Buried Treasure's Significance Is 'Hard to Comprehend'

More than 800 Civil War-era coins emerge from Kentucky cornfield
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2023 12:44 PM CDT
Updated Jul 16, 2023 11:55 AM CDT
A Fortune in Gold Emerges From Kentucky Cornfield
   (Getty / miriam-doerr)

At first glance, the video appears to show your average pile of dirt. Then a breathless man points to what lies beneath layers of dirt and dust in his Kentucky cornfield: dozens upon dozens of gold coins, unearthed from the spot they've sat hidden for more than 150 years. When all was said and done, the unidentified man had uncovered more than 800 coins from the Civil War era—what's been dubbed the Great Kentucky Hoard, per USA Today. "The importance of this discovery cannot be overstated as the stunning number of over 700 gold dollars represents a virtual time capsule of Civil War-era coinage," says Jeff Garrett of Numismatic Guaranty Company, which certified the coins' authenticity.

The cache includes not only gold dollars but $10 and $20 gold coins, all dating between 1840 and 1863. "The rarest is the 1863-P $20 1-ounce gold Liberty coin," also known as a Double Eagle, per Live Science. "Just one of these coins can go for six figures at auction, and the Great Kentucky Hoard boasts 18 of them." "Finding one Mint condition 1863 Double Eagle would be an important numismatic event. Finding nearly a roll of superb examples is hard to comprehend," says Garrett. All coins are "remarkably well preserved" with an "astonishing luster and a newfound freshness rarely observed in coins of this kind," adds Andy Salzberg of the Certified Collectibles Group encompassing NGC.

Many people buried their money during wartime as a means of keeping it safe, including in Kentucky, which bordered Union and Confederate states and declared its neutrality at the start of the Civil War. "Given the time period and the location in Kentucky ... it is entirely possible this was buried in advance of Confederate John Hunt Morgan's June to July 1863 raid," conflict archaeologist Ryan McNutt of Georgia Southern University tells Live Science. As the coins are federal currency, they point to "dealings that it would be wise to conceal from a Confederate raiding party." The finder and location have not been identified. Some coins are now up for sale, with more to be made available in the coming months. (More gold coins stories.)

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