Great Kentucky Hoard: Civil War Era Treasure Unearthed in Cornfield

The Great Kentucky Hoard of Civil War Gold Coins

In a truly extraordinary discovery, a Kentucky man stumbled upon a treasure trove of more than 700 Civil War-era gold coins (or the "Great Kentucky Hoard") buried deep within his cornfield. This remarkable find has set the numismatic world abuzz, with collectors and historians alike captivated by the historical significance and potential value of this cache of precious coins. The Great Kentucky Hoard, as it has come to be known, is a unique and rare find, with implications that extend far beyond the individual who unearthed it.


Kentucky man finds 700 civil era gold coins
Credit: Numismatic Guaranty Company

The Astounding Discovery

The story began when the anonymous man, tending to his cornfield on a seemingly ordinary day, unearthed a cluster of coins caked with dirt. Upon closer inspection, he realized that these were not just ordinary coins but a treasure trove of over 700 gold dollars, gold Liberty Coins, and other gold denominations dating back to the mid-19th century.

In A Kentucky Cornfield

What makes the Great Kentucky Hoard so exceptional is not merely the sheer number of coins discovered but also their historical significance and scarcity. During the Civil War, gold coins were not extensively minted, making them a precious commodity. Additionally, the practice of burying valuables during times of conflict to safeguard them was not uncommon. As such, these coins serve as a unique time capsule, providing invaluable insights into the economic climate and the lives of people during the tumultuous era of the American Civil War.


civil era coins found in Kentucky cornfield
Credit: Getty Images

Kentucky's Role in the Civil War

Kentucky's historical context during the Civil War adds an intriguing layer of significance to the discovery. As tensions escalated between Northern and Southern states, Kentucky declared itself neutral. Despite its declaration of neutrality, the state found itself caught in the crossfire of conflicting allegiances, with families torn apart by differing loyalties. The Great Kentucky Hoard reflects a hidden piece of the state's past, a tangible representation of the uncertainty and complexity that defined this tumultuous period.

The Great Kentucky Hoard Composition

The coins in the Great Kentucky Hoard offer a rich and diverse representation of Civil War-era numismatics. The collection primarily consists of U.S. gold dollars and gold Liberty Coins, with gold dollars constituting around 95% of the trove. These coins were struck in 90% gold at various mints, including Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Carson City, Nevada.

The coins in the hoard can be categorized as follows:

  • U.S. Gold Dollars from 1854 to 1862.
  • $10 Gold Liberty Coins from 1840 to 1862.
  • $20 Gold Liberty Coins from 1857, 1862, and 1863.
  • A small number of silver coins.

The Magnitude of the Find

The significance of the Great Kentucky Hoard is underscored by the observations made by numismatic experts. Jeff Garrett, a renowned rare coin dealer, hailed this discovery as one of unparalleled importance. Finding even a single Mint condition 1863 Double Eagle would be considered a momentous event, but unearthing nearly a roll of superb examples is an astonishing find that nearly defies comprehension. The finder exclaimed, "it's the most insane thing, ever."


kentucky cornfield gold coin for sale
Credit: NGC

Preservation and Authentication

Following the excavation, the coins were carefully examined and authenticated by experts at the Numismatic Guaranty Company who certifies the value of the find at over $2 million. Surprisingly, despite spending over a century and a half underground, many of the coins were found to be in mint condition, while others displayed signs of light circulation. The significance of these well-preserved coins cannot be overstated, as they provide a rare glimpse into the state of currency and economic activity during the Civil War.

Jeff Garrett, a distinguished rare coin dealer and U.S. coinage expert, was chosen to handle the hoard, expressing his excitement and honor to be part of this historic discovery.

A Glimpse into History

As the Great Kentucky Hoard is set to be made available for purchase, coin collectors and history enthusiasts alike eagerly await the opportunity to own a piece of this extraordinary discovery. Each coin is a tangible link to the past, a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of those who lived through one of the darkest chapters in American history. According to Live Science, Ryan McNutt, a conflict archaeologist at Georgia Southern University, said that the coins might have been buried before a Confederate raid carried out by General John Hunt Morgan in the summer of 1863.

Considering the hoard coins are federal currency, McNutt said, it may be the result of a Kentuckian's dealings with the federal government — "dealings that it would be wise to conceal from a Confederate raiding party." Many Americans affected by the Civil War "became experienced with hiding goods and valuables," he said.

Parts Will Remain A Mystery

Despite the awe-inspiring nature of this find, the identity of the lucky discoverer and the exact location of the cornfield remain shrouded in secrecy. This air of mystery only serves to intensify the fascination surrounding the Great Kentucky Hoard, further fueling speculation and curiosity among the public.

The Competitive World of Treasure Hunting

The discovery of this hoard in Kentucky comes on the heels of other rumors and legends of buried Civil War gold across different states. Treasure hunters have long sought the hidden riches believed to have been concealed during the turbulent times of the Civil War. One such case involved the F.B.I.'s excavation of an area in rural Pennsylvania, where rumors of lost Civil War gold had persisted for decades. However, the dig ultimately yielded no treasure, leaving the legends unconfirmed.

The Value of the Great Kentucky Hoard

As the news of the discovery spreads, so does the anticipation of the collection's potential value. Gold Liberty double-eagles minted in 1863 are particularly sought after by collectors, with values reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction. Given the significant number of high-value coins in the hoard, conservative estimates suggest that its total worth exceeds $2 million and Mintgov is offering the coins to the collecting public. All of them have already sold. There is only a video showing the moment when the collection was discovered.

The unearthing of the Great Kentucky Hoard of Civil War-era gold coins stands as a testament to the enduring allure of history and the hidden treasures that lie beneath our feet. This extraordinary discovery offers a rare opportunity to acquire a tangible piece of America's past, a connection to a time of great turmoil and sacrifice. As the hoard finds its way into the hands of collectors and enthusiasts, it continues to spark wonder and curiosity, reminding us that history can resurface in the most unexpected places. Follow us for more.

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