Truth be told, stories of buried treasure come to the surface quite often, not to mention all of the secret riches that have yet to be discovered.
We’ve carefully combed through a trove of some unbelievable buried treasure tales, and we can’t wait to share them with you.
Whether you’re a true treasure hunter at heart or simply fascinated by the topic, you’ll undoubtedly dig our list of 13 amazing discoveries.
In fact, they might just inspire you to set off on your own treasure hunting adventure!
1. A Walk to Remember
Some folks are on a constant mission to unearth buried treasure, while others are fortunate enough to stumble upon it unexpectedly. Back in 2013, an unsuspecting California-based couple took their dog for a walk and noticed a rusted can partially buried in the ground. They were shocked to find that the metal container was filled with $20 gold coins.
Upon further investigation, the couple found several more coin-filled cans buried nearby on their property. The coins were minted from 1847 to 1894, and much to the couple’s surprise, there were nearly 1,400 $20 pieces in total. Additionally, the duo discovered 50 $10 coins and 4 $5 pieces. While the worth of the collection would have been impressive even at face value, the going rate for a single coin was estimated at $1 million. Coin expert David McCarty described the amazing discovery as “unheard of” in North America.
2. Buried for a Good Cause
The Rocky Mountains may not be the first location that comes to mind when you think of hidden treasure troves, but late Air Force veteran and art dealer, Forrest Fenn, once claimed to have buried a chest filled with $1 million worth of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and gold coins in the mountainous region during his early 80s.
Although Fenn offered a few cryptic clues to treasure hunters before his passing, the New Mexico-based millionaire was intent on keeping the exact location a secret. His reason? He wanted to encourage kids and their families to spend time outdoors enjoying nature.
Unfortunately, searching for the loot, which has become known as the “Fenn Treasure,” has resulted in death for at least four hopeful hunters. To this day, the treasure has yet to be recovered.
3. Men (and Treasure) Overboard
There are countless stories of shipwrecks and valuables lost at sea, but the booty from one sunken ship continues to be found in bits and pieces.
Dating back to 1622, a Spanish treasure shipped called La Nuestra Señora de Atocha hit a coral reef during a devastating hurricane on a return trip from the Florida Keys to Spain. The vast majority of the crew members were swallowed by the sea, along with hundreds of millions worth of gold, silver, emeralds, and various coins.
Centuries later—in 1985—treasure hunter Mel Fisher recovered $500 million worth of the loot—only a fraction of the sunken trove. While there is much more to be recouped, Fisher now takes fellow treasure hunting enthusiasts on diving missions. While many coins have been recovered, the greater part of the riches remains at the bottom of the ocean.
4. The Surprise of a Lifetime
British farmer Peter Whatling misplaced his hammer while working in a field in the early 1990s. He called on a friend with a metal detector, and the two discovered a collection of gold jewels, silver spoons, and coins that may have been buried as early as the fourth century. The estimated value of the booty? A whopping $3.8 million.
After catching wind of the discovery, the British Museum purchased the treasure. Due to its exorbitant value, the purchase required donations from various donors. Whatling’s hammer was also recovered and now lives in the British Museum along with the collection of valuables.
5. A Lucrative Profession
Metal detecting is a popular hobby, but British detectorist David Crisp made searching for treasure his profession. Back in 2010, Crisp initially dug up 21 coins—not bad for a day’s work. Digging further, he was flabbergasted to find a massive container that held more than 52,000 coins in all.
While the discovery itself was undoubtedly exciting, the appraisal was equally dumbfounding. In total, the colossal coin collection was valued at nearly $410,000.
6. The Thrill of the Hunt
Not all buried treasure has substantial monetary value; sometimes the reward is simply getting to the bottom of a head-scratching mystery.
Back in 1979, English author and illustrator, Kit Williams, published a book entitled, “Masquerade,” which contained clues that prompted a mass treasure hunt. Readers were inspired to recover a jeweled golden rabbit. It took three years, but the mystery was ultimately solved.
Williams’ publication resulted in a new literary genre, dubbed “armchair treasure hunts.” You can find a curated collection of these fun and thought-provoking mysteries on Goodreads.
7. More Tale than Treasure
The stories of some treasure troves are more fascinating than any hidden gem. In many cases, treasure hunters have no idea what they may unearth, and sometimes, the treasure is never actually exhumed.
Back in 1795, a peculiar discovery led 37-year-old refugee Daniel McGinnis and two of his friends down a rabbit hole on Nova Scotia’s Oak Island. The men stumbled upon a seemingly deep pit and began to dig. Oddly, they discovered solid oak flooring that had been expertly installed every 10 feet as they made their way down the cavernous pit.
Feeling defeated, the crew called off their search after reaching the 30-foot mark and finding no notable treasure. Still, many others have attempted to dig deeper over the years. Although the vast majority of these treasure-hunting enthusiasts have garnered no success, Robert S. Young, who purchased the island in the mid-1990s, claims to have found several coins, along with a menagerie of artifacts, including tools, kitchenware, and clothing.
Despite the lack of valuable unearthed treasure, the search continues to this day. In fact, the History Channel’s popular reality show, The Curse of Oak Island, which explores the topic of buried treasure, is in its seventh season.
8. Returned to its Rightful Owners
Not everyone who unearths buried treasure has a finders-keepers mentality. In 2023, Matthew and Maria Emanuel were thrilled to discover a rusty metal box while planting trees on their property in Staten Island, New York.
