An old California tree hid a $10 million dollar secret on a rural address in the California Gold Country last February. The couple was simply walking their dog on their own property when they discovered the money in the form of rare uncirculated gold coins in mint condition and buried under a tree. The path had been used for years by the couple, but the stash was found only when erosion of the ground had revealed the edge of an old rusty can. The woman bent down to further examine the can when she hit jackpot.
The coins, just over 1400 of them, date from 1847 to 1894 and have been authenticated by David Hall of the Professional Coin Grading Service of Santa Ana. The face value of the gold itself is only about $27,000, but the rarity of some of the coins have experts speculating that they could be sold for almost $1 million each at auction.
When discovered, the coins were stored within eight cans and were mainly sorted by date. Comprising denominations of $5, $10, and $20, whoever stored them started by placing coins from the 1840’s and 1850’s in one can until that can was full, then starting a new one until that one was full, and so on. The way the money was added to the cans suggests that the coins weren’t the spoils of some great robbery, but were instead “deposited” in the ground as a form of savings account. Most of the coins were minted in California, but one coin came from across the country in Georgia.
Other than saying that the gold was found in Gold Country, California, neither McCarthy nor Kagin would release any additional information regarding the property or its history. The couple, identified only as “John” and “Mary” are choosing to remain anonymous to avoid the certain rush of people swarming their property with metal detectors looking for a jackpot of their own. They have lived on the land for several years, but have no idea who could have buried the rare coins under their tree.
The value of the coins found is particularly high due to the fact that most of the coins are in almost perfect condition, which also suggests that the person who buried them on the couple’s property likely did so as soon as they were circulated. Not only that, but until the 1870’s, paper money was against the law in California, making any coins dating from before that time, especially high quality ones, even more valuable.
Those interested in viewing some of the coins, now being referred to as the “Saddle Ridge Hoard,” can see them starting Feb. 27 through Mar. 1, 2014 at the National Money Show put on by the American Numismatic Assocation in Atlanta. A sample of the coins will be displayed at Kagin’s booth during the show. “Saddle Ridge” refers to a hill near the path by which the coins were found. The couple coined (pardon the pun) the term because of the shape of the hill.
The couple’s plan for their newly acquired jackpot is to sell the majority of the rare coins on Amazon.com and to keep some for mementos. The proceeds from the coins unearthed from under the tree will pay off bills and be donated to local California charities quietly.
By Jennifer Pfalz