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If You Happen to Find Buried Treasure, Here's the Guy to Call

If You Happen to Find Buried Treasure Here s the Guy to Call Pacific Standard The Science of Society


Over the next week, “John and Mary,” as the couple pseudonymously termed themselves, pulled seven more cans of gold from the ground. They were likely stashed there by a 19th-century local with minimal trust in banks. What became known as the Saddle Ridge Hoard comprised 1,427 coins, valued at $10 million. John and Mary kept them in an ice cooler buried under a woodpile in their yard.

Kagin and a colleague heard from John and Mary when the couple sought advice on selling their find. (Kagin is one of the only people who know John and Mary’s true identities.) A good numismatist is many things: a historian, certainly; but also an economist, an archeologist, an anthropologist, a metallurgist, an iconologist, and, in this case, a consigliere. The couple proposed hawking off the coins piecemeal; this turned Kagin into a moneyman in the traditionally remunerative sense. He convinced John and Mary that auctioning all the gold all at once, as a branded hoard, would fetch a higher price.

Kagin described the Saddle Ridge Hoard as “the single greatest buried treasure find in U.S. history” in a voice a notch or two calmer than one would expect. “The drama and mystique were as compelling as the gold itself.” Kagin believes that money tells us more about a civilization than any other type of artifact. “You’re buying the story when you buy a Saddle Ridge piece.”

Stashed in: Stories, Gold!

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Good stories make things worth more.

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