Famous Coin Hoards
Famous coin hoards are collections of coins that have been buried or hidden for a long period of time, often for hundreds or even thousands of years. They can be discovered by accident or through deliberate searching. Coin hoards are significant because they can provide valuable insights into the economic, political, and social conditions of the time in which they were buried.
Here are some of the most famous coin hoards in the world:
The greatest silver rush in U.S. history didn’t happen because of a strike in a mine shaft —it happened in Washington, D.C., right across the street from the White House. It was the release of the U.S. Treasury Hoard from 1961 to 1964, and for coin collectors, it was every bit as exciting and important as the California Gold Rush of 1849!
Nearly 500 million Morgan Dollars and Peace Dollars were known to exist in the late 1950s. Approximately half were in the hands of the public, and many rested in the vaults of banks and the Mints. Over 200 million were stored in 60-pound bags containing 1,000 coins each in U.S. Treasury vaults in Washington, D.C. The coins were waiting for release, and it came in an epic fashion in the early 1960s!
Origin of the U.S. Treasury Hoard
To discover how the coin rooms in the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C. became overflowing with bags and bags of silver dollars, one must go back to over a century ago. With the passage of the Bland-Allison Act in 1878, Morgan Silver Dollars — named for designer George T. Morgan — began pouring out of the U.S. Mints in Carson City, Philadelphia, New Orleans and San Francisco.
For Further reading on the designer of the Silver Morgan Dollar, read this Coin Authority article.
The Bland-Allison Act directed the Mints to strike silver dollars using silver from the famous Comstock Lode, but by 1893 there was little demand for silver dollars. Most Americans preferred paper money instead of carrying around heavy silver dollars, so Mint bags starting piling up in storage.
U.S. Mints were stuffed to overflowing and what to do with the dollars was becoming a major issue. Morgan Silver Dollars continued to be minted until 1904, when the Comstock Lode was finally exhausted. By this time, most of the coins were shipped from the Mints to the Treasury Building in Washington.
In 1918, Congress passed the Pittman Act to replenish the government’s reserves of silver bullion by melting millions of Morgan Silver Dollars in the Treasury vaults. As a result, over 270 million Morgan Silver Dollars were melted — almost half the entire mintage from 1878 to 1904. The dollars melted under the Pittman Act substantially reduced the availability of many of the dates minted from 1900 to 1904. Since these dates were the last coins placed in the Treasury, they were the first to be taken from the vaults.
The Pittman Act also required the government to purchase more silver to replace the melted coins, so the Morgan Silver Dollar was briefly revived in 1921. It was replaced later in the year with the Peace Silver Dollar, which celebrated world peace after World War I. The Peace Silver Dollar was minted every year until 1928, when the silver supply ran out again. Small numbers of Peace Silver Dollars were also issued in 1934 and 1935.
Meanwhile a small trickle of coins in the 1930s and 1940s flowed out of the U.S. Treasury cash room into the hands of collectors. That trickle turned into a flood in the late 1950s and early 1960s. From 1958 to 1960 nearly 58 million silver dollars were released by the Treasury. This figure jumped to 31 million alone in 1963, and in the first three months of 1964, more than 25 million silver dollars were drawn from Treasury vaults! At this point, the doors to the vaults were officially closed.
Collector Interest in the U.S. Treasury Hoard- A New Silver Rush [Silver-coins]
When news spread that the Treasury was selling off its vast hoard of silver dollars at face value, coin collectors from all over the nation swarmed to Washington for a raid on the dwindling supply in hopes of finding scarce dates and Mint marks. Collectors lined up for blocks around the Treasury Building and jammed its corridors and cash room. “Prospectors” with their newly acquired dollars sprawled into any available space, using benches, chairs and window sills to quickly sort through their dollars. Sorting even went on in the washrooms. Reminiscent of the old Western gold rush days, rumors of “finds” spread like wildfire. One popular rumor was that someone had purchased a 1,000-coin bag containing Morgans bearing valuable dates and mint marks for $1,000 and then turned around and sold it to a dealer for $75,000!
The GSA (Government Services Administration) Hoard is a prime example of a very successful coin hoard dispersal. This collection became available after the government completed exchanging silver dollars for silver certificates in the mid-1960s. It included over 3 million coins, most of which came from the Carson City mint, and many of which were uncirculated in original Mint sealed bags. The GSA carefully dispersed these coins into the market through a series of sales that limited the number of coins each purchaser could buy, with the last sale being held in 1980.
It was a lucky February day in 2013 when a couple in California Gold country decided to walk their dog in their property as they probably did most days. What was different that day was a rusty old can poking out of the dirt. They decided to explore further and pried it out of the dirt. And what should they find! Gold coins all dating back to the California Gold rush period!
They identified some odd things to the place like an old rusty can hanging from a tree nearby and an odd shaped rock that they had earlier nicknamed ‘Saddle Ridge’. The can that they had uncovered was exactly 10 steps from the rock and in the direction of the ‘North Star’. These were probably intended as markers by the original owners to retrieve the gold later. But somehow they (or he/she) never made it back!
