US Civil War coin hoard discovered


25 July 2023
The announcement of a hoard of coins seems like a nearly weekly occurrence for the UK and the rest of Europe, writes US coin expert Jeff Garrett. Such finds are very rare in the United States, and it was my good fortune to be part of an amazing discovery in my home state of Kentucky.

About four months ago, I was contacted by someone who wanted me to examine an 1863 Double Eagle. This is a very scarce coin for the series, and I was excited to see the coin. When we met, I was astounded to be told that he possessed 18 examples and nearly 800 more gold coins from a recent discovery. The coins were literally found in a Kentucky cornfield.

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ll of the coins were dated 1863 or earlier and most were stuck during the American Civil War period (1861–65).

The vast majority of the coins (about 750) were $1 gold coins struck from 1850 to 1862. There are about 30 non-gold coins, but these are of low quality because silver corrodes over time when buried. As there are no coins dated after 1863, the coins were most likely lost at that time.

During the American Civil War, the state of Kentucky played an important role, as it bordered Union states in the north and Confederate states in the south. Situated as such, tensions were high from the beginning of the nation’s unrest, and when the war began in 1861, Governor Beriah Magoffin of Kentucky asserted the state’s neutrality with the ‘Kentucky Declaration of Neutrality’.

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Despite the Declaration of Neutrality, the Civil War was a time of great turmoil in Kentucky. Many families were pitted against one another, and Kentucky saw much conflict. The Great Kentucky Hoard may have been a result of this conflict, with the coins lost for over 150 years, until they were unearthed in the cornfield. Details of the location and finder will remain confidential.

While I’m always excited when someone calls asking for advice about a rare coin discovery, the opportunity to handle the Great Kentucky Hoard is one of the highlights of my career. The importance of this discovery cannot be overstated, as the stunning number of over 700 gold dollars represents a virtual time capsule of Civil War-era coinage, including coins from the elusive Dahlonega Mint. Finding one mint condition 1863 Double Eagle would be an important numismatic event. Finding nearly a roll of superb examples is hard to comprehend.

Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) was chosen to conserve and certify the coins before being offered to the marketplace. Many of the coins are in mint condition, but some show evidence of damage as would be expected when found in a cornfield. An exact inventory of the coins will soon be available on the NGC website for collectors and researchers.

The discovery recently made national news in the United States. Examples of the find will be on display next month at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Finds like this are what make being a professional numismatist exciting.
You never know what the next call will be about.

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