BELOIT — Sometimes the treasure hunt isn’t about the treasure at all and it’s more about the quality time spent with loved ones along the way on the adventure.
That’s how Ryan Sullivan and his father Terry Sullivan described their passion for metal detecting.
Ryan introduced his dad to the unique hobby nearly six years ago and they’ve been scouring the Stateline Area for treasures lost to the annals of time ever since.
“It’s more so about the journey and the adventure than anything else,” Ryan 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 father-son duo each keep small collections of items recovered from various metal detecting digs, including: 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.
The pair are equipped with state-of-the-art metal detectors that are lightweight and capable of working for long hours before running out of battery. 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, they both know where to look for finding unique 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 make a strong commitment to restore the areas in which they dig when their detector makes a hit.
“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 don’t even come on public land, with the pair commonly getting permission from private land owners to detect properties.
“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.”
One sure unique dig came when Ryan found an entire treasure trove of antique silver dollars buried in a yard in Rockford. Any time something is found on private property, the pair will contact the owner to offer their goods before keeping it themselves. 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 come use their expertise to find a lost set of keys.
“I helped someone find their keys that they lost in a few inches of snow,” Ryan said.
On their bucket list the pair said they would like to visit multiple countries in Europe to get a chance to dig up some truly 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.”
The Sullivans said Stateline Area residents who would like to have them conduct detecting on their land can reach out by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.