Guide to Gold and Buried Treasure in the Continental U.S. Introduction

A guide to help those looking for gold and buried treasure in the continental United States, history and background of treasure hunting.

A Guide to Buried Treasure in the Continental U.S.

At this moment more than $4 billion in lost treasure is scattered throughout the U.S.! That's the educated guess of an incorrigible old treasure hunter, and many of his colleagues think that that's a conservative estimate.

There's robbers' loot buried by people like Jesse James and Ma Barker "until the heat dies down," but never recovered because the robbers were shot or hung before they could retrieve it. There are incredibly rich gold mines whose owners died without revealing their locations, and which are now hidden by the camouflage provided by time. There are misers' hoards, lost caravans, and caches of pirate loot secreted from coast to coast. These bonanzas really exist, and finding one would be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that has been shared by thousands.

No matter where one lives there's some sort of treasure lost and forgotten nearby. Getting information about this may involve spending time reading stacks of ancient newspapers to find stories about misers who died without revealing where they'd hidden their coins, or legends of old silver mines in the hills that few take seriously anymore. The public library's card catalog will have listings of books under "Treasure Trove" and "Treasure Hunting" that may offer a lead-or try 910.45 in the nonfiction shelves, if the library uses the Dewey decimal system. Librarians are usually glad to dig up stories about local hoards from the "vertical file," that often overlooked collection of pamphlets and newspaper clippings.

Remember-gold, silver, jewels, and money aren't the only valuables lying around waiting to be discovered. Even if that old abandoned mine doesn't have any gold left, it may have treasures like ancient lanterns, vintage guns, or patent medicine bottles. A single coin can provide a grubstake that will last for years. Anything nostalgic seems to be worth a small fortune these days.

The most successful treasure hunters have the heart and mind of a Sherlock Holmes but they also carry a piece of 20th-century technology called a metal detector. Metal detectors range from $20 toys to $1,000 examples of sophisticated electronic wizardry. The less expensive models will find lost coins and watches on a sandy beach, while the better ones can detect masses of metal buried deep under the earth. A detector is a necessity for serious treasure hunting.

World-famous treasures like the Lost Dutchman Mine in the Superstition Mountains or Jim Bowie's lost silver mine are so well-known that they've been searched for by untold thousands of people. Since they haven't been found as yet, an amateur's chances of finding them are negligible. Even relatively little-known treasures have been sought by a lot of people. But again, anyone can be that fortunate one. All it takes is a little more brains, a little more work, or a little more luck.

The best clues won't be found in books about treasure hunting-the authors of such books keep the juiciest tidbits to themselves. Time spent with dusty newspaper files and old records will prove more valuable than poking through abandoned mines and old homesteads. That's how to find the clues-and even the treasures-that no one else has heard of. The clues are there, and so is the treasure.

Legal rights to treasure troves vary from State to State and from treasure to treasure, but there are a few general truisms. One must have permission to search on private property. It's a good idea to get this permission in writing and along with it, a stipulation as to how any treasure found will be divided.

National parks and most State parks prohibit all treasure hunting to prevent destruction of public property. Most national forests are now open, but rules change so it's a good idea to check on a particular forest before searching there. Bureau of Land Management property generally has no restrictions.

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