US Coins

California couple stumbles upon gold coin cache on own property

While the world's oceans and waterways have yielded valuable treasures from shipwrecks, treasures are also found on solid ground.

The Saddle Ridge Hoard was found secreted within eight metal canisters buried in California’s gold country. The majority of the coins are Coronet $20 double eagles struck at the San Francisco Mint from 1855 to 1894. Overall, coins in the hoard range in date from 1847 to 1894.

Examples represent strikes from the San Francisco Mint, Philadelphia Mint, Carson City Mint, and Dahlonega Mint.

The coins are now certified by the Professional Coin Grading Service, and more than a dozen of the coins are either the finest or tied for the finest that PCGS has graded for the specific date and Mint.

Collecting basics: What is the Saddle Ridge Hoard and why was it such big news?

The couple who found the stash of gold coins on their property while walking their dog early in February 2013 had traversed the landscape many times before and had even spotted one of the eight cans poking out of the ground. Curiosity eventually became strong enough for the couple to investigate further. And what the couple discovered can only be described as miraculous.

The couple has been identified only as “John and Mary.”

The lid popped off one of the cans, revealing the edge of one of the gold coins inside. Over the course of a week, the couple retrieved eight metal cans in total.

The couple contacted several numismatic firms, including Kagin’s in Tiburon, Calif. Kagin’s principal, Donald H. Kagin, is a specialist in pioneer and early U.S. gold coins and is author of Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States.

Kagin’s senior numismatist and researcher, David McCarthy, carefully examined each coin in the hoard. 

McCarthy initially met with John and Mary in April 2013, unaware of the scope of their find. “We sat down in our conference room, and they passed me a white box,” McCarthy said. “I lifted the lid and saw 18 baggies, each of which contained a gold coin that was covered in dirt and rust. “I picked up a double eagle dated 1890[-S] and removed it from its bag. Looking at the tiny amount of metal that was exposed, I could see that the coin underneath was essentially perfect.

“I asked how many coins they had found. After some discussion, I was told that there were over 1,400.”

McCarthy said his initial reaction was visceral.

“I almost fell out of my chair,” McCarthy said. “There, in my hands, was part of the most amazing buried treasure I’d ever heard of.”

The highlight of the hoard is an 1866-S Coronet, No Motto gold $20 double eagle graded PCGS Mint State 62 that is the finest known certified by the grading service. Kagin’s estimates its worth at around $1 million.

Other highlights that are either the finest or tied for finest certified by PCGS include: 

??1866-S Coronet, With Motto double eagle, PCGS MS-62+. 

??1873 Closed 3 Coronet double eagle, PCGS MS-62. 

??1877-S Coronet double eagle, PCGS MS-65. 

??Four 1888-S Coronet double eagles, each PCGS MS-64. 

??Two 1889-S Coronet double eagles, each PCGS MS-65. 

??1894-S Coronet double eagle, PCGS MS-65.

Kagin’s was scheduled to begin marketing the coins beginning May 27 through its own website at and

McCarthy said among his recent discoveries concerning the hoard is that the embossed lid of one of the cans is of a style produced in the 1880s and indicates the original contents was J.A. Folger & Company Golden Gate Brand Baking Powder.

Folger was also the founder of the coffee company that carried his surname.

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