The couple went back home and brought some hand tools and uncovered another can nearby. Finally they bought a metal detector and found six more cans in the vicinity. They found 8 cans in all with 1,427 gold coins!
The ‘Saddle Ridge hoard’ created a sensation among numismatists as it is the largest known hoard of gold coins ever found in the U.S. ! The face value of the hoard is said to be$27,980 and some coins in the hoard are worth millions of dollars for collectors because of the perfect mint state condition they are in!
Mistrustful of banks, George Bouvier of Deer Lodge, Montana, hid 8,000 silver dollars and other coins he’d accumulated during his lifetime in his house walls. He also buried coffee cans full of coins under the floor of his shop. On his deathbed, he told a young friend about the hoard. The youth later told Bouvier’s relatives, whose search turned up over 17,000 coins.
For 20 years, Rudy, a Reno, Nevada casino worker, traded his own money for Carson City Morgans whenever he spotted them in the coins he sorted through daily. As Morgans grew scarcer, he began “saving” all silver dollars. By Rudy’s retirement, he had amassed 4,100 silver dollars including more than 3,312 Morgans.
The “Wells Fargo Hoard” of 1908 “No Motto” $20 St. Gaudens gold Double Eagles is a special discovery of hidden gems that were stored at a Nevada Wells Fargo Bank in original condition and “untouched” by human hands since 1917. The gold coins were originally designated as a World War I debt payment, but long forgotten in the bank vault for over 80 years.
In 1996, Ron Gillio, noted numismatist, coin dealer and promoter, negotiated and purchased the largest hoard of high quality 1908 U.S. $20 gold pieces, approximately 20,000 examples of the Saint-Gaudens 1908 “No Motto” double eagles. The hoard was remarkable not only for its size, but also for the condition of the coins involved, as some were truly exceptional. It was a mind-boggling number of coins in incredible quality. All coins were Mint State, and many were of choice and gem quality. They were offered to the market in 1997, and were dispersed over a period through 1999.
On October 29, 1982, just after 12 noon, a bulldozer unearthed a cache of a long-hidden hoard of pre-Civil War gold and silver coins, believed to have been stored in three wooden boxes in the early 1840s. Once unearthed in public at high noon, the shiny coins caused a number of people to lose their dignity, as they attempted to get their piece of the treasure. It was reported that business people in suits and dresses jumped in the dirt and mud, and scrambled to find the newly unearthed treasure, making it very hard for an accurate inventory.
The pieces were mostly Spanish-American issues, but there were hundreds of U.S. coins, including 1840-O and 1841-O Liberty Seated quarters. With the latest date in the boxes being 1842, the coins would have been in very nice condition as they would have had only a year or so to circulate, if circulated at all. People at the time did not trust banks, which suggest that the coins were part of some secret reserve of some long-forgotten merchant or bank in New Orleans.
The Continental-Illinois Central Bank silver dollar hoard 1980’s is probably the best example of a successful hoard dispersal. Due to Federal Reserve requirements, banks are required at all times to keep a certain percentage of their deposits in cash. The Continental-Illinois Central Bank, for whatever reason, kept their cash reserves in the form of bags of silver dollars. After keeping up this practice for over 100 years, the bank’s board of directors sold 1500 bags of silver coins, much of it uncirculated, in the early 1980s.
LaVere Redfield of Reno Nevada was born into poverty in October, 1897 in Ogden Utah. He grew up there, moving to Idaho shortly after World War I. Ten years later, around the start of the depression, he moved to Los Angeles, and used his life savings to invest in stocks. He apparently had quite a knack for choosing the right ones for by the late 1930s, he had made a fortune and decided to relocate to Reno, Nevada. There, he purchased a large stone house, and began to accumulate silver dollars. He distrusted both banks and the U.S. government, and acquired the reputation of an eccentric, driving around in overalls in an old pickup truck.
Throughout the 1940s and 50s, he continued to purchase bags of silver dollars and stash them in the basement of his house. By 1960, his hassles with the IRS boiled over. Convicted of tax evasion, he served 18 months of a five-year sentence in federal prison. Upon his release, he returned to Reno, and continued to accumulate his coins.
Upon his death in 1974 at age 77, some 400 bags of dollars (approximately 400,000 pieces) were discovered behind a false wall in his basement. Roughly 85% of them were uncirculated, and in late January 1976, the entire lot was auctioned. The winning bid was for $7.3 million dollars.
Some of the more important dates from the hoard included the 1892-P, 1893-P, 1893-CC 1879-CC, 1889-CC, 1895-S, and the 1903-S. The most notable of the Peace Dollars from the hoard were the 1925-S, 1927-S and 1928-S.
