WELLSVILLE - Mark Kireta doesn't so much dig for buried treasure as scan for it.
Just below the surface, often less than six inches deep, is treasure that, two years ago, Kireta could not have imagined was there.
"It just freaks me out-all this stuff that people are walking over," he said with a chuckle.
Kireta, 45, of Wellsville, just started metal detecting two years ago, and he recently came across an item that he wants to return to the rightful owner. It is a World War II-era dog tag bearing the name Howard H. Lucas.
Also on the dog tag is Lucas' Social Security number, the mark "T44," indicating the year he received his tetanus shot, the letter "P" for Protestant, and the letter "A," indicating his blood type.
Kireta said the dog tag, which he found near his house on Chester Avenue in Wellsville, is one of the most personal items he's uncovered, so he hopes a family member can claim it.
A maintenance employee at the Homer Laughlin China Co., Kireta said he first got interested in the hobby after he and his nephew found a metal detector at a yard sale for $10. Since then, he has upgraded his equipment several times.
His go-to detector is a Tesoro Silver uMax, while his best one is a Minelab CTX 3030.
Kireta said he enjoys metal detecting in Wellsville, mostly on private property where he gets permission and on Riverside Avenue.
"The tri-state area is so historic because the Ohio River is such a major waterway. People dropped things all the time, and I'm finding them," he said. "There's a lot of history around here, for sure."
Kireta also regularly looks for treasures at the Camp Fire USA camp off Echo Dell Road, Thompson Park, the Gretchen's Lock area of Beaver Creek State Park, and elsewhere in the state park. In addition, he's gone metal detecting in New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The most valuable thing he's found is an 18-karat gold cross necklace and chain, located on the beach in Atlantic City, N.J. The most unusual thing he's found is a Civil War-era crossed sabers hat pin, discovered in Virginia.
"You find the weirdest things," he said.
Kireta also has found innumerable coins, including an 1842 penny and an 1814 half dollar, an antique woman's makeup compact, a Dick Tracy ring, a safe deposit box key from Canton, Ohio, religious medallions, tokens and musket balls.
"What amazes me is some coins come up in such good condition," Kireta said, noting that his oldest coin dates back to 1762.
One item of curiosity, found near his house, is a small piece of metal bearing the name M.R. Shingler and the words "Jeweler Optician, Wellsville, Ohio."
Kireta said he also finds a lot of junk, but it's worth it to find the occasional treasure. "This hobby takes a lot of patience. That's why so many people give up," he said. "I just can't get enough of it."