Remember the US couple who found $10 million in gold coins in their backyard? Well, they might end up with nothing.
A Northern California couple out walking their dog on their 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 1427 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.
Now, new information has emerged, adding weight to theories that the coins were buried as part of a heist.
A story describing a gold heist from the San Francisco Mint in 1900 could explain where the gold coins originated from.
The January 1, 1900 edition of the The Bulletin reported this:
"The sum of $30,000 in gold coin has recently been stolen from the vault of a cashier of the San Francisco Mint. Not trace has ever been found of the missing gold."
If it is proven that this explains the origin of the coins, the California couple, who are trying to remain anonymous, will reportedly have to turn them over to the US government because they are stolen goods.
But Donald Kagin, boss at Kagin's Inc, which specialises in ancient coins, told AFP he was "very confident" that the Saddle Ridge trove was not linked to the San Francisco Mint theft.
"There's a number of reasons why they can't possibly be" connected, he said.
He cited records from the time of the San Francisco theft suggesting it involved five canvas sacks filled with $20 gold coins -- whereas the Saddle Ridge horde also had $10 and other coins.
In addition the stolen coins "would have all been mint state, recently struck coins," he said.
"The only parallel here is the similar (face) value. But again, not even that's that close because of the different denominations," he said.
Mint spokesman Adam Stump issued this statement: "We do not have any information linking the Saddle Ridge Hoard coins to any thefts at any United States Mint facility. Surviving agency records from the San Francisco Mint have been retired to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), under Record Group 104. Access to the records is under NARA’s jurisdiction: www.archives.gov/."
"I never would have thought we would have found something like this. However, in a weird way I feel like I have been preparing my whole life for it," one member of the anonymous couple said.
"We'd like to help other people with some of this money. There are people in our community who are hungry and don't have enough to eat. We'll also donate to the arts and other overlooked causes. In a way it has been good to have time between finding the coins and being able to sell them in order to prepare and adjust. It's given us an opportunity to think about how to give back
Unfortunately, they may not get the chance to complete such good deeds.
In a 1906 hearing, a mint clerk named W.N. Dimmick was convicted of stealing $30,000 in gold coins from the mint - although no mention is made in the document as to whether the stolen coins were ever recovered.
“This was someone’s private coin, created by the mint manager or someone with access to the inner workings of the Old Granite Lady (San Francisco Mint),” said historian and coin collector Jack Trout.
“It was likely created in revenge for the assassination of Lincoln the previous year (April 14, 1865). I don’t believe that coin ever left The Mint until the robbery. For it to show up as part of the treasure find links it directly to that inside job at the turn of the century at the San Francisco Mint.”