Money from the ground: how to make money on the search for treasure “When gold comes out of the ground, many blow the attic

The Village talked to a professional treasure hunter about the treasures of the Time of Troubles, the jewels in khrushchevki, modern gold on the beaches of Crimea and how to find a million dollars in the Yauza.

Modern Gold

I am 47 years old, 40 of which I am a treasure hunter. Independently and in groups I have found more than 20 treasures. The average value of one treasure – from 5 to 10 thousand dollars. I specialize in treasures from the Time of Troubles, also like to look for scales (small silver coin elongated shape times before the reign of Peter I. – Ed.) and coastal beach searches.

Modern gold must be sought in the sea. Every year at the end of the season with my family I fly to the Crimea. There are almost no treasures under the water, but there are plenty of small jewels. People throw coins into the sea in order to return to the same place, and I take out these coins – probably because of that beaches become empty. That’s the humor of it.

Where people swim, that’s where they lose their gold. I have two kinds of clients: the first are dumb and the other are clever and sensible. The first ones go into the sea in a bathing suit and carry gold, silver, and jewelry. But water acts as a lubricant, and besides, it is much colder than on the shore – people’s blood vessels narrow, their fingers become thinner, and they play volleyball and somersault in the water. That’s why their chains fly off, their rings fly off. But the second know that in the water is easy to lose the jewelry, and put them in advance in the back pocket of shorts, a pack of cigarettes or a towel. Then their things run children or people come out of the water drunk – and all the gold is in the sand.

During the day I dive with an underwater metal detector, and in the evening I walk on the beach with a ground detector. Recently, I for one swim found two gold engagement rings (wedding rings. – Ed.) Weighing five grams – 20 minutes of splashing and earned six thousand rubles. When gold and stones appear in the water and it glistens in the sun – it’s just amazing. I feel almost an orgasm.

If you do it all the time, you can collect 350 grams of gold in a season and coins for 60-70 thousand rubles. But I do not have such a goal, I just come to relax with my family and swim along the way – looking for it. I don’t break any laws, I swim where I want – other people don’t touch me, though sometimes they are afraid of me.

What are treasures?

A treasure is something that a person stopped using. For example, a man was killed in the war, and his things became nobody’s. Treasure hunting is different, it can be divided into four types. The first is a search for everything that was buried before the WWII: treasures from feudal feuds, the end of the reign of Catherine, Paul and Alexander, the Time of Troubles, the Napoleonic era, the first and second revolutions, as well as the hoards of the Neapublic.

During the Time of Troubles, banks were only available to merchants, nobles, and artisans, while most people kept things in a land bank – the owner dug a hole in his own territory and put a goblet of money there. Or he would break open the earth floor of a hut and create a kind of safe deposit box there. Then the owner went to the forest for firewood, but a bear mauled him there. That’s when this safe deposit box goes into the category of treasures. There is one in any settlement, and most likely more than one. But because of the trash layer, not all valuables are easy to find: nails, corks, pieces of iron, and so on get in the way. Over 200 years, a lot of crap accumulates over a hidden goblet. The older the treasure, the more trash and the harder it is to find.

The second type of treasure hunting is working with military-archaeological treasures: searching for medals, orders and other valuables. Imagine, for example, that in Smolensk the Nazis are advancing at a rapid pace, and people leave in a hurry and grab only the most valuable things with them. But you can’t take a silver chandelier or expensive tableware with you, so they hide it – it becomes a treasure trove.

The third type of search is modern urban prospecting. Jewels can be found in sewers and city rivers. Once I used a search magnet to get a coin worth a million rubles out of the Yauza River. I also look for lost things. There are more than 10 million people living in Moscow. Once a year, one of them loses a small thing of value: a coin or an earring – it doesn’t matter. In two years, at least 20 million things are lost. Half of them, let’s say, are found, and half of them aren’t. And I know where to look for it all. Even if you and I just walk under the windows of a nine-story building without a metal detector, we’ll find a lot of stuff.

Or abandoned Khrushchev buildings, of which, by the way, there will soon be many because of renovation. They are full of vintage items, for example, a cut glass worth over 200 rubles. From one staircase I get out valuable things worth 15,000 roubles, from a house 60,000 roubles. In a month I can dip five five-storey houses – it turns out 300 thousand rubles. In such houses before me are usually broken into by “metal workers” who cut off the radiators, or dachshunds – outside the door to the country house. And I do other things.

