Word last week that a Northern California couple found $10 million in gold coins while walking their dog has set off a Gold Rush of theories over who left behind all that loot.
“Scores of people” have apparently contacted the San Francisco Chronicle to offer their theories – or claim the money as their own.
It was Jesse James
One theory argues that James’ gang deposited it in hopes of someday financing a second Civil War. The Chronicle quotes historical writer Warren Getler, who writes in his book Rebel Gold that James was involved with a pro-slavery society that wanted to annex Mexico and turn it into a slave state:
James ran for years with a secret gang called the Knights of the Golden Circle that existed during the Civil War and afterward into at least the late 1800s. The gang buried hundreds of millions of dollars in gold bars and coins all over the United States – including in Northern California –t in its effort to restart the Southern rebellion, Getler said.
It sounds almost plausible enough to kinda sorta maybe be true – but fails to account for the fact the Missouri outlaw was killed 12 years before the last coin was struck and was born the year the first one was.
Walter Dimmick’s 1901 heist
The theory gaining the most traction this week is that the hoard is made up of most of the $30,000 in gold coins that Walter Dimmick stole from the US Mint in San Francisco in 1901. The coins were never recovered.
That theory, from fishing guide and amateur coin historian Jack Trout, set off a flurry of calls to the US Mint.
“We do not have any information linking the … coins to any thefts at any United States Mint facility,” mint officials said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Although Trout acknowledges he can’t prove his theory, he still thinks he’s right.
“There is no real direct proof, but I am getting more research in on this,” he told The Associated Press by phone Tuesday from Chile, where he lives part of the year.
Dimmick is said to have spirited six sealed bags – each filled with 250 $20 gold pieces – out of the mint, where he was the chief cashier.
The Saddle Ridge Hoard contains 1,400 $20 gold pieces, 50 $10 gold pieces and four $5 gold pieces, with a range of dates beginning in 1847 and extending to 1894.
Even if the mint had coins on hand covering a span of 47 years, which is unlikely, those in the hoard include some so badly worn that they wouldn’t have been there, said David McCarthy, a San Francisco numismatist.
Another coin, dated 1876, was in such pristine condition that it wouldn’t have been there either.
“It doesn’t have a single marking on it,” McCarthy said. “That coin couldn’t have sat in a bag in the San Francisco Mint and looked like that. It would have had what we call ‘bag marks’ all over it.”
Another theory postulates that the gold originally belonged to gentleman robber Black Bart (aka Charles Earl Bowles), who made a name for himself robbing stage coaches in northern California. But Bart robbed stages only between 1877 and 1883, when he was caught and sent to prison.
“Nothing about Black Bart matches up for those coins,” historian Robert Chandler told the Chronicle. “He is just a colorful character, which is why people bring him up.”
It’s a lost gold rush cache
The finders, who have chosen to remain anonymous, have their own theory.
Don Kagin is a rare coin dealer who represents the couple who stumbled upon the coins. They’ve done some research, Kagin said, and believe their property in California’s Gold Rush country was occupied at the time by someone in the mining industry. “He probably meant to go back and dig them up, but met his demise and was single so nobody knew about it. That makes the most sense of all,” he told the Chronicle. “But hey – it’s just a theory.”