Old gold coins found in California back yard head to auction

SAN FRANCISCO Tue May 27, 2014 6:41pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A California couple who found a $10 million cache of 19th century gold coins in their back yard will put most of them on sale on Tuesday, auctioning what experts believe to be the largest trove of buried treasure yet unearthed in North America.

The couple, who have remained anonymous, found the coins while walking their dog on their property in the state's Sierra Nevada mountain Gold Country, where prospectors and miners converged to seek their fortunes in the state's 1849 Gold Rush.

"This is really the most significant find of buried treasure that’s ever been made in North America," said David McCarthy, a coin specialist with Kagin's Inc, a numismatic firm based in the San Francisco suburb of Tiburon that will conduct the sale.

The auction of most of the cache - which totals 1427 coins - will begin with the sale of a $20 coin from 1866 believed to be worth about $1 million. It will be held at the site of the mint where most of the coins were struck in San Francisco, now used as a rental space for parties and events, where about 60 of the coins will also be on display.

Proceeds from the sale of the $20 coin, known as a double eagle and showing an image of an eagle on one side, will be used to restore the mint and make it into a museum.

The rest of the trove, except for a few pieces retained by the family, will go on sale on Amazon.com and Kagins.com at 9:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

The collection, named the Saddle Ridge Hoard for the area where it was found, is in nearly mint condition and contains pieces struck from 1847 to 1894.

The couple, out walking their dog on a spring day in 2013, spotted the tip of one of eight metal containers filled with the coins sticking out of the ground, and dug it up, McCarthy said.

Unsure of where to put the treasure, they stuffed the cans into a cooler and buried it under a woodpile, he said. They were later placed into a vault by administrators at Kagin's, he said.

The collection includes four $5 gold pieces, 50 $10 gold pieces and 1,373 $20 double eagles.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Walsh)

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