Metal detector operator extraordinaire finds local treasures

By Chip Kirkpatrick
April 7, 2021

Editor’s Note: Local resident Chip Kirkpatrick a metal detector operator extraordinaire and history buff to boot, has found some amazing treasures on and off Amelia Island.  Chip is well connected to a number of experts who help him identify some of the interesting and unusual artifacts he has uncovered.  Today, we share with you just two of his unique finds.

If you have lost an item, or if you wish to have your property scoured for treasure at no charge, Chip can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 904 868-9168. We thank Chip for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.

” . . . , a chunk of rusty metal turned out to be a pistol, a sliver of odd-looking copper is actually a Spanish coin from the 1500s, and so on.”


The stages of discovery of an old pocketwatch uncovered by Chip Kirkpatrick in downtown Fernandina Beach.

I found this pocket watch buried near the road just outside of the downtown Fernandina area. It was buried over a foot deep and was covered with heavy black soil.  Initially, I thought it was a big heavy washer. But when I cleaned away some of the dirt I saw the white porcelain face of a pocket watch and saw there were sparkling green markers indicating the hours.

I wrapped it in a towel and took it to the Maritime Museum and showed it to Billy Taylor.  He took it into a workshop and cleaned and examined it. He then informed me the markers are emeralds and are outlined in gold. Also, the minute marks were small dots of gold.  As Billy said, “Somebody was sad to have lost it!”

Because of the depth in which it was found,  I came to believe it was possibly hidden, instead of lost, by someone who stole it and didn’t want to be caught or someone who tried to prevent it from being stolen.


“Sometimes the good items look like trash.” This President Harding commemorative piece was saved by Chip Kirkpatrick double-checking each item found.

One thing I have learned to do after metal detecting is to carefully double-check EVERY item I retrieve because sometimes the good items look like the trash.

I will remove ALL of the metallic objects I uncover, haul them away to my house where I have a number of barrels to receive the metals. Everything is sorted by composition so all of the aluminum goes in a barrel, copper into another, etc, and once a year it is taken to the recycling center. But double-checking has resulted in some surprising and shocking discoveries. As example, a chunk of rusty metal turned out to be a pistol, a sliver of odd-looking copper is actually a Spanish coin from the 1500s, and so on.

Well a year ago I uncovered an item that rang up on my detector like a piece of silver. Instead, it appeared to be a folded-up piece of aluminum foil like the wrapper around a piece of Juicy Fruit gum. I tossed it into my trash bucket.

At home, I examined the obvious trash but saw an American flag embossed on the end. Carefully I unfolded it and found it was actually silver foil and there were American flags on both ends. In the center was the bust of a man and PRESIDENT HARDING was stamped over his head and a wreath encircled him. It is 2”x4”.

I couldn’t find any information on it, so I sent pictures to the Harding Museum. They reported back they had never seen anything like it but the presence of the wreath indicated it was a commemorative done after his death in 1921. I am currently discussing donating the piece to the Harding Museum. I also submitted my discovery to a national metal detecting competition sponsored by Garrett Metal Detectors and it won first prize.

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