Saddle Ridge Hoard


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The coins from the Saddle Ridge Hoard are from the 1890s. Photo: Image courtesy of Stack's Bowers. It’s the kind of story that spurs imagination: A couple walking their dog and serendipitously.

The Hoxne Hoard, uncovered in Britain in 1992, stands as the largest find of late Roman gold and silver found in any Roman territory. The Saddle Ridge Hoard contained over 1000 coins with an estimated total value of over $10 million dollars. What makes the Saddle Ridge Hoard so amazing is the sheer scale and value of the hoard. The hoard has a total of 1,411 gold coins with a total face value of $27,980. The Saddle Ridge Hoard. Near the site of the Gold Rush of 1849, in the hillside area of Gold County, a couple, known to the public only as John and Mary due to privacy concerns, spotted a rust-covered metal can sticking out of the ground along a hiking trail on their property while walking their dog in February, 2013. 1865-S $20 Saddle Ridge Hoard (Regular Strike) Series: Liberty Head $20 1850-1907 PCGS AU53. View More Images.

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Who buried the Saddle Ridge Hoard?

The Saddle Ridge Hoard, a cache of valuable gold coins discovered by a couple out on a hike in 2013, excited the collector community when its existence was revealed. However, a mystery remains: Who buried the coins?

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California Gold Rush specialist Dan Owens looks at contemporary public records from the late 19th century in an effort to uncover any possible candidates. To learn what he found out, read his feature article, exclusive to the print and digital editions of the March 19 issue of Coin World.

A ‘full torch’ designation is important on what coin?

Saddle ridge hoard amazon

Collectors of modern U.S. coin series have increasingly focused on well-struck examples, with full details ever more important. For collectors of the Roosevelt dime series, the detail on the torch on the reverse of the coin is the focal point, writes Scott Schechter in his “Making Moderns” column.

Well-struck Roosevelt dimes with full details can earn a “full torch” designation from major third-party grading services. To learn why collectors like these coins with strong strikes, and what to look for on Roosevelt dimes, be sure to read his column in the print or digital editions.

Brutal fight recalled on so-called dollar medals

“Prize fights were illegal in the United States and Great Britain during much of the 19th century, but that didn’t stop two bare-knuckled brawlers from going at it for more than two hours in a bruising battle that became known as the fight of the century,” writes Gerald Tebben in his “Coin Lore” column.

The April 17, 1860, boxing match between America’s John Heenan and England’s Tom Sayers outside of London was illegal, and well-attended until the police arrived to break up the slugfest. Two so-called dollar medals depict the prizefighters and recall the brutality of the event.

Jefferson 5-cent coin rolls deserve a search

Collectors who like to search rolls of coins for interesting finds should not ignore the Jefferson 5-cent coin, writes Bill O’Rourke in his “Found in Rolls” column. However, he writes, “It has been my experience that when I mention looking through 5-cent coins, noses turn up, and I am left defending myself and explaining why I like to search through as many as I can.”

In his latest column, he explains why he likes the series and details some of the unusual and older finds he made recently. Learn what he discovered in his column, exclusive to the digital and print editions of the March 19 issue of Coin World.

Saddle Ridge Hoard
MaterialGold coins
Size1,427 coins
Created1847 to 1894
DiscoveredGold Country, Sierra Nevada, California in February 2013
Present locationTiburon, California

The Saddle Ridge Hoard is the name given to identify a treasure trove of 1,427 gold coins unearthed in the Gold Country of the Sierra Nevada, California in 2013. The face value of the coins totaled $27,980, but was assessed to be worth $10 million. In total, the hoard contains $27,460 in twenty-dollar coins, $500 in ten-dollar coins, and $20 in five-dollar coins, all dating from 1847 to 1894. The collection is the largest known discovery of buried gold coins that has ever been recovered in the US.[1]

Discovery and excavation[edit]

