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Gold treasure offers warning

The treasure trove of gold coins discovered in eight canisters in California has the world buzzing – as it should.

But the present good fortune of the finders and the excitement among the general public could be built on prior misfortune.

We do not know who stashed away the 1,427 gold coins with a face value of $27,980.

What we do know is that whoever it was did not reclaim the coins, nor did the hoarder's heirs.

That’s why we are treated to the stories we have been seeing in the last two days.

However, after thoughts of buried treasure have passed, anybody who is currently buying gold and silver bullion coins should take note and make sure that their heirs are fully informed of what is being held, where it is and how to get it.

This can take the form of a private letter filed with a lawyer with proper instructions as to when it should be delivered to the recipient.

That will preserve privacy. That will prevent heirs from attempting to cash in early.

Many of us probably have a picture in our minds of some hermit-like individual who has no family burying the coins.

But what if the hoarder was a family man in the 19th century worried about the stability of his local banks or concerned about being robbed if he kept the coins in his home?

What of this man’s heirs?

Did the family lose the land to foreclosure because they could not access the gold coins?

Did a widow suffer?

Were kids or grandkids left uneducated?

We will never know unless some diligent research turns up these particular facts.

It is possible the hoarder was so rich that the money was never missed. At least that would mean the present public relations bonanza is not based on any kind of tragedy.

However, current owners of bullion should take care that they are not laying the groundwork for a 22nd century treasure find story at the expense of their family.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."