For years, John and Mary walked daily along the trail on one of their estates, which they nicknamed Saddle Ridge.
One day, while walking the dog, they noticed an old can covered in dirt. Curious, they brushed off the moss, dug it up with sticks, and carried the heavy load home.
And that’s all it took for the couple living in California’s gold country to discover a cache of 19th-century U.S. gold coins that rare coin experts say is the greatest buried treasure ever unearthed in the United States.
The coins were in $5, $10, and $20 denominations and stored in six cans in chronological order. This method of storage indicates that someone was using the ground as their personal bank. One coin came from as far away as Georgia.
All coins are dated between 1847 and 1894 and are out of circulation, according to David Hall (pictured), co-founder of Santa Ana’s Professional Coin Classification Service, who recently authenticated the coins.
Although the face value of the gold pieces only amounts to around $27,000, some of them are so rare that coin experts say they can fetch close to $1 million each.
“I don’t like to say once-in-a-lifetime for anything, but you don’t get an opportunity to handle this kind of material, a treasure like this, ever,” said Don Kagin, a professional numismatist.
The couple who found the money are trying to remain anonymous. They plan to sell most of the gold on Amazon and use the money to pay bills and silently donate to charities in the area.
According to Kagin, who represents the couple, another reason they’re keeping their anonymity is to avoid a renewed gold rush to their property by modern-day prospectors armed with metal detectors. “Their concern was this would change the way everyone else would look at them, and they’re pretty happy with the lifestyle they have today,” he said.