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HomeUS CoinsCalifornia Family Discovers 10 Million Buried Treasure of U.S. Gold Coins

California Family Discovers 10 Million Buried Treasure of U.S. Gold Coins

Hidden Cache of 19th Century U.S. Gold Coins May Be Most Valuable Hoard Unearthed in North America

The Saddle Ridge Treasure of over 1400 gold coins, with an estimated value of $10+ Million, will be marketed exclusively by Kagin’s, Inc. and available for purchase at a later date through Amazon.com.

Rare coin experts, Kagin’s Inc., today announced that a treasure of over 1400 rare U.S. gold coins has been discovered buried on private property in California’s gold region. The treasure was found by a couple on their property while taking their dog on its daily walk. It is believed to be the greatest buried treasure ever unearthed in the United States, with an estimated value in excess of $10 Million.

“What’s really significant about this find,” noted Donald Kagin Ph.D., president of Kagin’s Inc. of Tiburon, California, “is that unlike other hoards and treasures, this one includes a great variety of dates, many of which are in pristine condition; add to that a wonderful human interest story: this family literally found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

buried_goldThe Saddle Ridge Treasure is named after a feature of the family’s property. Based on the dates of the coins included in the find, their condition and the condition of the decaying metal cans protecting them, it is believed that the coins were buried over a significant period of time in the late 19th century.

After unearthing the treasure, the family contacted Kagin’s senior numismatist, David McCarthy, who evaluated the coins and informed them of the significance of their discovery.

“We all dream about discovering buried treasure; seeing the real thing in person – piles of gold coins encrusted in dirt and rust – the experience was just indescribable,” said McCarthy. “Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine coins coming out of the ground in the kind of condition that I saw in front of me. Many pieces were finer than anything known in major collections or museums.”

Each coin has been independently authenticated, graded and certified by the Professional Coin Grading Service of Irvine, California. The find comprises almost 1400 $20 gold pieces, fifty $10 gold pieces and four $5 gold pieces, all of which were struck between 1847 and 1894. Highlights of the cache include at least thirteen finest known specimens, among them an 1866-S No Motto Double Eagle valued at around $1 million.

Other highlights include finest example or tied for finest example certified by PCGS: 1866-S $20 With Motto PCGS MS62+ (finest known); 1873 Closed 3 $20 graded MS62 (tied finest known); 1877-S $20 PCGS MS65 (tied finest known) four 1888-S $20 PCGS MS64 (tied for finest known); two 1889-S $20 graded PCGS MS65 (tied for finest known); and 1894-S $20 PCGS MS65 (tied for finest known).

A sampling of the coins with special gold-colored foil “Saddle Ridge Hoard” PCGS certification insert labels will be displayed at the Kagin’s booth (#707) during the upcoming saddle_ridge_86S_10American Numismatic Association National Money Show in Atlanta, February 27-March 1, 2014.

“One of the great things about being involved with PCGS is the occasional ‘discovery coins’ we get to grade. This is one of those fantastic discoveries!” said David Hall, Co-founder of PCGS and Collectors Universe, Inc.

“The Saddle Ridge Hoard discovery is one of the most amazing numismatic stories I’ve heard. This will be regarded as one of the best stories in the history of our hobby!” stated PCGS President Don Willis.

Through an exclusive arrangement with online retailer, Amazon.com, approximately 90% of the coins will be available for purchase at a later date via Amazon’s collectibles store . This will be the first major numismatic treasure to be sold through Amazon.

The previous largest reported find of buried gold treasure in the United States had a face value of $4,500. It was discovered by construction workers in Jackson, Tennessee in 1985 and was eventually sold for around $1 million. The face value of the Saddle Ridge treasure is over $28,000.

Kagin’s, Inc. is the nation’s oldest family-owned numismatic firm tracing their origins to 1933. The firm specializes in U.S. gold coins especially those of the gold rushes, paper currency and classic rarities. Dr. Kagin holds the first B.A. degree in numismatics and the nation’s only Ph.D. in the field.

For additional information contact:
Kagin’s, Inc.
1550G Tiburon Boulevard #201
Tiburon, CA 94920
[email protected]


The Saddle Ridge Treasure of U.S. Gold Coins

The story of the Gold Rush and the American frontier in the 19th Century has captured the imagination of people around the world, expressing itself in art, literature and numerous movies. Tales of pioneers, prospectors, ranchers, outlaws and the host of other colorful characters who populated the Wild West have fascinated millions of people for over a century, while many of the realities of a life lived on the edge of civilization have taken on the aura of myth.

