The Fascinating Stories Behind Famous Gold Coin Hoards
The most famous gold coin hoards are often the ones with the most fascinating stories. Anyone who dreams of making such a discovery can get a vicarious thrill by listening to the story and sharing it with others. Years from now, people may discover caches of today’s Gold American Eagles, but the most famous gold hoards right now involve older coins and gold items.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, gold coins were treated differently than they are today. Gold coins were actually used as currency for day-to-day transactions. That is why even today gold coins produced by the US mint are marked with a denomination, such as the $50 American Gold Eagle. Today, we buy gold coins and other forms of gold for investment purposes, as well as, collector purposes, not to use in our day-to-day transactions.
All of the hoards in this article contain rare coins that sent (and still send) coin collectors into a frenzy when they are made available to the public for purchase. If you are looking for other hoards that contain silver coins, primarily US minted Morgan Silver Dollars, check this article out!
Here are some of the most famous hoards, how they got started, and how they were found.
Granite Lady Gold Coin Hoard
The Old Granite Lady was another name for the large granite building of the San Francisco Mint, now a historical landmark. This was the second mint in that city, with the first one being established in 1852 because of the California Gold Rush.
The hoard in question included gold and silver coins, perhaps worth up to millions of dollars. Among these gold coins were some older $20 Gold Double Eagles dated between 1850 and 1866. Obviously, these coins have both intrinsic and high numismatic value.
The $20 Double Eagles from this time frame were actually of the Liberty Head type. These coins weighed 33.43 grams and had a total gold weight of 0.9675 ounces. At nearly 1 troy ounce, these hefty coins were among the heaviest regularly circulating gold coins ever made by the United States Mint.
The gold content of this coin is 90% gold.
During the dates 1850 – 1866, there were some of the more rare $20 Double Eagles which this hoard was sure to have had. These rare $20 Double Eagle gold coins include:
- 1861-S Paquet reverse – Important to note that the Philadelphia Mint version of this Paquet reverse is a true landmark rarity
Gold coins from this hoard have been graded and labeled with the designation “Granite Lady Hoard.”
So, what made the Granite Lady gold coin hoards story so special? The circumstances were unique because the coins survived a major earthquake and the resulting fires that destroyed much of the city, left thousands homeless, and demolished all other financial institutions there.
Stories of buried gold permeate the culture that grew up surrounding the California Gold Rush. Banks were not the stable, ubiquitous institutions they are now, so people either had less access to them or didn’t trust them. Therefore, people often hid their gold coins on their property, thinking this was the safest alternative.
The Saddle Ridge Hoard was one of the best gold coin hoards, discovered by the owners of a piece of property they called Saddle Ridge. The family walked the area often, but one day, they looked down and saw a rusty can. They used a stick to pry the can from its resting place and noticed it was surprisingly heavy.
The lid popped off, revealing a gold coin. They soon found that the can was full of gold coins and later discovered seven additional cans of gold coins. The total haul amounted to over 1,400 rare gold coins!
The breakdown of types and face value of gold coins ranging from 1847-1894, found at Saddle Ridge looks like this:
- $500 face value in $10 coins
- $27,460 face vale in $20 coins
- $20 face value in $5
Based on today’s standard of the current spot price of gold and numismatic value for some of the coins found at Saddle Ridge, the actual value of these coins is right around $10,000,000.
The Baltimore Find offers a more tragic story among gold coin hoards discoveries. In 1934, two teenagers were busily digging in their tenement floor to hide something from their childhood club – perhaps cards or secret club rules. Suddenly, their shovel hit against something hard, which they later identified as a $20 gold piece.
They kept digging and eventually found two pots containing 3,558 gold coins with dates from the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s. The face value was $11,200, but these coins today would be worth more than $10 million!
Sadly, the story doesn’t end with the poor teenagers becoming wealthy. Because the U.S. Gold Act of 1933 had just gone into effect, individuals were not legally allowed to own gold. When they heard this, they knew they had no way to sell gold coins safely.
Being law-abiding citizens, they turned the gold in to a police officer. The police department locked the gold in a vault and announced that it would accept claims. Many people did submit claims that it was their gold. Eventually, the coins were auctioned off, and $6,000 was set aside for each of the boys to receive once they turned 21.
However, one of the boys died of pneumonia before his 21st birthday, so he received nothing.
No one knows what happened to most of those coins. However, the story captures the imagination of anyone who hears it.
Wells Fargo Gold Coin Hoard
The Wells Fargo Hoard is one of the gold coin hoards that got its name from perhaps the least important detail of its story. In 1917, a substantial hoard of 1908 No Motto $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagles was traded when its owner made an international payment.
The coins were then hidden away from 1917 to the 1960s, despite the legal requirement for individuals to surrender their gold to the government in the early 1930s. In the 1960s, the coins were placed in new bags but then tucked back into hiding.
In 1996, a precious metals dealer acquired the hoard. For a very short time after he bought the gold coin hoard, he stored the coins in a Wells Fargo Bank. That’s the only reason for the hoard’s name. The interesting thing about these coins was that when the dealer sent them for grading, they turned out to include many marvelous specimens.
Thousands of the coins received a grade of MS66, 101 coins received a grade of MS68, and ten received a grade of MS69. Coins that receive an MS65 grade or higher are considered “Gem,” so needless to say, this was quite a find. While none received the prized grade of MS70, one piece was chosen and labeled as “Wells Fargo – The Best One!”
Sutton Hoo Burial Ship
Among the older gold coin hoards is one found at the Sutton Hoo medieval cemetery site. This may not be the largest coin hoard, but it is definitely an interesting one. Only 37 gold coins were found there, in a burial ship in East Anglia. However, these were very old, Anglo-Saxon coins dating from sometime before the 7th century A.D.
They were minted in the small kingdom of Merovingian Franks. Alongside the 37 coins were three coin-shaped blanks and two gold ingots.
Speaking of the kingdom of East Anglia, there was another hugely important find in that region. Known as the Norfolk Hoard, this treasure was an internationally significant find. Incredibly, the metal detectorist who made the discovery wishes to remain anonymous. However, the news of the find is well-known, even if his name is not attached.
The anonymous treasure hunter found the first coin from this hoard in 1990. Yet, that was just the beginning. He continued to find more gold, most of it between 2014 and 2020. Hearing news of this amazing find, a police
officer tried to take advantage by attempting to pass off coins he found in the same field as belonging to other finds.
When he tried to sell them, he was fired from the police department and sentenced to prison.
The Norfolk Hoard is the only one of the gold coin hoards known to include Frankish tremisses dating from 580 A.D. to 630 A.D. Within the hoard, there are also Roman gold solidi, a gold pendant, pieces of gold, a small gold bar, and gold objects that were probably jewelry.
Most of the gold in this hoard was considered gold bullion at the time, although it now has significant collectors value.
The Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery hoped to acquire the Norfolk Hoard to add to their collection. Meanwhile, the coroner opened a case to determine if the coins met the criteria of a treasure, which include being older than 300 years old and consisting of more than 10% precious metals.
Considering that the 131 coins are from the Anglo-Saxon period and some of the gold objects are over 1,400 years old, it seems that the age requirement will be met.
Starting Your Own Gold Coin Collection
If you find stories of gold coin hoards fascinating, you might want to start your own gold collection. It’s easy to do when you rely on the gold coin experts at Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers. We can help you find and acquire the gold coins you are looking for and advise you on how to build a precious metals portfolio. Our fair and transparent pricing ensures you get the most for your investment.
What’s more, if you find or want to sell or purchase a gold coin, we can help there, too. Contact us today to learn more about buying, selling, and collecting gold coins.