New evidence suggests the recently discovered Saddle Ridge coin hoard may have been stolen from the San Francisco Mint in 1900.
The coins, which carry a face value of $27,000 and a collectible value of over $10m, were discovered by a couple near Sacramento, California in an undisclosed location.
It is the largest and most valuable coin hoard ever discovered in the US.
Intriguingly, a newspaper article in the San Francisco Bulletin dating to January 1, 1900 documents the heist of an almost identical sum from the Mint.
One coin in the hoard, an 1866 Liberty $20, is particularly notable. It omits the "In God We Trust" usually featured on the reverse of the issue and is the only example with this variation known to exist.
It appears to point to the heist being carried out by persons with inside knowledge.
Jack Trout, a local historian and numismatist, explained to the San Francisco Gate: "This was someone's private coin, created by the Mint manager or someone with access to the inner workings of the Old Granite Lady (San Francisco Mint)."
"It was likely created in revenge for the assassination of Lincoln the previous year (April 14, 1865). I don't believe that coin ever left The Mint until the robbery. For it to show up as part of the treasure find links it directly to that inside job at the turn of the century at the San Francisco Mint."
If the coins are stolen the US government would ordinarily take ownership, however a spokesperson for the US Mint commented on March 4: "We do not have any information linking the Saddle Ridge Hoard coins to any thefts at any United States Mint facility."
The controversy surrounding the hoard, not to mention their exceptional rarity (the 1866 Liberty $20 alone is valued at around $1m) is likely to translate into exceptional results when and if they are released onto the market.
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