Today, tales of buried treasure are an accepted part of this Western lore, but few people stop to think that these legends spring from the actual stories of men and women doing their best to get by in a world where banks didn’t exist on every corner, and the few that did often failed.

The Discovery

In California’s gold country, the legend of buried treasure has become one family’s reality. While taking their dog on his daily walk across their property, a couple noticed a partially buried can jutting out of the ground.

saddle_hoard_singleUsing a stick, they were able to dislodge the can and decided to carry it back to their house. The can was unusually heavy, but nothing could have prepared them for what they would find when they pried the lid open: mixed in with dirt and stones, they could see the edges of numerous U.S. $20 gold pieces—a literal pot of gold!

They returned to the site and immediately located the remains of another can, buried a bit deeper and about a foot to the left of the first can. Rust had consumed about half of the can’s sides, exposing another cache of gold coins. Repeated trips to the site (and the help of a metal detector) eventually uncovered a total of eight cans filled with over 1,400 rare U.S. gold coins.

This turned out to be just the beginning of their good luck – somehow, despite being buried for over a hundred years, many of the coins were preserved in pristine condition; some being finer than anything seen to date.

Certified and Soon Available for Purchase

The administration of a discovery of this magnitude requires a special kind of expertise. Kagin’s, Inc. the nation’s oldest family owned numismatic firm and specialists in U.S. gold coins, hoard treasures, currency and rarities, was chosen to conserve and market this unique treasure. All coins now have been independently authenticated and graded by Professional Coin Grading Service.

Highlights of the cache include at least fourteen finest known specimens, among them an 1866-S No Motto Double Eagle valued at close to $1 million. Other highlights include finest example or tied for finest example certified by PCGS: 1877-S PCGS MS65 (tied for “top pop”); four 1888-S PCGS MS64 (tied for “top pop” at PCGS); two 1889-S graded PCGS MS65 (tied for new “top pop”); and an 1894-S PCGS MS65 (tied for “top pop”).

A sampling of the coins with special gold-colored foil “Saddle Ridge Hoard” PCGS certification insert labels will be displayed at the Kagin’s booth (#707) during the upcoming American Numismatic Association National Money Show in Atlanta, February 27-March 1, 2014.

The Saddle Ridge Treasure of U.S. gold coins will soon be available for sale at (this website) and on Amazon.



Q. You call this the Saddle Ridge Hoard; is that where you found these coins?

Mary: Yes – we found the coins buried on a little area of our property that we call the Saddle Ridge

Q: Have you lived on this property a long time and possibly passed by the treasure without spying it before?

John: I saw an old can sticking out of the ground on a trail that we had walked almost every day for many, many years.

Mary: I was looking down in the right spot and saw the side of the can. I bent over to scrape some moss off and noticed that it had both ends on it!

Q. Had you ever noticed anything peculiar in the area before?

John: Years ago, on our first hike, we noticed an old tree growing into the hill. It had an empty rusty can hanging from it that the tree had grown around – that was right at the site where we found the coins… At the time we thought the can might be a place for someone to put flowers in for a gravesite – something which would have been typical at the time.

There was also an unusual angular rock up the hill from where the coins were buried – we’d wondered what in the heck it was.

Mary: It wasn’t until we made the find that we realized it might have been a marker: starting at the rock, if you walk 10 paces towards the North Star, you wind up smack in the middle of the coins!

Q: Did one of you stay there while the other went for tools?

Mary: John used a stick to dig up the first can. We took it back to the house, it was very heavy.

John: Heavy enough that we needed to take a little breather before getting back to the house. It was getting towards evening and the light was fading. I said to Mary, “Wow, this thing is heavy. It must be full of lead paint.” I couldn’t figure out what in the world would weigh that much.

Q. How long did it take you to realize you had something special?

John: Right after making the comment about it possibly being paint, the lid cracked off and exposed a rib of a single gold coin. I knew what I was looking at immediately. I looked around over my shoulder to see if someone was looking at me – I had the idea of someone on horseback in my head. It’s impossible to describe really, the strange reality of that moment… I clamped the lid back on – I found a can of gold coins and I thought there was a zero percent chance of Mary believing me! When I told her, the look of bewilderment – her mouth was so wide open flies could have flown in and out several times.

Q: Were the cans side by side?

