A California couple who found a $10 million trove of buried gold coins may not have been that lucky after all.
The coins were likely stolen from the US Mint in 1900, according to a published source, and are thus government property.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, news of the crime was revealed through a search of the Haiti Trust Digital Library conducted by Northern California fishing guide Jack Trout, a historian and rare coin collector.
The anonymous California couple noticed the edge of an old can on a path they had hiked many times before. Poking about in the container was the first step in discovering a $10 million hidden trove of rare coins.
“It was like finding a hot potato,” the couple told Don Kagin of Kagin’s, Inc., a coin dealer. The couple hired the president of Kagin’s, Inc. and Holabird-Kagin Americana, a western Americana dealer and auctioneer, to represent them.
The coins are mostly uncirculated and in mint condition, and have a total face value of $27,000. “Those two facts correspond to the gold robbery at the San Francisco Mint in 1900,” the newspaper claimed.
An 1866 Liberty $20 gold piece missing the lines “In God, We Trust,” according to Ack Trout, was among the buried riches, and the coin might fetch more than $1 million at auction owing to its scarcity.
“This was someone’s secret money, made by the mint manager or someone with access to the inner workings of the Old Granite Lady (San Francisco Mint),” Trout told the newspaper. “It was most likely created in vengeance for Lincoln’s assassination the year before” (April 14, 1865).
I don’t believe that coin ever left The Mint till the robbery. Its inclusion in the treasure trove links it directly to the turn-of-the-century inside job at the San Francisco Mint.”
“We do not have any information relating the Saddle Ridge Hoard coins to any thefts at any United States Mint facility,” Mint spokesperson Adam Stump told ABC News today. Documents from the San Francisco Mint have been retired to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) under Record Group 104.
When word of the trove first broke last week, coin merchant Kagin noted the rarity of such a find.
“Since 1981, people have come to us with one or two coins worth a few thousand dollars, but this is the first time we’ve had someone with a whole cache of buried coins… “It’s a million to one shot,” Kagin told ABCNews.com. “It’s significantly more difficult than winning the lottery.”
The couple is seeking to remain anonymous after discovering the five cans of money on their Tiburon property in northern California this spring and conducting an interview with Kagin.
“I never dreamed we’d come across something like this,” the couple said, “but I feel like I’ve been preparing my entire life for it.”
“I saw an old can sticking out of the mud on a path we’d traveled almost every day for many, many years.” I was looking down in the right location when I saw the container’s side. “I went down to scrape some moss off and saw it had both ends,” they said.
It was the first of five gold coin-containing cans unearthed.
“Nearly all of the 1,427 coins, which date from 1847 to 1894,” Kagin told ABCNews.com.
He claimed that the couple plans to sell the majority of the coins, but first “loan some to the American Numismatic Association for its National Money Show, which opens Thursday in Atlanta.”
“Some of the rarest coins may sell for a million dollars,” Kagin remarked. He also indicated that they want to sell 90% of the collection on Amazon.com and its website.
“We’d like to donate some of this money to help others.” People in our area are hungry and have little food. We will also support the arts and other underrepresented causes. In some respects, the time between discovering the coins and selling them was advantageous in terms of planning and adapting. “It’s given us the opportunity to think about how we can give back,” the couple continued.
Kagin and his colleague David McCarthy, senior numismatist and researcher at Kagin’s, paid the couple a visit in April, two months after the treasure was discovered.
“It would have been a pity not to communicate the significance of our discovery,” McCarthy and Kagin said after reminding the couple that their find will be remembered for a long time. We want future generations to be able to learn about the history of these coins.”