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California couple finds $10 million in rare gold coins while walking dog

LOS ANGELES (AP) - 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.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
a1948ant February 26 2014 at 7:42 AM

Now that is some good news.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
John February 25 2014 at 7:28 PM

I guess I will start taking Duke for a work in the woods .
Stay anonymous , Uncle Obama might send some of his comrades over to talk to you .
If it was me, I would take care of family and friends, donate to charities and move, fast !!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
MARCELLE NOSS February 25 2014 at 7:27 PM

I want some.

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1 reply
See ya round MARCELLE NOSS February 25 2014 at 7:33 PM

Me too!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
David February 26 2014 at 2:42 PM

How much is CA going to take?

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1 reply
tony David February 27 2014 at 2:27 AM


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fkfrakes8 February 25 2014 at 7:26 PM

Wow........... I have been looking for those forever but forgot where I buried them. Thank you so much for finding them for me. I think the least I can do is buy you dinner. Thanks again :-)

Flag Reply +1 rate up
dudedad54 February 26 2014 at 2:11 PM

There truly is an end to a rainbow! Wow, hope they do well with their find..

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coptazlou February 25 2014 at 8:55 PM

I bet that spart of the Confererate states mony thta is buried all over the US after the Civil war. The Knights Of the Golden Circle. CONFEDERATE GOLD
After the Civil War ended, Confederate President Jefferson Davis had millions of dollars in gold - enough to rebuild another army - hidden away in throughout the South. The plan was to make shipments by train to Richmond, Virginia - the capital of the Confederacy. However, along the way, much of this treasure was stolen. It has never been found. Rumor had it that Jefferson Davis stole it for himself. Another group, known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, were supposed to be guardians of the lost silver and gold. Most likely, the treasure was buried somewhere in Danville, Virginia. Treasure hunters have been looking for it for years, but without luck.

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3 replies
sharonsact February 26 2014 at 2:21 PM

Good for you!!!!!!!

You have been Blessed. Use it wisely. May all your days bring sunshine

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1 reply
francesrea1 sharonsact February 26 2014 at 3:56 PM

yes, God always wants people to live a good life with stolen property.

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1 reply
Danusia francesrea1 February 27 2014 at 12:28 AM

The couple did not steel anything, they found it on their property. Good luck to you with your new acquired fortune!

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carocarpenter February 25 2014 at 8:56 PM

I can hear the government's ears perking up....mine mine mine...

Flag Reply +1 rate up
steadball2@aol February 26 2014 at 7:30 AM

The WEE people will be looking for that pot of gold you found at the end of the rainbow....

Flag Reply +7 rate up
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