Sometimes the treasure hunt isn’t about the treasure at all but rather the quality time spent with loved ones along the way.
That’s how Ryan Sullivan and his father, Terry Sullivan, describe their passion for metal detecting.
Ryan introduced his dad to the hobby nearly six years ago, and they’ve been scouring the stateline area for buried treasure ever since.
“It’s more so about the journey and the adventure than anything else,” he said. “We’re not in it looking to get rich. We find all sorts of things that don’t have too much value outside of what we find to be interesting.”
The two men each keep small collections of items found on various metal-detecting digs: antique toys, out-of-production and rare coins, old animal dog tags and jewelry.
“There’s just something special about the hunt and getting to know certain tones and what to look out for,” Terry said.
They use state-of-the-art metal detectors that are lightweight and capable of working for long hours before the batteries run down.
Ryan is a real estate broker in the Loves Park, Illinois, area, and with his knowledge of the stateline area and his dad’s ties to Rockton, Illinois, they both know where to find promising dig sites.
Permitting varies from state to state and even city to city, so they carefully check local ordinances before digging on public land. They also commit to restoring the areas where they find things.
“We want to leave the area we were in better than we found it,” Ryan said. “We want to be able to show people that this is a hobby that isn’t destructive in any way. We replace everything and want to make sure the hobby goes on for the people that come after us.”
Some of the most interesting finds occur on private property, and it’s not unusual for the men to get permission from private landowners to scour their acreage.
“We like to find older properties—properties that are over 100 years old,” Terry said. “That’s where you find some of the really unique things.”
Ryan once found a treasure trove of antique silver dollars buried in a yard in Rockford, Illinois. Any time they uncover something on private property, they contact the property owner and offer to surrender it. In the case of the silver stash, Ryan was able to keep the antique coins and has them carefully preserved in a coin collector book.
Sometimes they get calls asking to help someone find lost keys.
“I helped someone find their keys that they lost in a few inches of snow,” Ryan said.
On their bucket list is a visit to European countries for the chance to dig up ancient history.
“We think about things being old here that are 300 years old in North America,” Terry said. “Over there, you see things that are over 1,000 years old, and some of the finds are just incredible.”