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Buried gold coins found in California could hit Amazon by late May

Amazon.com Inc.Arts and Culture

A rare cache of buried 19th century gold coins discovered by a California couple on daily walk could be hitting Amazon.com as early as May.

Whatever portion of the find is put on the retail site for sale will no doubt attract great interest among rare-coin enthusiasts, who have been set abuzz by what experts are calling the most valuable find unearthed in North America.

PHOTOS: California couple discovers cache of gold coins

If the coins were melted down, the gold alone would be worth $2 million, said David Hall, co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Services in Newport Beach, who recently authenticated the coins.

On the market, however, the "Saddle Ridge Hoard," named for the area on the couple's property where the coins were found, may fetch more than $10 million. 

Among the coins is the finest known of its type, valued at around $1 million, experts said Wednesday.

It's an 1866 $20 coin printed without the “In God We Trust” motto -- the 1866-S No Motto Double Eagle, said Hall.

When the motto was added to the coin in 1866, some coins were still minted in San Francisco without the phrase, he said.

At that time in San Francisco people were concerned with staying alive and feeding themselves, not preserving these coins for posterity, Hall said.

“It was the Wild West, so the coins weren’t saved. And this one survivor, it’s kind of a miraculous coin. It’s never been in circulation. It was saved from the day it was minted,” he said.

Had the couple -- whose identities have been kept private -- attempted to clean the delicate surface of the coin they could have reduced the value to $7,000 or $8,000 in under a minute, said David McCarthy, senior numismatist for numismatic firm Kagin’s Inc., who evaluated the hoard.

The "Saddle Ridge Hoard" is comprised of nearly 1,400 $20 gold pieces, 50 $10 pieces and four $5 pieces, Kagin said. At least 13 of the coins are the finest known of their kind, he said.

“In terms of the condition and value of the coins, we as amateurs thought that the 1866-S No Motto $20 might be worth more than $5,000 or more -- we didn’t realize it was considerably better than the coin sitting in the Smithsonian!” John said in an online interview with Kagin.

The story of how the buried treasure was discovered is also remarkable. The couple, identified only as John and Mary, had walked the path on their Gold Country property for years before they spotted the edge of a rusty can peeking out of the moss in February 2013.

When the lid cracked off, they found dirt-encrusted coins, according to an interview transcript posted by the numismatic firm Kagin's Inc., which is representing the couple and keeping their identities confidential.

Some of the coins could hit Amazon by late May or early June, according to Kagin. The couple plans to use some of the proceeds for charity.

Until now, the largest reported find of buried gold treasure in the U.S. had a face value of $4,500. It was discovered by construction workers in 1985 in Jackson, Tenn., and eventually sold for around $1 million.

A sampling of the collection will be displayed at Kagin’s booth during the American Numismatic Assn. National Money Show in Atlanta from Thursday through Saturday.

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samantha.schaefer@latimes.com

Twitter: @Sam_Schaefer

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