Largest Treasure Horde Ever Found in North America
The California couple who stumbled on what may be the most valuable cache of gold coins ever found in North America while on their daily walk were so taken aback that they reburied them in an old ice chest until they could figure out their next step.
That was the story relayed by John and Mary in an interview transcript posted by the numismatic firm Kagin’s Inc., which is representing the couple and keeping their identities confidential.
The pair had walked the path on their Gold Country property for years before they spotted the edge of a rusty can peeking out of the moss in the shadow of an old tree last February, they told Kagin’s. When they cracked the lid off with a nearby stick, they found dirt-encrusted coins. All together, there were eight cans filled with coins beneath the surface.
The face value of the coins were $28,000. If the coins were melted down, the gold alone would be worth $2 million, said David Hall, co-founder of Professional Coin
Grading Services in Newport Beach, who recently
authenticated the coins.
On the market, however, the “Saddle Ridge Hoard,” named for the space on the couple’s property, may be the most valuable treasure cache ever found in North America, with an estimated value of more than $10 million.
Most of the coins are $20 gold pieces, known as double eagles. All of those were made at the San Francisco mint, founded in 1854 to process the nuggets that prospectors were finding in the newly discovered California gold fields.
But at least one of the coins came from a much earlier bonanza—a rare $5 piece known as a Dahlonega half eagle. That’s Dahlonega, Georgia.
The couple said that when they realized what they had found, they dug a hole in their wood pile, placed the rare and perfectly preserved 1,400 coins in bags and boxes in an old ice chest and buried them again.
“I looked around over my shoulder to see if someone was looking at me — I had the idea of someone on horseback in my head. It’s impossible to describe really, the strange reality of that moment,” John said in the interview.
All dated between 1847 and 1894, 13 of the coins are the finest of their kind. One “miraculous coin,” an 1866 $20 piece made in San Francisco and missing “In God We Trust,” could bring $1 million on its own, Hall said. When the motto was added to the coin in 1866, some were still minted without the phrase, he said.
Had the couple attempted to clean the delicate surface of the piece, they could have reduced the value to $7,000 or $8,000 in under a minute, said David McCarthy, senior numismatist for Kagin’s, who evaluated the hoard.
“A lot of people see stuff like this and all they see are dollar signs,” McCarthy said. ”If I got to bestow these treasures on people, I would do that on this family without even blinking an eye.”
“John and Mary,” who prefer to remain anonymous and their property location undisclosed, said they plan to keep some of the coins and sell others on Amazon.com with the intention of donating part of the proceeds to charity.
More important, they said, they will use the money to pay the steep taxes expected to be levied on the find and to hold on to their home. They did not explain further.
“Whatever answers you seek, they might be right at home,” Mary said. “The answer to our difficulties was right there under our feet for years.”
The bigger mystery remains, however, as to who the original owner of the cash stash was– and why he let $10 million of cold hard gold slip from his fingers and go buried and forgotten for over a hundred years.
* * * * * * * * *