Hoarding comes naturally to us, as humans. Over the centuries humans have been hoarding metals under the earth. In modern times, hoarding takes on a new meaning and the person who hoards is called an obsessive compulsive person. But in ancient times, hoarding happened for completely sane reasons! And these hoards or caches as they may be called open wide the doors to the history of the period!
Why did man hoard coins?
In times of invasion and unrest, mostly in Europe, people seem to have hoarded coins in wooden chests and buried them under the earth; probably to save their hard earned coin from the marauding invaders. Some of the coin hoardings seem to be ritualistic as many different years of coins in different clusters are unearthed near river beds.
In the U.S.A, hoards have been found all over Central America, some dating to the colonial times and some much later in the 19th century. Most of these hoards seem to have been a direct result of a disbelief in the banking system. Some seem to be a bigger cache contributed by many collectors and some a small cache of the hard earned money of a farmer, probably saved for a daughter's wedding!
Saddle Ridge Hoard
It was a lucky February day in 2013 when a couple in California Gold country decided to walk their dog in their property as they probably did most days. What was different that day was a rusty old can poking out of the dirt. They decided to explore further and pried it out of the dirt. And what should they find! Gold coins all dating back to the California Gold rush period!
They identified some odd things to the place like an old rusty can hanging from a tree nearby and an odd shaped rock that they had earlier nicknamed 'Saddle Ridge'. The can that they had uncovered was exactly 10 steps from the rock and in the direction of the 'North Star'. These were probably intended as markers by the original owners to retrieve the gold later. But somehow they (or he/she) never made it back!
The couple went back home and brought some hand tools and uncovered another can nearby. Finally they bought a metal detector and found six more cans in the vicinity. They found 8 cans in all with 1,427 gold coins!
The 'Saddle Ridge hoard' created a sensation among numismatists as it is the largest known hoard of gold coins ever found in the U.S. ! The face value of the hoard is said to be $27,980 and some coins in the hoard are worth millions of dollars for collectors because of the perfect mint state condition they are in !
Aaron White Hoard
A Connecticut attorney, Aaron White distrusted paper money. During the Civil War, there was an abundance of 'greenbacks' issued to fund the war. White predicted that the greenbacks would become worthless (as they did!) and hoarded money in the form of coins. He even issued a personal token inscribed with 'NEVER KEEP A PAPER DOLLAR IN YOUR POCKET UNTIL TOMORROW'.
Later,after his death, his hoard was estimated to have 250 colonial and state copper coins, 60,000 copper large cents, 60,000 copper-nickel flying eagles and Indian cents, 5000 bronze two-cent pieces, 200 half dollars, 100 silver dollars, 350 gold dollars and 20,000 to 30,000 foreign copper coins.
Castine Hoard of Early Silver coins
The Castine Hoard is probably one of the oldest known American hoards (thought to be buried in the late 1600's) and was found in Castine, Maine in 1840's. It is believed to be the cache of Baron Jean-Vincent d'Abbadie de Saint-Castin, the third son of a French nobleman. As was common in those days, the younger son usually joined the armed forces while the eldest inherited the title and the family estate. Jean-Vincent moved to the 'New World' from France at the age of 13 as an ensign in the army. After his army pursuits were complete, he settled in the French trading post of Fort Pentagoet, located in current day Maine, married an Abenaki woman and had a daughter.
Fort Pentagoet was a lucrative trading post, trading mostly in furs and timber and was attractive to many European powers. When the English forces stormed the fort, Castin's daughter secreted away her father's cache and buried it somewhere before getting captured herself. The Castine hoard is believed to be this cache of Baron Jean-Vincent d'Abbadie de Saint-Castin. It was discovered in 1840's by Captain Stephen Grindle and his son Samuel who found the coins on their farm located near the Bagaduce River. The hoard contained around 2000 North American colonial coins and foreign coins; French crowns, half-crowns, quarters, Spanish cobbs and Pine-tree shillings.
There have been other American hoards equally famous to these three, one of the biggest from the U.S. mint itself; the GSA hoard of hundreds and millions of Morgan dollars and Peace dollars. Most Morgan coin dates like the 1903-O were rendered common because of this hoard.
While the hoards proved useless for the original owner as they were never retrieved; they are priceless to us now not only because of their numismatic and face value. They are priceless because they tell us a story of who came, lived and died in this country before us!