WASHINGTON, Iowa — A metal detecting enthusiast’s most treasured find — which has been stowed away inside a safe for the past four years — soon will be on display for all to see.
Mick Wade of Washington began metal detecting in the 1980s but eventually took a break after getting discouraged about not finding anything good.
A few years ago, he picked up the hobby again and his luck soon changed. In March 2015, he found a wedding band belonging to prominent 19th-century Washington resident Clara Conger.
Clara was the daughter of Jonathon Conger, who lived at what now is the Conger House Museum in Washington.
Wade discovered the piece of history while searching the far corners of the Washington County Fairgrounds.
“Back at the turn of the century there was a horse-racing track back there, and that’s where I found the ring,” he said.
When he first pulled the ring from the ground, he brushed it off and saw the initials and wedding date of 1872 inside. He took it to Jo Greiner, county recorder at the Washington County Courthouse, to see whether she could help him trace the owner.
At first she said she wasn’t sure she could help, but she called back 30 minutes later.
“She said, ‘Well, Mick, I think I found it,’ ” Wade recalled.
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Greiner had been able to find a wedding date that matched up with the initials after looking through court records.
“She says, ‘You won’t believe who it is,’ ” Wade recalled.
Soon after finding out about the ring’s prominent owner, Wade took it to be appraised. He found out it was worth about $150 in gold. He decided to hang on to it because he felt the historic value was much higher.
“This is actually a part of history,” he said. “It means more to me to be out and viewed by somebody or so people can see it. There’s no monetary value any other way as far as I see it.”
Through his years of metal detecting, Wade has found a variety of items with historical value. Some of his favorites are coins dating to the 1800s, a 1931 University of Iowa letterman’s football pin and an award from Desert Storm.
“It takes a lot of practice,” he said. “I’ve spent the time where you get disappointed and it ends up getting put in the closet and you forget about it, but now that I’m retired, I have more time to do it.”
To ensure that the ring won’t be forgotten, Wade has removed it from his safe and placed it in a shadowbox, along with a copy of Clara Conger’s marriage certificate. He isn’t sure yet where the display will end up. He’s in talks with a few banks to see whether they would be interested because he wants to make sure it’s in a secure building. But regardless of where it ends up, he’s happy to be sharing his find with the public.
“It means more to me that it’s still in one piece and people can see it,” he said.