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Rare gold coins buried in California hit market; one fetches $15,000

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Trove of rare U.S. gold coins found buried in the Sierras hit the market; one fetches a reported $15,000.

The treasure trove of rare U.S. gold coins found buried in a family's backyard in the Sierras hit the market Tuesday night for the first time, with one of them fetching a reported $15,000 at auction.

The 1874 $20 Double Eagle coin is just one of roughly 1,400 that were discovered by a couple while walking their dog. The so-called Saddle Ridge Hoard, made up of denominations of $5, $10 and $20, could bring in $10 million when the sale is all said and done, with several pieces expected to command prices as high as $1 million, experts say.

A portion of the collection debuted for auction Tuesday in San Francisco, where many of the coins were minted in the 1800s. The event doubled as a fundraiser to support the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society's goal of renovating a second mint and developing an on-site museum, according to Kagin's Inc., the numismatic firm that appraised the coins and have been handling their sale.

The couple, identified by Kagin's only as John and Mary, were walking their dog when they spotted the edge of a rusty can peeking from out of the moss in February 2013. The discovery spawned a whirlwind of claims by people citing alleged family ties and theories about who had the coins, such as outlaw Jesse James.

"The family loved the idea that these coins could help in the effort to restore the building where most of the Saddle Ridge Hoard coins were made," David McCarthy, senior numismatist at Kagin's, said in an announcement.

Much of the gold cache is now available for sale on Amazon. Bidding prices had started at $2,575, but by Wednesday morning, many of them were nearing $4,000. Wagers for the most expensive coin, an 1866-S Double Eagle without the "In God We Trust" motto, started at $1.2 million.

Despite the eagerly anticipated sale, not all the coins will be put on the market. The couple plans to keep a few pieces as keepsakes.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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