Mary: Yes. We went back to the site and a foot to the left of the first can we broke into another can. In the process we used a small hand shovel and a few coins scattered; it was so decomposed only half of that can was left. It was like looking at a pocket of coins.

Q. What was your first reaction when you saw these cans were full of gold? Did you feel like you had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

John: Of course, it was a very surreal moment. It was very hard to believe at first. I thought any second an old miner with a mule was going to appear.

Mary: It was like finding a wonderful hot potato.

Q. After the initial discovery how did you locate and excavate the entire hoard?

John: There were five more small cans – which brought the total up considerably, and we found the last one with a metal detector. It was a big day when we found that can. We’ve poked around more and now have a sense that we found everything that’s in the area.

Q. Why do you think you were the lucky ones to find this treasure? Do you believe it was divine intervention or karma?

Mary: 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.

Q: How?

Mary: John just knew what to do – it was a little bit karmic… Perhaps in some way we were the ones that could honor the coins.

Q. You have an interest in astrology; have you checked how the planets were aligned or what your chart said at the time of discovery?

Mary: Actually, I did look back at it. It’s very funny, my chart did talk about treasure, but it was more about the treasure of spirit….

Q. Would you say that your “dreams” have come true?

John: Like a lot of people lately, we’ve had some financial trials. I feel extreme gratitude that we can keep our beloved property.

Q. Estimates put the value of this find at over $10 million; better than some lotteries. What will you do with all this money?

Mary: We love our lives as they are – I hope we can help our family members and our community and give back some.

Q. Were you ever coin collectors; did you know such coins even existed?

John: Yes I still have my coin collection from when I was a kid.

Mary: It took us awhile to get the guts to Google what coins we had.

John: In terms of the condition and value of the coins, we as amateurs thought that the 1866-S No Motto $20 might be worth $5,000 or more – we didn’t realize it was considerably better than the coin sitting in the Smithsonian!

Q. Where did you put them and what did you do with them?

John: I dug a hole under the wood pile and got a slab of green board to cover it, put the coins in plastic bags, then put them in a box inside an old ice chest and buried them.

Q: You dug them up and reburied them?

John: Yeah – the old-timers had it right – it’s safer than in a bank!

Mary: We knew almost immediately that we would sell them, but we couldn’t just go to anyone – we had to walk that path really carefully…

John: We knew better than to go to any local pawn broker with the coins to put them on the market, we knew better than that.

Mary: What we really appreciated was that from the outset, David [McCarthy of Kagin’s Inc.] very much wanted us to know everything we could about our coins. He didn’t ever try to say, “These really aren’t anything.” He let us know right away that they were special and told us various stories about the different dates. One thing that he said that stuck with us was the idea of honoring the whole group, instead of selling a little bit at a time over time, even though it is more risky for us personally. The history of the coins as a hoard is important.

Q: Is there one coin that stood out in the group that you are particularly fond of?

John: The Dahlonega Half Eagle.

Mary: Yes – they all have a certain energy about them. Each is so unique – each has its own character and essence.

Q. Do you intend on keeping any of the coins as mementos from the find?

John: We may keep a representative sample of the hoard. We would like to hold onto a cross section of it – something to leave to relatives when we pass on.

Q. Are you going to quit your jobs?

John: No – we’re self-employed – the beautiful thing about self-employment is that you can go to your grave self employed.

Q. You have chosen to remain anonymous out of concern for your family’s safety and potentially from being overwhelmed by the media. But how do you think this find will change your lives?

Mary: We’re the same people we were before, just with more freedom of choice. Our finances won’t have to dictate so many of our day to day decisions.

Q. Some lottery winners have later said that such sudden wealth ended up being more of a curse than a blessing. Have the two of you discussed how you will navigate the path ahead and the potential pitfalls that might come with instant great wealth?

Mary: We try not to dwell on the negative.

John: It will be a broader path than the one we have been on.

Mary: Money can change other people’s perception of us more than our own perception of ourselves. Have you heard the song by Cindy Lauper, Money Changes Everything? We don’t want that; we don’t plan to tell our extended family or friends until more time goes by.

Q. Are you fans of any of the modern day treasure hunting TV shows e.g. Pawn Stars? Could you see your story dramatized (anonymously) for TV?

John: Since the find, we have become a little more aware of them.

Q. Had you ever looked for treasure before?

John: Not seriously. We made several camping trips and bought some gold panning equipment. We ended up with a vial of gold, so the idea of panning really caught my interest. The idea of panning for gold has a lot of appeal.

