What child hasn’t dreamed of finding a buried treasure? Of following the line on some ancient map to find a treasure chest full of gold? It turns out there is treasure all around us and no map is needed.
Kip Davis is the City Manager of Augusta by day and a treasure hunter by night, weekend and lunch hour. His need to find shiny things has him out with his metal detector nearly every day.
Davis credits his mom for his love of history. His mother was a history buff and would often teach him Native American history as a child. They would visit local Indian mounds and areas where local tribes were known to gather. He began looking for arrowheads and often found shells, marbles and old jars and bottles as well. Davis’ mother would take the treasures home and display them around their house.
Davis grew up looking for shiny things on the ground. It became a habit and he was always finding interesting things just by looking. He often jokes that he has a “disorder” of some sort. He sees things on the ground and has to pick them up.
In the early 1980s, he transitioned into metal detecting. Davis’ father purchased a metal detector from the Sears WishBook and purchased a smaller one for Kip to use. This small gift quickly brought out a new passion and to this day Kip does his best to get out and detect every day, even if it is only for 10-15 minutes.
Over the years, he has collected thousands of pieces of treasure, most of which still go to his mother to be displayed around her home. He finds lots of coins and mundane things but has also found jewelry pieces and a few objects that could be worth something to the right person. Still, Davis isn’t trying to make a buck off his detecting, he’s looking for history, stories, and a few minutes outdoors.
About his treasures, Kip says, “You can tell what people did and where they gathered. You’re looking into their lives for just a bit.”
Davis likes to detect in historic places or places where there was known activity such as Civil War trails or old swimming holes. Local parks and the river banks are also favorite locations. If people were there, there will be something to find.
Davis recently made a “bucket list” find. He found a 14k gold ring with a 22k gold coin in it. He mentioned that most detectors hope to find gold coins in their hunts.
One of Davis’ favorite finds came from Rainey Park in McCrory. The park is built around an old home place and he unearthed something that came from Hot Springs. He could tell it was some kind of name badge that looked to be made of brass. He cleaned it up and was able to read the inscription which said “Hot Springs Bathes the World.” Although he has no interest in selling the one he found, he has discovered similar pieces on Ebay for upward of $500. He has also discovered saloon tokens from Hot Springs.
Davis said one of the most interesting pieces he has found was a Mobile, Alabama Transit token from the 1920s. He found the token on a Woodruff County football field which left him asking himself how and why it was there.
Arkansas rivers have a rich trade history and although modern inventions have moved much of our trade to other means of transportation, the river was vital in Arkansas’ early days. The amount of traffic that moved up and down the rivers means that there were a lot of people and where people gather, there are treasures.
Kip Davis read about magnet fishing in the UK. It is quite popular there and he was interested in giving it a try. Magnet fishing uses a high-powered magnet with a 250lb pull. He can tie the magnet to a rope and drag it through ponds and rivers. If there is something metal below the surface it will stick to the magnet. Since he lives and works near the river, Davis has enjoyed adding magnet fishing to his treasure hunting tool belt.
Kip Davis intends to continue his treasure hunting for as long as he can and intends to continue supplying decor for his mother’s house. He regularly posts his finds on his Facebook page and when he is able to dig up history about an item he will post that as well.
All photos provided by Kip Davis