Famous Coin Hoards


Hoarders these days get a bad name, with reality TV programs dedicated to their rehabilitation. Among coin enthusiasts, though, a “hoard” takes on a whole different meaning, more in tune with the archeological definition. A hoard is a wealth deposit of valuable artifacts, usually intentionally buried or hidden for later retrieval. Coin hoards can result from individual investors’ ongoing passion, shipwrecks, bank reserves, and even government collections. 

Coin hoards intrigue collectors and investors alike because of the special history of the coins, and the story of how the coins come to light. Depending on a number of factors (circumstances surrounding the discovery of the hoard), the hoard can have a huge impact on the market for a particular type of coin, or the coins may be more valuable than other coins of the same type. Famous coin hoards are generally those that were successfully dispersed back into the market, increasing the coins’ popularity with collectors and the market.

Below is just a sampling of different types of famous U.S. coin hoards:

Personal hoard: The Redfield hoard of silver dollars is probably the most famous example of a personal hoard. Lavere Redfield, a humble potato farmer in Reno, Nevada, distrusted banks. He would exchange cash for silver Morgan and Peace dollars, which he would then throw down his coal chute. By the time he died in 1976, the Redfield hoard included over 400 bags, each containing 1000 coins.

Shipwreck: Although ancient coin hoards from shipwreck are popular, there are also a few U.S. coin hoards from shipwrecks, and the SS Central America Hoard is one example. In 1857, a paddlewheel steamship bound for New York was shipwrecked off the coast of the Carolinas with 500 passengers aboard. The cargo included mail, tons of Gold Rush gold, and more than 5000 Mint State Double Eagles, including at least one steamer trunk of 1857 $20 Liberty gold coins.

Government collection: The GSA (Government Services Administration) Hoard is a prime example of a very successful coin hoard dispersal. This collection became available after the government completed exchanging silver dollars for silver certificates in the mid-1960s. It included over 3 million coins, most of which came from the Carson City mint, and many of which were uncirculated in original Mint sealed bags. The GSA carefully dispersed these coins into the market through a series of sales that limited the number of coins each purchaser could buy, with the last sale being held in 1980.

Bank hoard: The Continental-Illinois Central Bank silver dollar hoard is probably the best example of a successful hoard dispersal. Due to Federal Reserve requirements, banks are required at all times to keep a certain percentage of their deposits in cash. The Continental-Illinois Central Bank, for whatever reason, kept their cash reserves in the form of bags of silver dollars. After keeping up this practice for over 100 years, the bank’s board of directors sold 1500 bags of silver coins, much of it uncirculated, in the early 1980s.

The mystery and romance surrounding famous coin hoards make them a popular topic among collectors. It’s intriguing to imagine that your own Morgan dollar may once have been part of the famous Redfield hoard. If you’re interested in hoard coins and how they affect coin values, contact Mullen Coins.

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