Q. Are there any causes you feel passionately about that you have considered donating to?

Mary: 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.

Q. Do you see a day in the future when you might be willing to deal with the media and the publicity surrounding this historic discovery?

Mary: Maybe when we turn 80 years old – 40 yrs away! [laughs]

Q. This hoard will be in the annals of numismatic stories for quite some time; perhaps forever. How do you feel about that?

Mary: It would have been quite a pity not to share the magnitude of our find. –We want to keep the story of these coins intact for posterity.

Q. Do you have anything else to share about finding what may be the greatest buried treasure ever found in North America?

Mary: Whatever answers you seek, they might be right at home! The answer to our difficulties was right there under our feet for years. Don’t be above bending over to check on a rusty can!!!!



Copyright © CoinWeek LLC. March  2014

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The Atlanta National Money Show features one of the largest bourse floors of the season filled with an incredible inventory of numismatic items, top-rate educational programs, a superb collection of rarities in the ANA’s Museum Showcase, fascinating collector exhibits, and much more. Also includes a Signature sale by Heritage

More news and video about numismatics , coins and paper money at https://coinweek.com


The Nation’s Oldest Family Owned Numismatic Firm

For over three quarters of a century, Kagin’s has maintained its position as one of the nation’s most highly regarded and diversified full service numismatic firms. Kagin’s reputation for service, commitment, and performance is supported by a staff of world-renowned numismatists and a team of marketing, finance and administrative professionals.

The company traces its corporate beginnings to the late 1920’s, when A.M. ‘Art’ Kagin’s lifetime passion with numismatics began as a teenage interest in collecting error coins. Soon after, that interest turned into a profession and Art joined the Hollinbeck Coin and Stamp Company as a staff numismatist. In 1933, Art established the Kagin family’s first numismatic offices in Des Moines, Iowa. Art’s dedication to numismatics brought a career marked by many achievements and he was considered to be the “Dean of Numismatics.”

Over the next seven decades, Art and his family’s passion for numismatics solidified Kagin’s worldwide reputation as one of the industry’s preeminent numismatic firms.

Today the company is headquartered in Northern California. Over the years the firm has built an extensive network of clients, contacts and inventory resources. Kagin’s continues to grow in response to an increased demand and moving market trends. Led by the company’s President, Donald H. Kagin, Ph.D./Numismatics, the firm’s commitment to excellence has been manifested by employing some of the greatest numismatic minds including Kenneth Bressett, Dr. George Fuld, Ron Howard, and David McCarthy. The firm is dedicated to delivering innovative numismatic services in a changing world, and provides expert services for museums, governments, banks and trust departments, fund managers, financial planners, investors and collectors.


The Kagin’s team considers numismatics to be more than a business, but a passion and a way of life. The firm’s greatest excitement is working with clients to assemble meaningful collections of Pioneer Gold, early U.S. Type, Colonials, Patterns, Classic Rarities, Errors, Paper Currency, California Fractional Gold, Ingots, and Western Americana. Thorough historical information and pedigrees are provided for each hand-selected specimen. Long-established relationships and a solid reputation grant access to resources that allow the firm to obtain the finest and rarest specimens on their clients’ behalf.


The company’s investment division provides complete numismatic services to the investor and investment professional. Its major function is to offer a range of alternative tangible asset investment programs to those who traditionally purchase financial assets and real estate. Kagin’s is actively involved in conducting educational investment seminars nationally and internationally, emphasizing the acquisition of the finest and rarest numismatic properties. The firm’s performance track record highlights some of the highest long-term appreciation rates in numismatic rarities and assures investors of liquidity when dealing with Kagin’s.


As leaders in the numismatic industry, the expert numismatists at Kagin’s are called upon to provide expert contributions to standard numismatic guides such as The Guidebook of United States Coins, Paper Money of the United States, Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money, and the Coin and Currency Dealer Newsletter. A commitment to education continues to be at the forefront of the company’s principles that are manifested through ongoing efforts to develop numismatic education in private programs and public institutions.


The firm draws its strength from a position of dominance in the numismatic community, consistently setting records in buying and selling the finest and rarest numismatic material, including the only 1804 Silver Dollar, the first set of three uncut sheets of the 1896 Educational Currency Series and the unique red seal $1,000 Grand Watermelon, the most valuable bank note in the world.

