By now we have all heard of the 10 million dollar gold coin discovery by the couple in California. If you haven’t, here is a quick recap. A husband and wife, walking on their property in early 2013 came across a half buried container. That container was filled with gold coins, after searching they discovered six more just like it in the ground. Total it made for 1427 gold coins, of which most were double eagles. This was close to $28,000 in face value. They made a deal with Kagins, a rare coin dealer, and PCGS, to have the coins conserved, graded, researched, all that. I am positive that Don Kagin, who has a Ph.D in Numismatics, did his due diligence in researching every aspect of these coins down to how they might’ve ended up in the ground. However, for tongues to start wagging all it took was some amateur historian with too much time and not enough research skills to start the fear mongering.
Jack Trout, who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, and claims to be a historian (I haven’t seen his credentials so I don’t know if he is claiming amateur or if he has an actual degree in history) and a coin collector wrote a story linking the coins to a crime in 1900. In 1901 Walter N. Dimmick, a clerk at the San Francisco mint, was convicted of three crimes: forgery (he was caught learning to pen the mint superintendents name), theft (stealing from mint worker pay envelopes) and the theft of $30K in gold double eagles from the mint vault. He was convicted and sent to jail, but the coins were never recovered. Here is where all logic breaks down.
The San Francisco vault didn’t just store random coins in bags. In the minting process of double eagles, 250 coins makes for $5000. Those coins, when minted, went into the bag and then were sewn shut. This was primarily for both security and inventory purposes. You walk by you count the $5000 as a bag instead of individually and move on to the next bag. All the coins in the bag are the same denomination, from the same year and of course all bear the mint mark for San Francisco.
Yes, there is an ultra rare 1866-S no motto double eagle in the bunch. No that doesn’t mean it was stolen. There was a total mintage of 12,000 1866-S no motto double eagles minted. They come up for auction on a regular basis. In fact, Heritage sold an MS-62 on January 8, 2012 for just under a quarter of a million dollars. The reason that the found no motto is so important is because it is even better than that one, being graded MS-62+, making it the finest known specimen. Finest known among an already low mintage coin, drives up the price.
The coins found at Saddle Ridge only resemble the Dimmick theft because of the number of coins recovered, 1427 which came to a face value of almost $28,000. Here is the thing. Some of those coins are half eagles, some of those coins are quarter eagles, some of those coins are much older than others. There is variety in that hoard, where if these were the coins Dimmick stole you would expect to see no more than six dates and only the San Francisco mint mark on 1427 double eagles (1427 representing the number of recovered coins to date). Trout did his homework on Dimmick, he just made the fatal error of trying to solve the mystery so bad that he didn’t bother to line up the facts from the theft to the facts as they were, which has caused a lot of bad journalist hand wringing. This is what happens when amateurs screw up. There was no story here until someone tried to manufacture one and caused even more of an uproar. Well, any publicity is good publicity I guess.
This is the largest find of treasure in American history, and should provide us with a glimpse of how some people stored their wealth before we see them available for sale on Amazon in May. It just so happens that it equals a payday for a couple from California who were just walking their dog.