SEA BRIGHT: STORM-TOSSED TREASURES

Frank Torock scanning the beach in Sea Bright for hidden metal last month. (Photos by Dan Natale. Click to enlarge)

By DAN NATALE

The beaches of Sea Bright have been given a makeover in more ways than one since Hurricane Sandy. The shift in landscape has attracted a fresh raft of hobbyists.

They’re hard to miss: walking slowly, heads down, sweeping metal detectors over the sand in the hopes of finding some storm-churned treasure.

Interest in the hobby has soared in recent months, according to Alan Placer, owner of Red Bank’s Hobbymasters. He said he’s seen a rough average of seven to ten people a week coming in to buy metal detecting equipment. And some of them have returned with valuable finds, such as gold coins and jewelry, he said.

At the same time, the profile of the hobby has been getting a facelift, Placer said, with the community of metal detectors beginning to shift from retirees to young families.

redbankgreen recently ran into a father-and-son metal-detecting duo who bought detectors in response to the Jersey shore gold rush.

“No we didn’t strike gold, but we’ve thought about it since Superstorm Sandy,” said Rumson’s John Maldjian, accompanied by his son Alex. “We thought it would be a good time to get a metal detector because it turned up a lot of things.”

Alex added that they found a lot of nails, and even a hammer to go with them.

Although more families like the Maldjians have been getting into the hobby, the crusty old salts more commonly associated with the pursuit are still intact. A Pennsylvanian, Frank Torok, out scanning for metal with a friend along the Sea Bright shore, said he traveled here for the potential for awesome finds.

The camo-clad treasure hunter said a lot metal detectors, inspired by television shows Diggers on National Geographic and American Diggers on Spike TV, have been flocking to this area to look for artifacts from a boardwalk built in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

“I like it a lot for the history,” said Torok. “Where I am [in Pennsylvania], we’re on an old camp site. Right before the Civil War, they had these big celebrations out in the woods up on a mountain. We go back there and we find Civil War relics, just old stuff. I have an old breast plate. My son found an old cap badge just yesterday. I mean, that’s history.”

Torok says that it is this thirst for history, and not monetary gain, that has kept him interested in this pasttime. He says that archaeologists, fondly known in the metal detecting community as “archys” (pronounced ark-ees) like to disparage metal detectors for “stealing shit,” which he says couldn’t be further from the truth. “It’s more about collecting than it is about buying or selling anything for scrap,” he said.

Torok’s trip to the shore only yielded a zinc penny, but he said he’s found a copper spearhead that was likely made by Native Americans when they were trading with the settlers.