Source of Buried California Gold: Century-Old Heist?
If the theory is true, it could be bad news for the couple who found the coins
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2014 9:43 AM CST
Updated Mar 4, 2014 11:00 AM CST
Oone of the six decaying metal canisters filled with 1800s-era gold coins unearthed in California by two people who want to remain anonymous.   (AP Photo/Saddle Ridge Hoard discoverers via Kagin's, Inc.)

(Newser) – The only thing more mysterious than the identity of the couple who stumbled upon an estimated $10 million in US gold coins while walking their dog on their California property: Where did the gold come from? The San Francisco Chronicle floats a theory with all the intrigue and illegality you could hope for: Historian/coin collector/fishing guide Jack Trout provided the paper with a passage from the Bulletin of American Iron and Steel Association that references a $30,000 turn-of-the-century gold heist from the San Francisco Mint that he believes is linked to the coins. Lending credence to the theory: The unearthed 1,427 gold coins, dated 1847 to 1894, were mostly uncirculated and in chronological order, suggesting they hadn't entered the public realm. And though they are worth millions today, their face value is $27,000, which roughly syncs with what was taken from the mint.

Trout also points to the buried stash's 1866 Liberty $20 gold piece not emblazoned with "In God We Trust"; he suspects it was a private coin created by a mint manager that never left the mint. "For it to show up as part of the treasure find links it directly" to the mint heist, he says. But the couple's coin broker is no fan of the mint robbery theory, telling the Chronicle he'd expect the haul would have included coins dated closer to the heist date. But a former SF Mint detective sees it as plausible: "Downstairs, we had vaults where we kept old coins that hadn't been put into circulation." PJMedia further digs up a 1906 congressional report that indicates mint clerk W.N. Dimmick was convicted of the mint theft, but the document doesn't state whether Dimmick revealed the coins' location, or if they had been recovered. ABC News notes that if the coins are indeed purloined government property, the couple may owe Uncle Sam more than a heck of a lot in taxes: They may have to turn over the entire haul, and get a finder's fee in return.

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Showing 3 of 78 comments
mutbeyou
Mar 5, 2014 3:10 PM CST
I'm sorry, I don't know the education or beliefs of this couple. But to report it was, well, stupid. Absolutely stupid. Not only did it call attention to all the would-be freeloaders and hucksters in the western hemisphere, it also alerted the tax authorties. So now they pay 10% to 'sell' them (one million). Then pay 33% taxes on top of that. That means they already blew almost half of what they found. Wow. Why would you EVER say ANYTHING to ANYBODY? Put it all in a safe deposit box and - when you need some cash - sell a couple coins on the private market. Save the real rare coins for your children. These people are idiots.
rhinojake
Mar 5, 2014 1:08 AM CST
GREAT NEWS FOR THE MYSTERY COUPLE WHO FOUND THE CACHE!!!! The LA Times is reporting that the cache of buried gold coins is "probably NOT related to the 1901 U.S. Mint theft." “We do not have any information linking the Saddle Ridge Hoard coins to any thefts at any United States Mint facility,” U.S. Mint spokesman Adam Stump said in a statement, adding that lawyers have looked into the matter. The numismatist firm which examined and researched the coins for a possible connection to the 1901 heist, determined that each bag of coins in the stolen cache would have contained coins with the same date and mint mark, The cache discovered last year contains a mix of coins with 72 distinct date and mint mark combinations, he said. The 1,427 coins, most of them $20 pieces, are dated between 1847 and 1894. The firm concluded tha it's doubtful the mint would have coins made more than 50 years earlier still in its stocks. The current theory suggests the coins may have been buried by the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secretive, subversive Confederate group that some believe buried millions in ill-gotten gold across a dozen states to finance a second Civil War. This group was long thought to have existed for a long time and a historian who wrote about the group argued in his book that the KGC existed for many decades after the Civil War and continued to bury and protect underground gold and silver caches.
2cent
Mar 4, 2014 11:11 PM CST
a fool and his money...