You’ve probably seen the enthusiastic bottle digging video on Reddit or Facebook, but if you haven’t, here it is:
His New England accent is charming, and his love of historical finds is so infectious it makes you want to run out and start digging holes just for fun. We were lucky enough to interview Bill Ladd, Treasure Hunter, on his hobby, videos, and his plans for the future.
You have been making videos for years, but this particular one sparked people’s interest because you were so enthusiastic. People want to know why you got so excited this time?
That’s easy. If you watch the beginning, we discovered the dump that morning and had just begun opening it up. It had been years since we had access to a productive bottle dump, because we were doing mainly metal detecting. There were some cool pieces on top of the ground so we were hopeful, but really had no clue what was under our feet. With a new site you never know. Was it already dug? Are all the bottles broken? Does the dump have any depth? This one had depth, and it was quickly apparent as the whole bottles started rolling out, that this site had never been dug, was huge, and was going to produce. Also, the bottles were all hand-blown so it was exciting. As folks commented on the video, ‘it was like kids at Christmas’, and bottles such as historical flasks can be worth thousands! The “excitement” we are known for comes through Howard (beard guy). He’s super enthusiastic about every find and he gets me going. Sometimes it’s like we are having a contest to see who can find the best one and yell the loudest.
Your videos make it seem like the ground New England is literally covered with awesome stuff to find. Are you just lucky or is it really that easy to find relics?
It takes some luck, but, we each have years of experience. I got hooked at an early age. Over time you learn to read the land, learn how to research old places. It’s actually very hard to find sites nowadays and most beginners can’t understand our success. Golf courses and new neighborhoods have covered up alotta sites. But our love of history and treasure hunting drives us to locate new sites with crazy persistence. We do alotta hiking and exploring to find new sites. Also, you need to not be afraid to approach landowners for permission if they own an old house, too. Those pesky Archaeologists hate us, so private property is the way to go.
I particularly liked the videos with Emma as she grew. Is this a hobby that you share with your family?
I always pictured a son or daughter joining me on digs, since I have made a name for myself and dig most every weekend. I would never force Emma to go, but she’s funny and now she’s five and asks to join us. She has her own little metal detector and everything. In fact, the last time she went, she found a Virginia Civil War button and I found junk. That was the best find of the day, and I filmed it and should put that on YouTube. I think it’s good to teach kids about history at an early age.
How did you get started in bottle digging? Is this a popular hobby in New England?
I watched my dad and aunt digging bottle dumps when I was six, so it’s in my blood. Then my grandfather got a metal detector, and I loved going to old parks digging silver coins out of the ground as a kid. What young boy doesn’t dream of digging up treasure? New England has lots of history going back to Colonial days, so yes, bottle digging is fairly popular. Metal detecting is far more popular, probably because productive dumps are hard to come by now. Many were dug out in the 70s. That explains why we get so pumped when we get into a good site that’s producing for us.
So, if I wanted to get into that, what’s the best metal detector money can buy?
I’m very lucky to have made a name for myself in metal detecting and I’m sponsored by a couple different brands that I like, Garrett and Fisher. I think they are the best, but there are other brands that sell $5000 detectors that I have never tried. I did try ground penetrating radar recently and that’s probably the future of the hobby. Kinda like getting an X-ray of what’s in the soil.
What do you do with the bottles, and how much are they worth? Also, it seems as though writing on the bottles makes them cooler, why is that?
We clean the best ones. I have a blue kitchen, and my best cobalt ones are in my kitchen window. We trade duplicates with each other. Lots of folks just like colored bottles for window decoration. Yes, the words are called “embossing” and they are most desirable. Plain ones we just rebury as they are worth less than a buck. All the bottles in our videos that we keep are at least $5 and up after cleaning and if they have no chips or cracks. So, we are by no means getting rich, but we are having a ball and building nice collections. But there’s always the dream that a bottle worth thousands could be under our feet. I recently dug a broken flask made in Stoddard, NH. that if whole would have been over $30k easy!!
Do you plan on making more videos like this infamous one?
We have hundreds of hours of footage filmed. Probably some funnier than that one. We film most every dig, so yeah there’s always more to come. A newer one, “Blob Top Madness” I think is even more funny and we really ham it up. We have two DVDs for sale on eBay and we are working on a DVD on just bottle digging. We are flattered that the video kinda went viral, and that someone would take the time to animate us and leave so many flattering comments.
What is your dream dig? Is there some place in the world you would like to travel?
I have already detected in England which was unbelievable, digging 2000-year-old Roman coins like we dig loose change here. I dug an axe from the Bronze Age which was a thrill. Anywhere overseas would be awesome. I’ve thought about all the WWII stuff in Europe to be found. We also have a cult following in Australia via YouTube so we’d love to hunt there as well.
What is your day job, and would you like this to be a full time gig?
Of course, who wouldn’t like to turn a fun hobby into a career. Especially since Howard is a janitor and I work in a warehouse. If all goes well and we make it on TV we can quit those jobs. That’s kinda the goal and the dream for sure. They say only 10% of the population loves their job, and we love weekends so we can dig. Probably another reason for our childish enthusiasm.
So, you have a project in the works?
I was told it was supposed to be confidential, so I will keep the network and name of the show secret, but, there was an official announcement online recently. We were “discovered” by an LA-based producer who was looking on YouTube for a possible treasure hunting show. He saw us, and specifically that infamous bottle video made him laugh. He wanted me and my enthusiastic sidekick Howard (beard guy). He made us a five-minute “sizzle reel” or demo, and a production company liked us enough to shop it to the networks. We got signed, so hopefully you might see us going nuts and screaming on the big screen someday, if all goes well.
That is awesome news, and we truly wish you all the best. We are so glad you answered our questions for us, Bill!
Please subscribe to Bill’s Youtube channel, check out his videos on eBay, and stay tuned for his upcoming television show.