period as the real Eight Real coin, meaning it was just about as old as Martin had originally theorized. Plus, as he wrote on Imgur, “Given its history, [it’s] even more valuable than a real one.” So, it seems, the seasoned adventurer was pleased with his counterfeit find.
Fans who followed him on YouTube and Imgur couldn’t have been happier for him with his discovery, either. One person wrote beneath his video, “What a day! One you’ll never forget, I can’t even imagine finding such a spot such as you did loaded with high tones, with plans to return and then find an Eight Real in your way out!”
The same fan said they had been watching Martin’s videos long before he raked in his 73,000 YouTube subscribers. As such, they knew that the adventurer was “deserving of [his] finds.” And, as Martin continues to search Vermont’s mountains for his treasures, the excitement only continues on his YouTube and Facebook pages.