AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
A lucky couple in California recently discovered they were sitting on gold. Unbeknownst to them, they had over 1,400 gold coins from the 19th century buried on their property. Now, how rare is that?
DON KAGIN: You know, actually, it's rarer than even winning the lottery. This is a billion to one. I've been in the business 46 years as a professional. I grew up in it because my father started the business in '33. So I've never heard of anything like this and I don't think anybody else has either.
CORNISH: That's coin dealer Don Kagin. He is now watching over this valuable cash. He spoke with us from Atlanta. The coins are on display there at the American Numismatic Association's National Money Show. Who are the fortunate pair?
KAGIN: Well, it's a young couple walking their dog and spied a glint in the ground and went to examine what it was, took a stick, cleared up the rubble around a tin can, so heavy, they thought it was full of paint. Brought it back home, discovered it was a pot of gold, went back with a metal...
CORNISH: Wait. It was a literal pot of gold, basically.
KAGIN: Yeah. It was a can of gold. So they went back and found several more cans of gold, over 1,400 U.S.-made gold coins.
CORNISH: Wow. Now, tell us about the coins themselves. What's special about them? Why are they so valuable?
KAGIN: The coins are dated from 1847 to 1894. They're mainly $20 gold pieces, but there's a few $5 gold pieces. One, actually, was struck right here in Dahlonega, Georgia. But what makes this especially interesting treasure, these coins were clearly buried over a period of years. And there's over 70 different dates and mint marks. And what's even more spectacular is that most of them are in pristine condition.
CORNISH: You have a coin with you. Describe it to us.
KAGIN: Well, this is the star of the collection. Now, first of all, you should realize that a lot of these coins were full of dirt and stones and rust. And we spent months professionally restoring them. I wouldn't suggest people do it on their own. But then we sent them to independently graded. And this particular coin that we have not only is a rare date, 1866, struck in San Francisco, so there's an S mint mark on it, but it's also the finest known in an MS62 holder. Now, well, the coin grading scale is one to 70, and anything over 60 is considered mint state. And this is by far the finest specimen known. Even the Smithsonian Institution doesn't have one nearly as nice as this one.
CORNISH: Don Kagin, when will these coins go on sale? And what's the market for this kind of stash?
KAGIN: Well, 90 percent of the coins, we intend to put up on Amazon.com probably by May. And another 10 percent of them will be sold on our own website, Kagins.com. We'll have a story that goes with the coins and many, many people will be able to acquire them fairly inexpensively at probably $2,500 on up to a million dollars.
CORNISH: Coin dealer Don Kagin, thanks so much for speaking with us.
KAGIN: You're quite welcome. Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.