Members of the public will get their first chance tonight to see and buy gold coins from a massive hoard of buried treasure discovered by a couple walking their dog on their property in California's Gold Country last year.
A collection of coins from the "Saddle Ridge Hoard" will be on display in the Old Mint in San Francisco at 7:30 p.m. in an exhibit hosted by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society.
The 1,400-plus Gold Rush coins from the Saddle Ridge Hoard are estimated to be worth at least $10 million. The discovery is believed to be the largest find ever of buried treasure in the U.S.
"Many coins in the group that are finer than anything we've ever seen before," said David McCarthy, a senior numismatist at Tiburon-based Kagin's Inc., a firm of rare coin experts that is handling the collection's sale.
McCarthy was the first coin expert to examine the coins, which had been buried in decaying metal canisters.
"I picked up one of the coins and looked at it, and underneath the dirt, I could see it was essentially perfect," McCarthy said. "I almost fell out of my chair."
The coins were minted between 1847 and 1894 and McCarthy said 95 percent of them were struck in the San Francisco Mint.
Most coins of the Gold Rush-era were heavily used and handled, but these coins appear to have been buried when they were brand-new, likely the cause of their pristine condition, McCarthy said.
The treasure collection's first coin will be sold at auction at the Old Mint event tonight.
The 1874-S $20 coin was one of the first struck at the Old Mint and its sale will benefit the Old Mint's restoration, according to Lisa Bower, administrative and volunteer manager with the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society.
The couple that discovered the coins is remaining anonymous. They will keep some of the coins for themselves, McCarthy said.
The coin that will be auctioned tonight was valued between $3,000 and $4,000, but McCarthy said he expects it to sell for more.
Admission to the exhibit at the Old Mint, 88 5th Street, is $10 for the public and free for San Francisco Museum and Historical Society members. The exhibit starts at 7:30 p.m. and the auction will run from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
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