The Saddle Ridge Hoard was discovered in February 2013 on private property located in California Gold Country. Due to privacy concerns, the exact location of the discovery has not been disclosed, other than to confirm that the land is located in a hillside area of Gold Country, near the site of the Gold Rush of 1849. As of 2014, the couple who discovered the hoard have chosen to remain anonymous. Known only as John and Mary, the couple have lived on the rural property for several years and have no idea who buried the coins.[2] They wish to keep their identity, location, and ownership history of their home private, in order to keep treasure seekers from trespassing on their property in an effort to find more gold.[3][4]

The owners of the property discovered the trove while they were walking their dog on their property. Although they had reportedly hiked the trail numerous times previously, it was not until they spotted a rust-covered metal can poking out of the ground that they chose to explore further.[4][5]

Rusted can of gold coins as found at discovery site in February 2013

Before finding the trove, the couple had noticed some unique features of the area. They recalled seeing an old empty can hanging from an old tree. The can had evidently been there so long that the tree had literally grown around it. At the time, the couple surmised that the hanging can had possibly been used to hold flowers and mark a grave. They also noticed an oddly shaped rock on the nearby hill, which they nicknamed 'Saddle Ridge'. After they found the gold, they realized that the geographical features and the hanging can were probably markers to the site, placed by the original owners. The center of the treasure trove was located ten steps between the jagged rock and the direction of the North Star.[6]

Saddle Ridge Hoard Mystery

After Mary noticed the can, John bent down to pick it up, but found that it was stuck in the dirt. He began to use a piece of wood to pry it from the ground. It was so heavy that they believed that the can likely held lead paint. On their walk back to their house, struggling to carry the weight of the find, the lid of the can cracked open, revealing the edge of a single gold coin.[6] They returned to the site with some hand tools to see if they could find anything else. They found another can about a foot away from where the first can was discovered. Although it was partially decomposed due to rust, it held several more coins. They continued to return to the site to look for more coins, primarily digging in the ground and eventually using a metal detector. Their work eventually resulted in the discovery of eight cans filled with 1,427 coins.[6]

After their discovery, the couple protected their find by hiding it in an old ice chest, then burying it under a pile of wood and concealing the location. After some initial research, they contacted the numismatics firm of Kagin's in Tiburon, California, which is representing the owners.[4][6]

Authentication and valuation[edit]

1886-S $10 PCGS slab

Numismatist David J. McCarthy of the California firm Kagin's completed the initial evaluation of the coins and assessed the significance of the find.[5] Prior to the discovery of the hoard, the largest buried collection of gold found in the US was uncovered by city workers in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1985. The Jackson hoard had a face value of $4,500 and sold for about $1 million (not adjusted for inflation).[7] The face value of the Saddle Ridge treasure is $27,980.[8] The discovery raises interesting questions about its finders' tax liability, due to the Treasury Department regulation which states that “Treasure trove, to the extent of its value in United States currency, constitutes gross income for the taxable year in which it is reduced to undisputed possession.”[9]

Following the initial assessment, McCarthy and Kagin's were contracted to conserve the material. Kagin's then contacted the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) of Irvine, California for an independent authentication. PCGS reported that many of the coins were recovered in uncirculated, mint condition. It further stated that some of the pieces are so rare that they could be worth about $1 million each.[3] The coin grading and certification revealed that over a dozen of the coins are either the finest known or tied for the finest known specimens in the PCGS Population Report.[5] The collection includes:

  • 1866-S $20 Double Eagle/no motto valued at around $1 million[10]
  • 1866-S $20 Double Eagle/with motto PCGS MS62+ (finest known)
  • 1877-S $20 Double Eagle PCGS MS65 (tied finest known)
  • 1888-S $20 Double Eagle (four) PCGS MS64 (tied for finest known)
  • 1889-S $20 Double Eagle (two) graded PCGS MS65 (tied for finest known)
  • 1894-S $20 Double Eagle PCGS MS65 (tied for finest known)

Saddle Ridge Hoard Location


According to Donald Kagin, Kagin's has an exclusive arrangement with to sell the coins through their collectibles store. This arrangement is the first major sale of coins made through Amazon. John and Mary have also chosen to use the funds to cover their personal debt and donate to several local charities. They have additionally chosen to retain some of the coins for family heirlooms and keepsakes.[3][4][11]