This Hoard received its’ name (pedigree) because of the proximity of the findings in a farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania in the middle of Amish country, near the Lincoln Highway. The hoard contained over 8,000 Morgan Silver Dollars, including many scarce dates and mint marks secured directly from the release of the U.S. Treasury Hoard in the early 1960s.
Ted Binion was the youngest son of casino tycoon Ben Binion, who opened the Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas in 1951. Son Ted grew up working different jobs at his father’s casino and was well-respected for his gambling acumen. Later in life, however, he began associating with a rough crowd, which ultimately led to the loss of his casino license and led to nefarious circumstances surrounding his death. In the wake of Ted’s passing in 1998, law enforcement officials discovered a 12-foot deep vault on his property in Pahrump, Nevada, which held roughly $7 million in treasure including over 100,000 Morgan and Peace silver dollars.
Saddle Ridge Hoard
Many of you are probably familiar with the more recent Saddle Ridge Hoard, the largest discovery of buried gold coins ever recorded in the United States. In 2013, a married couple was out walking their dog on their rural California property. They spotted a rust-covered metal can partially visible in the dirt. Upon further exploration, they discovered the first gold coin of many. The 1,427 gold coins minted from 1847 to 1894 were valued at over $10 million.
One of the most famous stories of coin hoards in American numismatics is the Baltimore find, a cache of at least 3,558 gold coins, all dated before 1857. On August 31, 1934, two teenage boys were playing in the cellar of a rented house at 132 South Eden Street, Baltimore, where they found over 3,500 pre-1857 gold coins buried in the cellar.
The story is that the boys formed a club, the “Rinky-Dinky-Doos,” and were busy digging a hole in the floor of the cellar to bury their secret club papers, playing cards, dice and poker chips. While digging, their shovel struck something hard, so they reached into the hole and pulled out a $20 gold piece, and then another, and another. So then they really started digging! What the two boys had finally unearthed in two separate pots were 3,558 gold coins that dated from the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s, many in Choice & Gem State condition.
When all was said and done, the two youths were awarded $6,000, though the money would not be available to them until they were 21 years old. Only one of the two boys collected the reward, the other died just before his 21st birthday of pneumonia. In 1935, the 3,558 coins, divided into 438 lots and were auctioned off on May 2, 1935 at the Lord Baltimore Hotel, realizing a sale of $20,000. The 3,558 gold coins had a face value of $11,200, and sold for $20,000, but today, their discovery would be worth more than $10 million.
A Connecticut attorney, Aaron White distrusted paper money. During the Civil War, there was an abundance of ‘greenbacks’ issued to fund the war. White predicted that the greenbacks would become worthless (as they did!) and hoarded money in the form of coins. He even issued a personal token inscribed with ‘NEVER KEEP A PAPER DOLLAR IN YOUR POCKET UNTIL TOMORROW’.
Later,after his death, his hoard was estimated to have250 colonial and state copper coins, 60,000 copper large cents, 60,000 copper-nickel flying eagles and Indian cents, 5000 bronze two-cent pieces, 200 half dollars, 100 silver dollars, 350 gold dollars and 20,000 to 30,000 foreign copper coins.
The Battle Creek Hoard included 10,000 Morgan silver dollars held in ten bags tagged from the Philadelphia Mint and dated in the 1880s, along with 1920 tags from the Chicago Federal Reserve. After the owner’s death, the bags of coins were offered to coin dealers. Many of the coins were in phenomenal condition, and among them were some rare silver dollar coins. Many of these coins have the special star designation of exceptional eye appeal.
The Castine Hoard is probably one of the oldest known American hoards (thought to be buried in the late 1600’s) and was found in Castine, Maine in 1840’s. It is believed to be the cache of BaronJean-Vincent d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin, the third son of a French nobleman. As was common in those days, the younger son usually joined the armed forces while the eldest inherited the title and the family estate. Jean-Vincent moved to the ‘New World’ from France at the age of 13 as an ensign in the army. After his army pursuits were complete, he settled in the French trading post of Fort Pentagoet, located in current day Maine, married an Abenaki woman and had a daughter.
Fort Pentagoet was a lucrative trading post, trading mostly in furs and timber and was attractive to many European powers. When the English forces stormed the fort, Castin’s daughter secreted away her father’s cache and buried it somewhere before getting captured herself. The Castine hoard is believed to be this cache of Baron Jean-Vincentd’Abbadie de Saint-Castin. It was discovered in 1840’s byCaptainStephen Grindleand his son Samuel who found the coins on their farm located near theBagaduce River. The hoard contained around 2000 North American colonial coins and foreign coins; French crowns, half-crowns, quarters, Spanish cobbs and Pine-tree shillings.
These are just a few examples of famous coin hoards. There are many other hoards that have been discovered around the world, and new ones are being found all the time.
Coin hoards can be fascinating and valuable discoveries. They can tell us a lot about the past and the people who lived in it. Coin hoards are also important for our understanding of the history of money and the development of the global economy.