George Valdez keeps his eyes and ears open for treasure every time he steps outside his door.

 

"Wherever I go, I take my metal detector with me," Valdez said.

 

Originally from New Mexico, Valdez retired from his job at AGCO as a tool and die maker and now has more time to work in his shop. There, he fuses glass and bends metal to make decorative pieces and functional tools.

 

Valdez bought his first metal detector in 2001, initially seeing it as a fun hobby. When he had to have heart surgery 18 months ago, his doctor recommended he get more exercise and Valdez planned to do just that, with his metal detector in hand.

 

"If I'm finding coins, I walk a lot," Valdez said. "And then, you're swinging your arms and you get down and you dig."

 

A week before his surgery, his metal detector was stolen out of his garage and Valdez was forced to get a new one — a White's Spectra V3i.

 

"Nowadays, metal detectors are just computers," Valdez said. "They're not like they were a long time ago."

 

The metal detector came with wireless headphones, which emit a sound when the machine passes over a metal object.

 

"It creates a (magnetic) field and if that field is broken, it bounces back and tells you what the difference is," Valdez said.

 

Icons of coins pop up on the metal detector's screen when Valdez runs the instrument over the ground in which they are buried.

 

"It'll tell me if it's a quarter or a penny," Valdez said. "It'll tell me how deep it is and whether it's made out of copper or silver or gold."

 

Valdez uses his homemade shovels to dig out a plug of soil, so as not to damage the metal object — which is usually a coin, earring or can that once held food or a beverage.

 

"You never know what you're going to find," Valdez said. "I find toys sometimes."

 

Any object found by the metal detector is dug up; Valdez keeps the things worth saving and transfers other objects to the appropriate waste bins, carefully replacing the plug of dirt.

 

"You've got to do that," Valdez said. "You can't just dig up a can and just leave it — you've got to take it with you."

 

Making regular sweeps through Newton and Harvey County parks, Valdez will often find loose change that visitors have dropped.

 

"Whenever people go picnicking or kids run around, they always lose coins," Valdez said. "Usually, I find coins that people have just recently lost. I haven't found too many old coins. ...Usually, I find what people lost during the weekend."

 

All of the coins he does find are donated to Caring Hands Humane Society.

 

"I have a lot of pennies," Valdez said. "I didn't know what to do with all those coins, so I thought I'd just give them to the Humane Society."

 

His metal detector also came in handy when Valdez heard on a police scanner that an officer needed one to find a set of keys that had been thrown from the window of a vehicle.

 

"I went out there and found them," Valdez said.

 

Not all of his treasure hunts are limited to the land.

 

"When I can't find someplace to go and I've been through the parks, then I'll go to the lake and magnet fish," Valdez said.

 

Valdez ties a magnet that will tow up to 250 pounds to a 30-foot ski rope.

 

"I go to the docks and I toss it out in the water," Valdez said. "A lot of people lose stuff in the water, too. I've found a lot of pocketknives, tools, fishing poles and lawn chairs."

 

As with other objects, he will clean up what he can and sometimes gives a child standing on the lakeshore without a fishing pole in their hand one of their own.

 

"I don't do it because I'm trying to get rich off of this, I do it because I need the exercise and it's fun," Valdez said. "It's like opening a present — you don't know what you're going to find."

 

Valdez can be contacted for metal detecting services by calling 316-500-6470 or emailing newkan@msn.com.