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08-25-03: He's on the hunt in Coldwater
    COLDWATER - Ray Eyanson adjusted his headset then slowly swung the long arm of his metal detector back and forth as a screeching noise broke the silence.
    Then he got that look in his eye.
    He laid the aging equipment - a 16-year-old Garrett AT3 - on the ground, slowly bent down with trowel in hand and began to dig a small hole in the soft mud of Coldwater Memorial Park.
    "Ahh, it's just a penny," said the 65-year-old Ohio City resident as he dropped the coin next to others inside the blue- and white-striped apron tied around his waist.
    Pocket change, rings, watches, that's what he and his wife have collected for more than 20 years while scanning God's green (and sometimes muddy) earth in Mercer, Auglaize and Van Wert counties following festivals and fairs.
    On Thursday, he patiently scanned the park where hundreds of people gathered in ankle-deep mud just three weeks ago for the community picnic.
    "We were here the last day of the festival and there was so much mud we knew we'd have to wait for it to dry," he said. "Plenty of people have been out here before us now."
    Eyanson, a retired U.S. Army career man, and his wife of Korean descent, Bun Sun, are part of a league of treasure hunters that swarm to parks, football fields and county fairs - anywhere large crowds of people gather and unknowingly leave bits of themselves behind.
    Finding a cache, a term used by treasure hunters for any type of concealed treasure, makes hours worth of searching worthwhile, Eyanson said. And when he's hunting more than coins, he gets out his newer model, a GTI2500. It's a graphic imager that can identify the nature of the find and indicate how far down it's buried, he said.
    Within two hours of his arrival at the park, he had confiscated more than $10 worth of coins, he said. He never makes more than a small divot in the ground, he said, and always refills his holes to appease.
    He claims he's never found anything more exciting than a silver dollar and has no idea how much change he's pocketed over the decades.
    "Once I found an old silver cigarette case but it was mashed up and not really worth anything," he added.
    Eyanson said he frequently runs into other "bounty hunters" who, like him, enjoy the hunt as a hobby. Most are pleasant and helpful but some can be competitive, he said.
    "Sometimes others will point you in a direction where they previously had luck. Or that's what they say at least," he chuckled. "You can't be possessive when you're doing this. It's not like we own the ground we're standing on."
    Eyanson said he routinely asks property owners, whether it's private property or publicly-owned, for permission before strapping on his bulky arm mount and gloves. Sometimes he's refused entry, and he takes it in stride.
    "We usually hit the fairs but they've been skimpier lately. People who work the grounds clean up their own areas and some of them have metal detectors, too," he explained. "But it's still good hunting around the rides."
    Eyanson wears a green knee pad on one leg to avoid injury when he must stoop down on the hard ground.
    "Those pennies ... ," he said, cursing their frequent appearance. "They give you plenty of exercise."
    He and his wife like to take their time and look around, he said, his blue cap shielding his face from the hot sun.
    "It's the thrill that keeps me doing this," he said. "I'm sort of a keeper, not a collector, and someday the stuff I find will end up with my grandchildren or a nice garage sale."


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