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Gold treasure sale starts May 27

If you are interested in buying gold coins from the California Saddle Ridge treasure hoard, mark May 27 on your calendar.

Don Kagin told the Chicago Coin Club Saturday that at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time a single 1874-S $20 gold piece will be sold in a live auction at the Old San Francisco Mint. Proceeds will be used toward the facility’s restoration.

A half hour later, at midnight, the rest of the 1,427 coins will be offered for sale at fixed prices on and on

Kagin has previously estimated that the coins are worth $10 million.

The cheapest coins to be offered will sell for $2,500 plus packaging and shipping, he said. These pieces are the damaged coins, though they will always be associated with the excitement of the Saddle Ridge Treasure.

Undamaged coins, graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service in various circulated grades, will be priced in the $3,000-$3,500 range.

Lowest Mint State grades will start at $5,000.

Nearly all of the coins, 1,373 to be precise, are $20 gold pieces. There are $50 $10 gold pieces and four $5 gold pieces.

An 1866-S No Motto $20, which is the finest known at PCGS MS-62+, is valued at approximately $1 million, according to previous publicity.

Joining Kagin for the talk was David McCarthy, who has worked for Kagin since 2003 and is senior researcher.

He told the story of the unidentified northern California couple who while walking their dog in February 2013 found the first of eight canisters that McCarthy later identified as baking powder tins.

The couple eventually found all eight and for a time actually reburied them under a woodpile elsewhere on their property.

They contacted a lawyer, who in turn contacted McCarthy at Kagin’s.

Another coin dealer was contacted by the lawyer, but his offer of $40 per coin over melt value helped cinch the deal for Kagin’s.

Kagin said, “There is no credible claim to the coins other than the finders'.” He said he had a five-page report that had examined the issue.

McCarthy knocked down an online theory that these coins might be from a 1901 theft from the San Francisco Mint by Walter Dimmick.

The Mint wrote a letter that says there is no evidence to tie these coins to the theft and McCarthy adds that those coins would have been 1900-S and 1901-S coins.

McCarthy said he was able to identify the canisters as Golden Gate brand baking powder cans of a style used in the middle 1880s, which was consistent with the dates of the coins in them (1847-1894).

Though he did not reveal where the coins were found, he described the location as in a “fairly remote area near several property lines.” He also said the spot was hidden from view on three sides along a ridge line path that the couple used to walk their dog.

There was evidence that some of the canisters were dug up and more coins added to the hoard, including damaged coins. He estimated that coins were added to the hoard over a period of 15 or 20 years.

McCarthy was able to remove the encrustations from the coins by soaking them in four different solutions that he did not want to identify.

Many of the coins now look like they have just come off San Francisco Mint presses.

Will all the coins sell? Will they reach an aggregate value of $10 million?

Does anyone seriously doubt it?

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."