You look for jewels under the baseboard or in the upholstered furniture. You pull apart the cushions of the sofa and put your hand in the gap. You should also pay attention to the red corner. Once I went in: I see that there are cardboard icons, and next to them – a candlestick covered with wax. I cleaned it up and there’s an inscription on it saying, “84th Sample, Khlebnikov. Don’t knock on the walls – it makes no sense.

And the fourth type of treasure hunting is “prospecting as it is”. That is, the search for ancient fossils, meteorites, gold nuggets and precious stones.

How to find a treasure

90% of treasures are in former settlements. I usually map out four or five locations in advance that I go to for reconnaissance to find traces of life. According to the old maps all the treasures have already been found, so I work according to my own system of selecting locations. In the middle belt of Russia people settled along rivers, so I look for near water.

Treasure-hunting season lasts until there is no snow, but in winter you can do other types of searching: attics and sewers do not depend on the weather. I find up to ten valuable finds a season. No matter how much your metal detector costs, the main thing is to find the right place. I find them by circumstantial signs. For example, I see a stream, then I look for high, but with a comfortable descent places, buried pits or clearings. Or walking through the woods – silence, the metal detector is silent – suddenly the signal – from what side? I look – next to traces of an old dam – I look in the map Schubert (military topographic map of the Russian Empire. – Ed.) – I understand that before there were roads approaching. I see fresh vegetation – near bricks and pottery – that’s it, I’m there.

I’m not giving away all my secrets, don’t torture me. I almost always find something, the question is in quantity: either a lot or a little – you can never guess in advance. I do not find only if I go out in the evening in the garden to wave a stick, but it is not a search. Yes, you can just go out of the Moscow Ring Road on any field and be sure to come across coins, buttons, horse harness and various objects of the cult.

Equipment for treasure hunting

The metal detector reacts to all non-ferrous metals and large iron objects, so it’s hard to find a place where it wouldn’t ring. If the signal is stable, powerful, ringing and repetitive – then you need to dig. Metal detectors are different: soil, depth, underwater, localizers and specialized. The latter are needed to find something specific, such as gold nuggets. A localizers are designed for pinpointing small treasures. An ordinary soil detector costs from 7 to 150 thousand rubles.

The average metal detector probes the ground to a depth of 45 centimeters – more and is not necessary: most treasures are at a distance of “half a bayonet shovel. The shovel should be stuck vertically, so as not to chop the find. If the signal is good, it is better to dig with a larger diameter. In general, if you are a novice treasure hunter and you found something, I advise you not to touch anything, and just make a mark and tell me the coordinates.

I do not appraise the treasure found – it is evaluated by the market. Each coin has a certain value. Naturally, coins need to be restored, and each metal needs its own way of cleaning – I do that professionally.

Where to begin

I found my first treasure – silver 50s of the NEP era – in the 90s somewhere in the attic in the backfill. In general, fascination with treasures began in my childhood, which I spent in Stupino district, Moscow region. Our house was part of the manor complex of Count Orlov – I lived in historical places and the atmosphere fostered my hobby. You go out of the house into the street: to the left is a mound, to the right is a settlement. I was a history fan, I was a member of the history study group in the Museum of Oriental History and of the Scythians and Sarmatians study group in the Historical Museum. Naturally, I was fond of literature, in which the heroes were searching for gold and treasure. I remember endlessly rereading the moment when the Count of Monte Cristo finds his treasure.

Ten meters from my house there was a creek that used to have a road beside it. My friends and I would often run to it after the rain to collect ancient coins that had been washed away by the water. We used to find a few at a time. Already at seven years old I had my own collection of seventeenth-century coins. I also liked to climb in the attics and basements of abandoned buildings.

My parents were very attentive to my searches, and my father himself told me what he found and where he found it. I remember I kept begging him to go treasure hunting together, and one day, when I was about six years old, we started digging under the wall of the manor house. My father said he had softer ground, and he called me to dig in a particular place. Soon I found a silver spoon wrapped in a white piece of paper. I never stopped looking, and when the first metal detectors appeared in Russia in the mid-90s, everything changed dramatically – there were more treasures. Wherever you go, you are the first everywhere, and this is very important in my activity. Treasures are not mushrooms, the next year new ones will not grow.

In those days, a man with a metal detector was perceived as Yuri Gagarin or Alla Pugacheva. To look at me, ran down half the village, and all offered to dig on their property: “We have over there barin hid the treasure, and there’s a priest buried the treasure. But they can’t find it themselves because it is impossible to do without a metal detector – just try to find a small coin in a 50×50 meter field.

When I went to visit my father-in-law at his place, I collected 100 big white coins with them. Half for them and half for me. Some of the villagers were making pennies out of the coins, and some were selling me their portion. Such coins with portraits of the tsars of the 18th century cost from 15 thousand rubles to 2 million each. I asked the residents: “For how much will give? They called the price – I paid. About the real cost I was not asked, and I did not say.

