This week’s big news story of the anonymous California couple who discovered $10 million US in gold coins minted between the 1840s and 1890s serves as excellent validation that gold and silver hoards are still out there for us to find – probably thousands of them.
Every single rural area I have hunted in has its own folklore concerning alleged treasures that are supposedly buried or have been recovered over the years. While many of these stories are probably based on fact, It stands to reason that the vast majority of remaining caches of gold and silver remaining to be found are completely unknown, and probably not as rare as we would like to think.
Why? The simple fact that caches such as the “Saddle Ridge Hoard” have not been found until now, and that they were found by accident, tells us that in the past people over the years likely had no idea they existed and had no reason to look for them.
WHY DO CACHES AND HOARDS EXIST?
Let’s take a look at a few reasonable probable sources of such caches, or hoards:
– Hidden “loot” such as that from a bank, stagecoach or train robbery;
– Hidden hoarded savings, such as that of a miserly “hermit”, people in extremely rural areas or affluent elderly people;
– Ill-gained money from illegal activities such as boot-legging that could not be put in a bank without raising suspicion;
– Treasure buried related to a military engagement;
WHY CACHES WERE NEVER RECOVERED BY THEIR OWNERS
So let’s reason together to uncover why these caches were never recovered and still lay out there for us to find:
– The most obvious reason that comes to mind is sudden death of the owner of the hoard – heart attack, murder, or epidemics such as the ones that swept across the U.S. During the 1880’s;
– Alzheimer’s and other conditions that caused the “hoarder” to simply forget the location of the cache;
– A criminal is forced to bury loot because of injury sustained during a robbery, and henceforth dies of said injury;
– A robber that stashed loot was captured, hanged, died in prison or simply murdered as a side effect of their profession;
The notorious bank robbers called the Wild Bunch: McCarty was shot dead in 1893, in a street in Delta, Colorado, after a bank robbery; Carver died in prison; Kilpatrick was killed during a train robbery in 1912; Tom O’Day was captured by a Casper, Wyoming, sheriff in 1903; and Kid Curry died either by his own hand in Parachute, Colorado, in 1904, or, as legend has it, lived until he was killed by a wild mule in South America in 1909. Pretty Wild, Huh?
– Soldiers or civilians burying wealth prior to a military engagement were killed in battle or raiding;
– Apathy. I think this one may be fairly common: The value of the cache is inconsequential to a person of considerable wealth, and perhaps they died without ever even bothering to dig it up. Or maybe they were miserly, and as they would never spend it, they had no reason to recover it prior to their death.
Now granted, monster hoards such as the one reported in California may be extremely rare, but the recovery of smaller hoards are reported all of the time. And how many go unreported out of greed – fear of the having to pay taxes – or because the person found the hoard on someone else’s land and doesn’t want to share or fears their treasure will be seized?
WITHOUT A CLUE…
The reason little or no evidence exists clues that a given cache exists at all is by design. They were buried, after all, primarily to avoid loss or theft, for storage to be retrieved at a later date.
If any major clues that the cache existed, or if anyone remained alive that knew of the location, then the cache stands a great probability of having already been recovered long ago. Even in instances where the existence of a treasure was suspected, in many instances they were never found. As time passes, the probability that a given cache is found wanes as people with knowledge of the cache pass away and other clues that did exist fade into time.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Most hoards and caches were buried near an easily recognized landmark so that the owner could be sure they could locate the spot even after many years have passed – an old tree or fence post, unusual rock formation, or other topographical feature, for example.
After 100 or more years have passed, in many instances the feature marking the spot may be long gone, which is why many ancient European hoards are simply found in the middle of an open field or pasture.
In the case of the California hoard, reports state that something caught the couples’ eye on the surface and caused them to dig. Perhaps erosion or an overturned tree exposed the treasure.
But of course, treasure is where you find it. No formula exists that can assure that any of us will ever find a cache, and a hoard of coins can literally be anywhere: middle of a pasture, deep in the woods, or under the McDonald’s nearest your home.
We can increase our probability of finding a cache by:
– regularly hunting woods and fields in addition to your usual haunts;
– hunting property lines;
– keeping an eye out for sunken depressions in the ground that may indicate something is buried there;
– making sure to hit unusual landmarks such as large trees, unusual rock formations, and such;
– detecting in relic mode with high sensitivity, and not be afraid to dig large, deep targets;
– doing the research and listening to local legends to locate clues that potential treasure might exist;
– thinking outside of your detector. Many caches are found in the walls of old homes, in furniture purchased at garage or estate sales, and other places that may be outside the reach of your detector.
In any case, while hunting woods, pastures and fields where targets may be sparse and far between, it is worth digging big targets. I wonder how many times a detectorist has hit a cache with his detector and didn’t dig, assuming the loud target was large rusty iron as it usually s. I wonder if one of those detectorists is me.
If I had a quarter for each time I have dug a trash mason jar lid, I’d have enough money to bury my own considerable hoard! But one day, one day, I am certain that lid will be attached to a jar full of silver and gold, so you’ll have to excuse me while I keep digging them!
Caches of coins are out there, very likely near you, in or near the areas you hunt. Believe it. Expect to find one. Make a conscious decision to be aware of the possibility that the big, deep target you hit in that field may not be trash. Don’t be the guy that hits the mother lode with his metal detector and doesn’t even bother to dig it up!
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Wild Bunch: Wikimedia Commons