Here in Northern Nevada, history can abound in some of the most odd places. Over the years we have seen a number of great coins that have been found around that are, literally, in the dirt. Some have been found by people using metal detectors while others have been found by people who were just in the right place at the right time.
Recently a local was walking their dog up in the hills by Virginia City. As they sauntered down the road looking for rocks, one of their favorite pastimes, something caught their eye. In the dirt was a face looking back up at them. Bending down and picking up the coin it was easily discernible as gold due to the weight alone. After wiping off the dirt, which is a big no-no, they discovered it was a coin minted in 1870. Being that the coin had been minted in Carson City, it truly became a treasure. It ended up being worth in the five figures. Due to the condition that coin had probably been lying there in the dirt since 1870, just waiting 140-plus years for someone to find it.
Finding coins lost in the ground is not uncommon throughout the world, but in this area we have a relatively unique combination that can really spice up a find. In the late 1800s the West still was untamed and without infrastructure, but there were thousands of people combing the hills in search of fortune and a new life. Many of these miners and explorers lived in crude or very temporary structures. Often the miner would have to find a way to store his wealth without leaving it at risk of being stolen. Burying his poke was a common way to hide it from prying eyes. Another way was to sew coins into clothing or saddlery so that it would always be close by.
The second part of the uniqueness to the area is that many of the coins carried by those living out West were newly minted coins from our western mints. Carson City began in 1870 but made coins in very limited quantities. Many of these coins were used until they were worn out due to the lack of coinage available in the burgeoning westward expansion. Today that means that many of these early coins are worth a hefty price.
When coins were buried, it was not likely that they would be forgotten, but many a miner did not come back due to tragedy unforeseen. Some of these treasures are still waiting to be discovered.
Lost coins play a large role in what is found today. Whether a holed pocket, a torn garment, or just coin slipping out after a tumble or bathroom break, over the years there are countless lost coins just lying under the sun awaiting discovery.
We have seen a host of rare and valuable coins that have been found around the area. Whether a dime, silver dollar, gold coin or rare territorial coin, many have tremendous value due to their rarity. If you are lucky enough to find one, remember not to wipe or clean off the coin without a professional opinion first because the value difference could be in the thousands. But if you do find a coin from this area, it has a better chance of being worth a pretty penny because of the rich history this area does hold.
Allen Rowe is the owner of Northern Nevada Coin in Carson City.