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If you want to find treasure coins, you may not need to look very far.
It seems a lot of people have romantic notions about finding treasure coins. Some think they were buried by gold-toothed pirates or greedy-minded misers who buried their old coins to keep others from finding them.
And, while some buried treasure found its way underground this way, the bulk of the buried coins and hidden treasure you’ll find at the beach, on abandoned properties, and elsewhere wound up there due to more mundane – sometimes tragic – reasons.
Many treasure coins date back to sunken ships and other maritime incidents dating back to the 1700s and 1800s. That was a colorful period in colonial America and United States history, when vessels from Europe, Africa, and other places were heading to our country’s shores.
In some cases, the ships were on domestic routes, or they were leaving our land for destinations abroad. Not all of these ships made it. In many cases, the ships brought down coins, gold bars, and other valuables. Sadly, many souls were lost in those accidents.
Meanwhile, old coins you might find on an abandoned property could’ve been left there for any number of reasons – maybe they were accidentally dropped, buried by someone who didn’t trust banks, or being hidden from family members or friends. Sometimes those old coins were stolen from someone else and buried so they wouldn’t be found – but were later forgotten.
What You Need To Find Treasure Coins
Here are some of the things you’re going to need so you can go about some serious treasure seeking:
- Metal detector – Metal detectors can tell you roughly where gold and silver coins, rings, watches, and other buried items made from metal may be found. There is a wide variety of metal detectors, but buy the best you can afford. Some of the nicer models send special visual and audible signals for items that the device detects as being silver or gold.
- Shovel – Your metal detector is of little use if you don’t have a shovel to excavate the buried items it detects! Buy a good-quality shovel with a long, durable handle and pointed digging tip to help more easily break through rock, clay, and other tough soils.
- Permission – Sorry, but you can’t just look for buried treasure wherever your heart or curiosity pleases! You’re going to need permission to search on private property. If you aren’t sure? Play it safe, ask, and make sure you’re not trespassing!
- Patience – Unless your luck is running high, you’ll probably be looking for a while before you find anything worth writing home about. But keep at it – you’re sure to eventually find something valuable!
Other items you may need when looking for buried coins are:
- Plastic storage containers or bags to store any old coins or other treasures you find
- A handkerchief or soft towel for removing dirt and other debris from recovered pieces
- Sun protection so you don’t get burnt while out looking for lost loot
Where Do You Look?
You might not need to go any further than your own backyard to find buried treasure. Of course, you may find only some pennies and maybe a few nails and coat hangers. Or you could find an 1876 proof set there – just like one Chicago man happened to find buried in their backyard. In 2018, a man ended up finding the eight-coin proof set and many other coins that his late father had buried many years earlier. The sad part of the story is that the old man who buried the coins had Alzheimer’s disease.
If the backyard isn’t fruitful, consider the front yard or along a path on your property. That’s where a couple in California found a cache of old gold coins worth more than $10 million buried on their property! This amazing find, called the Saddle Ridge Hoard, involved 1,427 gold coins dating from 1847 through 1894 with a total face value of $27,980. Among the evaluable items uncovered from the Saddle Ridge Hoard upon its discovery in 2013 is an 1866-S $20 double eagle with no motto worth about $1 million.
Not finding much treasure in your yard? Head to the beach! Not far off the shores of South Carolina the shipwreck of the S.S. Central America was found in 1988. The massive vessel, whimsically dubbed “The Ship of Gold,” went down in a hurricane in 1857 carrying 3 tons of California gold coins, bars, and other valuables. Sadly, 425 people lost their lives when the 278-foot-long steamer went down in 8,000 feet of water about 160 miles offshore. Among the finds is an 80-pound gold bar worth $8 million and an amazing rainbow-toned 1857-S $20 double eagle that sold at auction for $282,000.
Best Places To Find Treasures Such As Coins & Gold
There are many popular places where people have found old coins. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find some treasure, too!
Coin Beach, Delaware
Head to Coin Beach, Delaware, where many Irish and English pennies and halfpennies turn up on a relatively frequent basis. The story behind the coins? They were on a ship that was en route from Ireland in 1785. When the ship crashed only yards from the shore (killing dozens of people), 400 barrels of coins poured out. They’re still found on Coin Beach today. Coin Beach is located right near Delaware Seashore State Park, only a few miles south of Rehoboth Beach.
Treasure Coast, Florida
The Treasure Coast is a region of Atlantic beaches along east-central Florida running from approximately Sebastian-Vero Beach south to Port St. Lucie and nods to the sinking of a fleet of treasure-laden Spanish ships that went down off shore in a 1715 hurricane. The fleet of 12 ships were returning to Spain when 11 of them went down in the storm, killing many and causing tons of silver and gold coins, bars, and jewelry to go down with them. Over the years much of the loot has been claimed, but not all. Much of the buried treasure remains lost – somewhere – below the depths. But some pieces have been found along the nearby beaches.
Great Lakes Gold
Who says you have to live in California to find gold? Gold is turning up in Michigan in the Haynes Township, where gold nuggets were reportedly found in 1912. A mine was soon dug. But the search for more gold was abandoned when the steam equipment used for mining more gold exploded. The area of this gold mine is believed to be along or near the Black River. And it’s a prime place for gold panning to this day. Apparently, the Great Lakes is a prime place for gold prospectors, as they have found little flakes and gold bits simply panning sands along the Great Lakes.
California Gold Panning
Countless fortune seekers rushed to California in the late 1840s when gold was discovered there. Most of the recoverable gold has already been snatched up. But people still report finding the occasional gold nugget in various rivers and streams in the state. And, panning for gold is legal in most California rivers and streams. Yet, you’ve got to be patient – and lucky – to find the treasure. Some of the best places in California to look for gold are Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, Tahoe National Forest, and San Joaquin River Gorge.
Other Places To Find Treasure
Need some other ideas on where to find treasure such as old coins and gold? Consider these ideas:
- Church grounds
- Ghost towns
Again, check federal, state, county, and local laws before you begin searching. Claiming you “didn’t know the law” isn’t going to cut it if you’re caught! Some places have finders-keepers rules, while other places say the treasure belongs to the landowner.
I’m the Coin Editor here at TheFunTimesGuide. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) and have won multiple awards from the NLG for my work as a coin journalist. I’m also the editor at the Florida United Numismatists Club (FUN Topics magazine), and author of Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (a book that explores the colorful history of the Philadelphia Mint). I’ve contributed hundreds of articles for various coin publications including COINage, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, Coin Dealer Newsletter, Coin Values, and CoinWeek. I’ve authored nearly 1,000 articles here at The Fun Times Guide to Coins (many of them with over 50K shares), and I welcome your coin questions in the comments below!