Former NL cop digging through backyards
New London - George Potts of New London is “saving the past one yard at a time.”
It’s the motto of Three Cs Metal Detecting, a company Potts started a few years back to serve as an outlet for his passion of digging up hidden treasures in backyards around the city. The three Cs is named after his kids: Carly, Cole and Cayley.
He doesn’t actually make money with the business. That’s not the point, Potts said. Instead, it’s the thrill of the hunt and the uncovering of bits of the city’s history. Potts can also be called on to help find lost items. He recalls finding a wedding ring for a homeowner and the time he reunited a high school senior who lost his gold chain given to him by his grandfather and blessed by a bishop.
“When I found that kids gold chain he almost attacked me he was so excited,” Potts said.
He also has discovered scores of coins - some dating back to early colonial days. He said finds like the 1787 Connecticut Copper make you think about local history, another one of his passions. Colonies had their own coins before there was a national bank, Potts explained. He found the coin in the backyard of his parents home and because he didn’t have his glasses on, threw it in his pocket thinking it was a quarter. It wasn’t until he got home that he discovered it was a rare find.
“Think about it. My parent’s house was built in 1996. Someone dropped this some 230 years ago and here comes George Potts with a metal detector in 2019. The last person that held this might have been a colonist. It makes you think what was here. This is the stuff that fascinates me,” Potts said.
Among his treasury of finds is a thimble he dug up on upper Vauxhall Street dating back to the 1800, dog tags from the turn of the century and British coins from as early as 1730.
“I’m not into finding jewelry or anything for myself. I do it more for the historic value. I started off in my own yard and starting finding some neat stuff. That’s what really got me going,” he said.
Potts, a married father of three, who retired as a lieutenant from the New London Police Department after 25 years of service, is as deeply passionate about city history as he is with his metal detecting. He was born and raised in the city and his family has roots in law enforcement in the city dating back to the 1940s.
Potts, following his retirement from New London, went on to serve as captain, deputy chief and interim Chief at the Mashantucket Tribal Police Department.
These days, he serves as the director of campus safety at Mitchell College and as a part-time police officer in Groton Long Point.
And when he’s not snooping through yards and waving his detector along the beach, he’s teaching an introduction to metal detecting class for New London Adult Education.
The classes started filling up as soon as the class was announced, Potts said. People started showing up with some expensive metal detectors without the knowledge of the settings and techniques needed to get the right results.
“If it was just a matter of turning it on and going out, you’d have everyone going out and finding coins,” Potts said.
Potts said he’s started renting out metal detectors - good ones can cost up to $500 or $600, to help people get started with the hobby without it being cost prohibitive.
Potts is a member of the Brooklyn-based Awesome Relics New England, which meets at the Brooklyn Fairgrounds to share finds. Potts said he is on the verge of starting a new club in the city, but is still firming up the details. He said the good thing about the metal detecting community is there is more camaraderie than competition.
Potts’ enthusiasm is catchy. New London Fire Chief Tom Curcio, who lives a short distance from Potts caught the bug a few years ago and turned to Potts for some pointers after turning up a steady stream of bottle caps, nails and “junk.”
Curcio saw Potts’ posts on Facebook and hooked up with him. They now go out together on a regular basis.
“I just find it very relaxing. I have a good time,” Curcio said.
Curcio jokingly said he’s suspicious of Potts’ “good luck” and suspects he has a family member go out and plant items before they go out together. Potts, laughing, denies the allegation.