Origination theories[edit]

Following the initial discovery of the coins, there was widespread speculation that the hoard represented the discovery of the 1901 theft of $30,000 from the San Francisco Mint by employee Walter Dimmick. The published news item was discovered in the Haithi Trust Digital Library and was provided by Northern California fishing guide Jack Trout, who doubles as a historian and collector of rare coins. [12][13] Kagin's and the U.S. Mint ruled out this theory, stating that the Saddle Ridge Hoard is unlikely to be part of the mint heist, due to the diversity in the face value and condition of the coins.[14][15] On March 4, 2014, The U.S. Mint stated that '[they] do not have any information linking the Saddle Ridge Hoard coins to any thefts at any United States Mint facility',[16][17] and '[they've] done quite a bit of research, and we've got a crack team of lawyers, and trust me, if this was U.S. government property we'd be going after it.'[16]

Other disregarded theories contend that the hoard is a hidden stash of gold buried by Jesse James, or loot taken by Black Bart, who was known for robbing stagecoaches.[17][18] A theory has also been advanced that the hoard was part of a treasure supposedly hidden by the Knights of the Golden Circle, to be used to fund a second Civil War.[19] The predominant theory attributes the cache to an unknown individual who chose to bury the coins rather than trust the banks to protect his wealth. While the couple who found the coins have remained anonymous and the location of the find is undisclosed, several individuals have attempted to claim the gold coins or a share of the profits, asserting that the money belonged to one of their relatives or associates.[18]

Saddle Ridge Hoard Mystery


  1. ^Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle (February 26, 2014). 'Gold Country couple discovers $10 million in buried coins'. SFGate. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  2. ^Kashmira Gander (February 26, 2014). 'Couple finds $10million in gold coins while walking their dog - Americas - World'. London: The Independent. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  3. ^ abcJohn Rogers. 'California couple uncover rare gold coins worth $10 million while walking their dog'. Prince George Citizen. Archived from the original on March 3, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  4. ^ abcd'Calif. couple strike $10 million gold-coin bonanza'. The Washington Post. February 26, 2014. Archived from the original on February 26, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  5. ^ abc'PCGS Certifies $10+ Million Gold Coins Treasure For Kagin's Inc'. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  6. ^ abcd'Interview'. Saddle Ridge Hoard. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  7. ^Winter, Douglas (2006). Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint: 1839-1909, Zyrus Press, page 163. ISBN978-0974237169
  8. ^'Buried Treasure of 1427 US Gold Coins Certified by PCGS For Kagins Inc'. February 25, 2014. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  9. ^; see Marc Morris, Christine Cheng, D. Larry Crumbley, The Saddle Ridge Gold Coin Discovery: How the IRS Should Tax U.S. Currency Under the Treasure Trove Regulation, 17 Hous. Bus. & Tax L.J. 120 (2017).
  10. ^Schaefer, Samantha; Vives, Ruben (February 26, 2014). ''Miraculous coin' in gold country cache could bring $1 million'. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  11. ^Liljas, Per (February 25, 2014). 'Couple Finds $10 Million in Gold Coins'. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  12. ^ Jack Trout (Historian)
  13. ^
  14. ^'Bunch of bullion: Dealer says gold coin hoard not from heist'. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  15. ^'$10 Million Mystery: Was Walter Dimmick the Gold Coin Fall Guy?'. Mashable. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  16. ^ ab'Could century-old theft explain mystery of gold coins?'. February 26, 2014. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  17. ^ abJohn Rogers (Associated Press) (March 2, 2014). 'California Gold Discovery Spurs Rush of Theories - ABC News'. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  18. ^ abKevin Fagan (February 28, 2014). 'Black Bart? Jesse James? Who hid $10 million worth of gold?'. SFGate. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  19. ^Schaefer, Samantha (March 4, 2014). 'Gold coins found by California couple unlikely stolen from U.S. Mint'. Retrieved March 17, 2014.

Saddle Ridge Hoard Coins

External links[edit]

Saddle Ridge Hoard

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