Romm Diamonds Blog
March 4th, 2014
The $10 million bounty of 1,427 gold coins recently unearthed by a Northern California couple in their own backyard may be tied directly to the unsolved mystery of Walter Dimmick, a San Francisco Mint chief clerk, who was convicted in 1901 of embezzling 1,500 gold coins. Not a single $20 gold piece was ever recovered — until, perhaps, now.

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All the coins found by the couple were dated from 1847 to 1894. Most were mint-condition, uncirculated $20 Double Eagles struck at the San Francisco Mint. The type, date range, origin, quality and quantity of coins all seem to mesh neatly with the Dimmick story.

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These new revelations may throw a monkey wrench into the unbelievable tale of the couple who literally stumbled upon what is now being called the Saddle Ridge Hoard, believed to be the biggest cache of gold coins ever unearthed in the United States. The coins had been packed into cans and hidden near a path on the couple's property. Known only as John and Mary, the couple was planning to start selling individual coins on Amazon.com’s Collectibles site in May.

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Instead of being overnight multi-millionaires, the California couple could end up high and dry. U.S. treasure trove laws could mean that all the coins could be taken away and handed over to the descendants of the person who initially buried the coins or given to the State of California.

If the couple is allowed to keep the coins, the $10 million windfall will net a little over $5 million after 47% is taken in state and federal taxes, according the San Francisco Chronicle.

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The online magazine Altered Dimensions published first-hand accounts of the Dimmick trial, his conviction and his subsequent request for a pardon. According to the publication, Dimmick worked for the Mint from 1898 through 1901. The chief clerk had been trusted with the keys to the vaults until it was discovered during an audit that six bags of $20 Double Eagle gold coins with a face value of $30,000 were missing.

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Dimmick was the prime suspect because he was the only one with the keys to the vault and was the last person to count the bags of coins each night before the vaults were closed. What’s more, he had been accused of forging the superintendent’s name, taking money from pay envelopes of Mint employees and stealing other government funds under his watch. Convicted after a one-month trial, Dimmick was sentenced to serve nine years in San Quentin prison.