In the early ’90s, I often went to the nearest suburbs – at that time there were many abandoned houses and settlements. In the attics I would constantly find a barrel or cold steel. Back then you didn’t have to strain to find old things, hiding places, stashes, treasures.

In abandoned houses I work without a metal detector. The standard places for treasures are: under the floor, in the stove, in the attic and in the basement. People leave their houses and drop their stuff, thinking it’s junk. And it’s not junk, it’s vintage. Some things I keep, and some I sell – it gives a good income.

Treasure hunting in the law

In the Russian law on the theme of treasure hunting is all murky and unclear. By law, I can keep 50% of the value of the treasure, and 50% (if no other agreement) should give the owner of the land, on whose territory I found valuable things. If the land belongs to the state, then I must give it to the state. And if the treasure is of cultural and historical value, then 50% – to the state, and 25% – the owner and the treasure hunter.

In 2015, Russia passed a new incomprehensible law that severely limits my activities. Now any find that is more than 100 years old is considered part of the cultural layer, and it cannot be appropriated. Actually it is right that they banned digging on cultural monuments, but on the other hand, what damage will I do, and to whom, if I pick up a coin in an ordinary village near Moscow in an arable field? People walked in this field, there were festivities – someone lost a cross, someone lost a coin – these things are not necessary to archaeologists, everything is known about them.

But in general, my work has not been affected by all this, I work exclusively within the law. I am the only white treasure hunter in Russia, and I find all my treasures on my six acres outside the city. The land is 100% mine, I dig only on it, next to me there are always three witnesses. A what I said above, about the place near the river, and so on – I do not do it, it’s just advice to beginners.

Treasure hunting – it is not just a hobby, it also helps people to survive. For example, an average Russian family (Dad – the driver of the trolley bus, my mother – a nurse, and son) lives on 60 thousand rubles a month – money, of course, not enough. On weekends, instead of drinking vodka, they can go to nature with a barbecue, spinning and metal detector. Dad walked around, found some coins, then restored them and sold them. Several times a month we went on such a trip and already a kopeck dropped into the family budget. Those in power should develop the hobby by all means, not introduce new prohibitions. Let us also ban fishing or trips to the country house.

What a treasure hunter should be like

I like to walk around with a metal detector in nature and touch history. In addition, the search is a lottery, a constant excitement. The metal detector catches the signal and you don’t know what’s hidden under the ground: gold or cork. Luck is the main thing in my trade. God either gives or does not give. Though it is always those who seek that find. A treasure hunter must have a lot of knowledge in various fields: soil science, biology, sphragistics, numismatics, geography, history and so on.

A treasure hunter in Russia is a homeland-loving adventurer with an active lifestyle. Although everywhere, of course, there are nerds, and professional treasure hunters are few. The main mass of amateurs are tsokotushniki, from the word “fly tsokotukha”. They search the fields only for coins and other people’s jewelry. They are not interested in treasures, they can only find them by chance. I don’t go where others look. In 40 years, I have only met another treasure hunter three times.

More often than not, treasure hunters work in small groups, although I search alone. I, of course, have a partner who acts as a shovel – I pay him two bottles of beer. I don’t give him three. And he doesn’t have a chance to make money any other way. When you work in a group, you can’t be a sneak. Once a friend called me to dig, we searched and searched, then decided to have a snack – a campfire, gathered for a drink. And I was somewhat shocked when he pulled out his snout and began to chop in one snout, without even inviting me. This, of course, is not allowed among treasure hunters.

It is also desirable to discuss in advance how you will divide the treasure. Because when gold comes out of the ground, many people lose their loft. People become different – the baser feelings are awakened. I remember, in the 90’s, I was waving a stick on the beach in the Crimea – in one step I found silver or gold. Suddenly I see – someone walking towards me and looking for something in the ground with his eyes. I thought it was a competitor, so I started to run him over: “Why are you messing around here? Get out of here, this is my beach”. But it was just a bum picking up bottles.

My closest target was the treasure of a governor-general from some gold-bearing region, either Kolyma or Taymyr. A former owner of plants, newspapers, steamships – he hid a very large treasure in his estate 30 kilometers from my homeland and emigrated. When he left, his garden was cut down, his homestead was burned down. And then he came back to look for his treasure when he was older. He ran mad back and forth until he went crazy. He just couldn’t deal with the loss. I’ll find his treasure soon enough. And that’s how I knew the story – that’s my professional secret.