Joe Torrence’s hobby involves moving at something less than turtle speed with his head down and a large pair of headphones covering his ears.


It’s relaxing and therapeutic, especially given his occupation, says Torrence, a Middletown resident who drives a taxicab five days a week. But the real appeal, he says with eyes-wide enthusiasm, is “the anticipation. You never know what you’re going to find.”

OK, so most of what he does find is not likely to cause much of a blip on the average person’s radar.

Soda cans, old buttons, a coin here or there. “I have been known to get a 1973 Kennedy half dollar, perfectly horizontal, 11 inches down,” says Joe. “If you get a good signal, you’d better dig.”

But a member of a club to which he belongs, the Deep Search Metal Detecting Club, based in East Brunswick, (“Tip of the day:
Keep your coil close to the ground and level through the entire swing”)
once found a $12,000 ring on a beach in Atlantic City.

Joe’s biggest find in dollar terms was an old school ring, worth maybe $75, tops. But his most treasured find is an 1876 “seated Liberty” quarter, unearthed in an empty lot in Keansburg that’s now the site of two homes.


Many of Torrences cohorts ply their hobby on beaches, but he prefers the urban landscapes of recent tear-downs, which may offer the detritus from a century or more’s former habitation. redbankgreen came across Joe over the weekend in an empty lot at the corner of East Front and Washington Streets, opposite Riverview Medical Center, where an old house was demolished some months ago.

Tracts like this, Torrence says, are “time-sensitive.” Before long, he says, something else will likely be built on the site, and the chance to experience the thrill of finding a connection to the lost past the will itself be irretrievably lost.

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