US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for June 19, 2023: Coin hoard finds

Two hoards of coins are drawing attention: a hoard of more than 800 U.S. gold coins discovered in a cornfield in Kentucky and a hoard of 1 million cents found in a home in California (shown). The gold coins have been graded and certified by NGC and are headed to market. The owner of the cents is considering offers.

Original images courtesy of John Reyes.

Our two main “In the News” articles this week are both about coin hoards — one featuring a hoard of a million cents made in California and the other about a spectacular find of 800+ U.S. gold coins in a cornfield in Kentucky.

As collectors, I think that all of us wish for found treasure, of uncovering a massive coin hoard or even a little accumulation. Even a single unexpected coin discovery can be exciting; I recall how enjoyable it was to receive a circulated Barber dime in change at a local gas station about 10 years ago. As a young boy, I found a 1913-S Barber dime, a semi-key date, in my mother’s luggage from her childhood. While neither find matches those in Kentucky and Los Angeles, they were satisfying to me as a collector.

The Kentucky hoard raises a fair number of questions. Who hid the coins in the field and when and why? Were these ill-gotten gains, coins stolen from a bank or store or wealthy individual? One can envision a thief on the run, maybe wounded, hiding the coins until the heat died down and then never able to return to the location of the stash. Or did the owner mistrust banks and thus secret the coins planning that they would be dug up later?

From a historian’s point of view, it is a shame that the discovery site is unrevealed. Is there evidence in situ that might have shed some insight on how the coins came to be in that cornfield? One remembers the criticism from the academic community a decade ago when the 1,427 gold coins of the Saddle Ridge Hoard were removed from their discovery spot in the Sierra Nevada region of California by their finders and not by trained archaeologists.

Like the coins of the Saddle Ridge Hoard, the coins of the Kentucky Hoard are headed to the marketplace. Some of the 1863 Coronet $20 double eagles found in Kentucky are the finest known. Their appearance in a marketplace that is looking for fresh material will likely bring excitement.

The other big hoard story made international news. A real estate agent working on a family member’s house discovered that the relative had hoarded money, mostly 1 million Lincoln cents but also half dollars, silver dollars and United States notes in their original bank bundles.

Initially, the person finding the hoard intended to use a Coinstar machine to get rid of the cents for just their cash value but balked at the percentage charged by Coinstar. After news of the discovery broke, the finder started receiving offers from others wanting to buy the cents.

Still unknown is how much of the hoard consists of pre-1959 Lincoln cents, and whether it has been searched for rare dates and significant errors and varieties. I image a lot of dealers and collectors would love to search the rolls and sealed bags of cents.

We cannot wait to learn more about what happens to these two hoards.
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