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Pots of gold coins found buried valued at $10 million

By John Rogers

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:21 a.m. HST, Feb 26, 2014

LOS ANGELES >> A Northern California couple out walking their dog on their Gold Country property stumbled across a modern-day bonanza: $10 million in rare, mint-condition gold coins buried in the shadow of an old tree.

Nearly all of the 1,427 coins, dating from 1847 to 1894, are in uncirculated, mint condition, said David Hall, co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Service of Santa Ana, which recently authenticated them. Although the face value of the gold pieces only adds up to about $27,000, some of them are so rare that coin experts say they could fetch nearly $1 million apiece.

"I don't like to say once-in-a-lifetime for anything, but you don't get an opportunity to handle this kind of material, a treasure like this, ever," said veteran numismatist Don Kagin, who is representing the finders. "It's like they found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

Kagin, whose family has been in the rare-coin business for 81 years, would say little about the couple other than that they are husband and wife, are middle-aged and have lived for several years on the rural property where the coins were found. They have no idea who put them there, he said.

The pair are choosing to remain anonymous, Kagin said, in part to avoid a renewed gold rush to their property by modern-day prospectors armed with metal detectors.

They also don't want to be treated any differently, said David McCarthy, chief numismatist for Kagin Inc. of Tiburon.

"Their concern was this would change the way everyone else would look at them, and they're pretty happy with the lifestyle they have today," he said.

They plan to put most of the coins up for sale through Amazon while holding onto a few keepsakes. They'll use the money to pay off bills and quietly donate to local charities, Kagin said.

Before they sell them, they are loaning some to the American Numismatic Association for its National Money Show, which opens Thursday in Atlanta.

What makes their find particularly valuable, McCarthy said, is that almost all of the coins are in near-perfect condition. That means that whoever put them into the ground likely socked them away as soon as they were put into circulation.

Because paper money was illegal in California until the 1870s, he added, it's extremely rare to find any coins from before that of such high quality.

"It wasn't really until the 1880s that you start seeing coins struck in California that were kept in real high grades of preservation," he said.

The coins, in $5, $10 and $20 denominations, were stored more or less in chronological order, McCarthy said, with the 1840s and 1850s pieces going into one canister until it was filed, then new coins going into the next one and the next one after that. The dates and the method indicated that whoever put them there was using the ground as their personal bank and that they weren't swooped up all at once in a robbery.

Although most of the coins were minted in San Francisco, one $5 gold piece came from as far away as Georgia.

Kagin and McCarthy would say little about the couple's property or its ownership history, other than it's in a sprawling hilly area of Gold Country and the coins were found along a path the couple had walked for years. On the day they found them last spring, the woman had bent over to examine an old rusty can that erosion had caused to pop slightly out of the ground.

"Don't be above bending over to check on a rusty can," he said she told him.

They are located on a section of the property the couple nicknamed Saddle Ridge, and Kagin is calling the find the Saddle Ridge Hoard. He believes it could be the largest such discovery in U.S. history.

One of the largest previous finds of gold coins was $1 million worth uncovered by construction workers in Jackson, Tenn., in 1985. More than 400,000 silver dollars were found in the home of a Reno, Nev., man who died in 1974 and were later sold intact for $7.3 million.

Gold coins and ingots said to be worth as much as $130 million were recovered in the 1980s from the wreck of the SS Central America. But historians knew roughly where that gold was because the ship went down off the coast of North Carolina during a hurricane in 1857.

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awahana wrote:
I'm digging my yard right now.
Plenty opihi shells so far!
on February 25,2014 | 09:01AM
busterb wrote:
Ahhhh, ancient Hawaiian land. All I get is kalbi bones.
on February 25,2014 | 09:42AM
Readitnow wrote:
Wow … that's a lot better than a can full of bitcoins!
on February 25,2014 | 09:42AM
what wrote:
Why not? I'll take them then, they're worth $570 each as I write!
on February 25,2014 | 05:36PM
cojef wrote:
A bonanza of a real estate investment. Wonder who all were the other owners of the real estate. Tough luck for them.
on February 25,2014 | 09:44AM
sluggah wrote:
Dummies should have kept quiet.
on February 25,2014 | 11:12AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
There are some real treasures buried in the hills of Kaka'ako makai. You guys should go there and start digging. See what you find.
on February 25,2014 | 01:51PM
sailfish1 wrote:
It seems that area was named appropriately - "gold country". It must be in the hills near Sacramento where they had the "Gold Rush".
on February 25,2014 | 02:08PM
lokela wrote:
Under the shadow of my old tree lies Heineken bottles. Oh well...
on February 25,2014 | 02:45PM
HD36 wrote:
The beauty of gold is that it reflects the devaluation of the dollar and can't be printed out of thin air. In 1935 the government made it illegal to hold gold bullion coins. Citizens had to turn them in for $20 or face up to 10 years in jail or a $250k fine. After they got all they could from citizens the government revalued gold at $35 an ounce. Back then the US was on a gold standard. This was probably stashed to avoid government confiscation.
on February 25,2014 | 03:41PM
seaborn wrote:
So there are pots ' gold at the end of rainbows!!
on February 25,2014 | 09:46PM
mitt_grund wrote:
As soon as the public learns the location, there will be a rush to the property tax office to find out if great grandpa or grandma owned that land. Then the lawsuits will begin.
on February 26,2014 | 06:10AM
mitt_grund wrote:
Most of the Kakaako-to-Fort Street area up to Vineyard were spotted with refuse dumps. Even the waterfront area is mostly landfill in the adjacent areas next to the old fort. Even the old post office building being used for that improv theatre has a cannon imbedded in the sidewalk that was used to tether horses. Tons of rare bottles are in that fill. Every time they do excavation for building foundations, there are bottle collectors scooting into the pits searching for bottles.
on February 26,2014 | 06:17AM
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