Current holdings include the finest known $20 1907 Ultra-High Relief – the most beautiful and sought after U.S. gold coin and the 1783 Nova Constellatio Silver Pattern Quint – the first coin in the American Confederation and the finest decimal coin.

Having weathered the economic test of time for over three quarters of a century, Kagin’s offers today’s investor and collector excellence in product, service and integrity.

Donald H. Kagin, Ph.D.

kagins_donDonald H. Kagin, Ph.D., has unique credentials as a numismatic authority. He earned the first Bachelor of Arts degree in Numismatics granted by Northwestern University, simultaneously earning another B.A. in History. Graduate and post graduate studies at the Union Institute and University, Northwestern, Drake and Johns Hopkins Universities, along with the American Numismatic Association, the American Numismatic Society, and Smithsonian Institution, earned Dr. Kagin the first doctorate in numismatics ever granted in the United States.

Dr. Kagin’s numismatic fields of expertise are in Pioneer Gold coins, United States currency and numismatic investments. He authored the most comprehensive book to date in his field, Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States, which won the Numismatic Literary Guild’s “Best Book of the Year” award. Don contributes to the Official Guide to United States Coins, the Coin and Currency Dealer Newsletter, which he founded, and regularly features articles in the nation’s leading numismatic periodicals. Dr. Kagin has received the coveted Heath Literary Award for several of his articles. His work can be found in national publications such as Money magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Barron’s and the Wall Street Journal. He has also lectured and taught across the United States, conducted seminars and educational forums, and made several radio and television appearances including Good Morning America and multiple shows on the History Channel.

Today, Dr. Kagin is considered the nation’s number one numismatic advisor. He serves as consultant for governments, banks and trust departments, money managers, financial planners, and professionals seeking to implement or build a numismatic collection or investment program, or to dispose of a collection. Having earned a Certified Financial Planning degree, he has also been called upon to lecture at annual conventions of the International Association of Financial Planners, the IAFP World Congress, the International Monetary Conference, the Convention of Certified Accountants, Tiger 21 Clubs and other seminars within the financial community. Appointed as Chief Numismatic Expert for Odyssey Marine Exploration, Dr. Kagin assisted in authenticating and appraising the findings on the S.S. Republic and S.S. Central America sunken shipwrecks.

His nationally acclaimed one-man shows, “The Oldest Living Pioneer” and “Colonial Man” are considered among the most innovative and entertaining educational programs ever presented. He is also the academic dean for the University of Rare Coins.

Currently, Dr. Kagin serves as president of Kagin’s, Inc., the nation’s oldest family-owned numismatic firm and Holabird-Kagin Americana, the largest Western Americana dealer and auctioneer. His latest book, Profit from Gold and Rare Coins Now (Zyrus Press, 2014), is the most thorough “textbook” on the subject and is considered a must read for anyone contemplating investing in gold and rare coins and currency.

David McCarthy

kagins_davidDavid McCarthy is the Senior Numismatist and Researcher at Kagin’s. After studying public communications at State University College at Buffalo, he worked as a producer and talent buyer in New York producing concerts by such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Smashing Pumpkins, and Cher. Having a lifelong interest in numismatics, his career in the field began in 2000 when he accepted a position with Richard Nachbar Rare Coins. In 2003, he relocated to Northern California to continue his career with Kagin’s.
David has handled an astonishing array of major U.S. and world rarities, has acted as a consultant to banks, museums, and grading companies, and he has worked closely with the Smithsonian Institution, The United States Secret Service, Bank of California, Union Bank, The San Francisco Old Mint and the American Numismatic Association. He is a regular contributor to the Red Book and CoinWorld, has taught advanced numismatic classes for the American Numismatic Association and has been featured in Rare Coin Market Report and The Numismatist.

David is sought after to speak on the subject of Pioneer Gold coins, regulated gold and in specialized areas of numismatics, history and collecting. He has been interviewed by the Professional Coin Grading Service, The Society of Private and Pioneer Numismatists, Pacific Coast Numismatic Society, CoinWeek and Clark Smith’s VoiceAmerica.
David is a member of ANA, FUN, CSNS, and PCNS and is considered a top numismatic professional. With his passion, sharp mind and keen eye for detail; he is one to watch in the field of Numismatics.

Kagin's is a boutique-sized company with an emphasis on personal consultation. They offer advice on all aspects of collection, from acquiring and building one through the steps of final dispersal. It was founded in 1933 by A.M. "Art" Kagin and is now operated by his son Don, a specialist in U.S., private, and territorial gold coins.

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