Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Thar's gold in them thar hills!

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Greg Peck
Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When I was a kid, I collected coins—some old, some not so old. My oldest is an 1849 half dime, which I got from a relative. I used to sift through rolls of pennies, pulling out and keeping the older “wheat” pennies—ones of marginal value but which you'll rarely find in circulation today. As I teenager, I bought a $10 gold coin just to say I had one. My collection isn't large or particularly valuable, but it is safely tucked in a bank lock box these days.

I don't really collect anymore. But I remain interested in the hobby of coin collecting. And I sometimes even dream of finding a bunch of rare old coins.

A California couple might not have had such dreams, but news has emerged that last year they stumbled across a cache that would be a dream come true for anyone. They had taken walks on their gold country property for years before spotting the edge of a rusty can peeking out of moss, the Los Angeles Times reported. What they found buried there were $28,000 in dirt-encrusted gold coins that experts say are worth about $10 million today. The so-called “Saddle Ridge Hoard,” found by this couple, who remain anonymous, at an undisclosed site could be the most valuable trove ever discovered in North America.

“I looked around over my shoulder to see if someone was looking at me—I had the idea of someone on horseback in my head,” the man said in an interview transcript. “It's impossible to describe really, the strange reality of that moment.”

The couple reportedly plan to honor the history of the coins by selling them together rather than one at a time. Not, apparently, that the couple will get to spend all $10 million as they see fit. A CBS MoneyWatch report says they'll likely lose half of that value in federal and state income taxes.

That's right; when this couple reached into that can, old Uncle Sam reached a hand in right alongside them. The MoneyWatch story says that in a 1969 tax case, Cesarini v. United States, a husband and wife who bought a used piano for $15 but discovered $45,000 stashed inside were forced to pay income taxes on the find.

It figures. That nightmare is something to keep in mind should you be walking the back 40, or digging around an old attic, and find a trove of treasure like perhaps you've dreamed about.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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