Double Eagle Twenty Dollar Gold Piece

Double Eagle, Twenty Dollar Gold Piece obverse

1876 Twenty dollar gold piece also known as a double eagle

1876 Twenty dollar gold piece also known as a double eagle

Kicking the Can Pays Big

© 2014 Steve Hathcock

One day last spring, the couple was hiking along a favorite section of their land they called “saddle ridge” when the woman’s foot caught upon a rusty can that had been exposed by erosion. Upon closer examination she was amazed to discover the can was full of gold coins! Digging around in the still damp soil the pair discovered five more cans full of gold coins, 1427 to be exact. Dating between 1847-1894 the coins, which were of $5, 10$ and $20 denominations, had a face value of around $27,000 dollars….but because of their uncirculated condition the numismatic value could be in excess of ten million dollars! Although most of the coins were minted in San Francisco, one $5 gold piece came from as far away as Georgia. The coins were stored more or less in chronological order in the six cans with those from the 1840s-50s going into one can until it was filled, then new coins going into the next one and the next one after that. No one knows the identity of the original owners and the finders wish to remain anonymous as well saying only they intended on paying some bills and donating some of their new-found treasure to local charities. Ironically the part of California where the couple found the coins is known as “the Gold Country”

Of course, finding buried treasure has its own hidden costs. Estimates of the couple’s tax bill is somewhere in the 5 million dollar range.

 Burying treasure in such a manner is an age old custom. People of an earlier day did not have easy access to banks as we do today. As a result, they had to use other methods of safeguarding their valuables. Treasure had to hidden where the owned could have easy access to it without leaving clues to its location. Creativity was needed to ensure the cache was not easily found or accidently stumbled upon. Barns, wells and outhouses were all utilized to hide valuables as they were visited on a regular basis during the day so a casual observer would not be curious about your activities. But because they were so commonly used, a distracted person could accidently leave a clue such as a cord dangling under the lid of the outhouse seat or a misplace brick in a foundation, perhaps a loose plank in the home or some other item out place to its normal use. Another option of course would be to bury treasure away from the house and sheds. Fence lines were often utilized. A hollow was dug under a post and the can or other receptacle went into the ground and then the post planted atop. In time of need the owner could sneak out during the night, find the post under which he had buried his goods, remove whatever he needed and then hide the rest.

The drawback to having your gold buried in the ground of course, is that landmarks can shift, such as was the case of John Singer who buried a fortune in gold and silver somewhere under the shifting sands of Padre Island at the onset of the American Civil War. He too had a treasure that needed to be hidden but accessible. Reputedly he buried a trove containing over 60,000 Spanish eight reale coins each containing almost an ounce of silver. During the war he and his sons would make periodic trips to the Island to retrieve enough money to see the family through those trying times. After the war, South Texas swarmed with deserters, thieves and every kind of cutthroat wanted by the law. Being a cautious man John left his loot in the ground where he assumed it would be safe…..well, we all know what happens when we assume. The great Hurricane of 1867 roared ashore in October of that year and washed the Island clean. Hundred year-old dunes vanished in the storms surge and where once stood hill, now was gully. With no discernable landmarks John and his boys were unable to relocate their fortune. The location of John Singer’s lost treasure remains one of Padre Island’s unsolved mysteries.


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