After fully uncovering the box, the couple realized they’d unearthed a safe filled with $100 bills, along with precious and semi-precious gemstones, valued at $52,000 in all. A neighbor’s address scribbled on a piece of paper led the couple to the booty’s rightful owners.
The Emanuel’s neighbors were stunned to be reunited with their vault of valuables, which had been stolen from their home seven years prior.
9. An Army within a Tomb
Topping the list of the world’s most surreal underground findings is the tomb of Emperor Qin, who led China’s very first empire from 221-210 BCE. Described by National Geographic as “one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in the world,” the tomb is believed to have been constructed over a 38-year period; however, construction hadn’t been completed.
It wasn’t until 1974 that the massive tomb was discovered by local workers. Among the four underground pits, three were filled with terra-cotta soldiers and their weapons, while the remaining pit sat empty.
Archaeologists estimate that the tomb contains a total of 8,000 figures in all, though many items may never be uncovered. Chinese historian Siam Qian once wrote that the tomb contains precious stones, models of palaces, pavilions, and nearby bodies of water.
While some curious individuals are intent on uncovering the remainder of the tomb’s contents, many experts believe further excavation would lead to unnecessary damage and compromise the glorious work of art that so many dedicated their lives to constructing for Qin’s eternal life.
As of January 2023, excavation efforts have been halted.
10. A Tank Filled with Treasure
Military hardware enthusiast Nick Mead purchased a Russian tank back in 2023 to add to his impressive collection of 150 military vehicles. While inspecting the tank with his mechanic friend, Todd Chamberlain, the U.K.-based collector discovered 60 pounds of gold bars. Experts believe the bars were stolen by Iraqi soldiers during the Gulf War, which took place from August 1990 to February 1991. The tank was purchased on eBay, and surprisingly, the seller had no idea the vehicle was housing $1.2 million worth of gold bars.
According to Mead, he has been approached about the possibility of turning his real life treasure discovery into a film. Although this might not be a story of buried treasure, it certainly wins the prize for remaining undiscovered for nearly two decades.
11. Filled to the Brim with Historical Value
There are countless stories of treasure trove discoveries, but some of the most remarkable finds are single items with rich historical roots.
In 2001, Englishman Cliff Bradshaw happened upon a crushed corrugated golden cup while exploring a potato field with his metal detector in South East England. Bradshaw was no stranger to successful metal detecting searches. In fact, three weeks prior to finding the gold vessel, he’d unearthed a golden coin dating back to the seventh century, along with a collection of spindle whorls and several other historically significant items.
As it turns out, the corrugated cup dates back to as early as 1700 BC, during the Early Bronze Age. Known today as the Ringlemere Gold Cup, the vessel was only the second of its kind to be found in Britain. Its value? An astounding £270,000, or approximately $352,000 US dollars.
The reward was split evenly between Bradshaw and the potato field’s owner. Due to its age and gold percentage, the vessel was declared a national treasure under the U.K.’s Treasure act, which was established in 1996, just five years before Bradshaw’s discovery.
12. A Collector’s Dream Come True
We often hear about hidden gems lost at sea or buried underground, but on rare occasion, a trove of unlikely treasure is found in the attics and basements of loved ones’ homes.
In one such case, Ohioan Karl Kissner found a box of baseball cards while cleaning out his aunt’s attic. The cards, which Kissner found in 2012, were in superb condition and dated back to the year 1910.
It’s amazing to think that 700 highly coveted cards had been tucked away in a cardboard box for over a century. Equally shocking is the collection’s value—a whopping $3 million!
Twenty relatives, including Kissner, divided the collection evenly, and Time reports that the majority of the family members have opted to sell their portion of the baseball memorabilia.
13. As Luck Would Have It
Back in 1962, North Carolina-based coin dealer George Walton died in a car accident and left his kin a fortune. The problem? Although Walton informed his family that one particular coin—a 1913 Liberty Head nickel—was worth a pretty penny, no auctioneer would corroborate the collector’s story after his untimely death. As a result, the coin remained in a closet in the family home for four long decades.
After discovering the other four Liberty Head nickels on display at an annual coin collecting convention, the family had the coin appraised and finally learned that it was the fifth and final nickel to complete the collection.
Despite its monetary worth of $1 million, the Walton family decided against selling the coin. Instead, it travels to exhibitions throughout the U.S. on a regular basis.
Treasure Hunting Tips for Novices
Virtually anyone can recover buried treasure, which makes it a universally alluring hobby. Below, we share three tried-and-true tips for beginner treasure hunters:
1. Pay Attention to the World Around You
Many of us are largely unaware of our surroundings, and unless we literally stumble into a foreign object or trove of valuable treasure, we often don’t notice what’s right under our noses.
Anytime you venture outdoors, keep an eye out for unexpected objects or depressions in the ground. In many cases, treasure hunters discover hidden gems by spotting objects sticking out of the dirt or grass.
2. Visit the Beach or Your Local Lake or Reservoir
The likelihood of finding treasure while beachcombing is relatively high, since items constantly wash ashore. From bottled love notes and sea glass to fine jewelry and children’s toys, the possibilities are virtually endless.
If you live near a reservoir, lake, or pond, the best time to search for treasure is when the water level is low. Interesting items are regularly found hidden beneath these bodies of water.
3. Invest in a Metal Detector—or Borrow One
You’ve probably heard the age-old saying, “Good things happen when you least expect them to.” This is certainly true when it comes to discovering buried treasure. As author Denis Waitley once said, “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”
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