Dig beneath farmland topsoil and what is typically found? Maybe an arrowhead; pottery shards; settler marbles; buttons; bits of colored glass; or spent bullets? All heavy with intrinsic value for the finder and the thrill of the hunt, but not a lot of monetary worth.
But catch a field after a rain; run a metal detector over forgotten ground; or simply stand in a favored spot when a field is flipped — and in those painfully rare moments the ground may give up a treasure — literally.
• 1891: A farmer near Sutherland Springs, Texas, hits an iron pot while plowing. The pot was sticking a half-inch out of the ground and initially appeared to be full of dirt, but when the top layer of dirt was removed, a haul of golden coins — Spanish doubloons — was found. According to Gene Maeckel, Wilson County Historical Society, Santa Ana’s troops may have buried the cache after the Battle of San Jacinto. The farmer, noted as “Edwards,” deposited the coins in a bank the next day — with an 1891 appraisal value of $17,000.
• 2009: After 20 years of walking farmland with a metal detector, David Crisp finds 52,000 coins in Somerset, England. From The Guardian: “He struck gold in April when he dug down a foot … and found a huge, well-preserved earthenware pot full of coins. Experts believe the coins had been deliberately buried in the third century as an offering to the gods by landowners hoping for favorable farming conditions.”
Crisp’s find was astounding, the biggest load of Roman coins in a single container ever found in the UK: “At the time I actually found the pot I didn’t know what size it was but when the archeologists came started to uncover it, I was gobsmacked. I thought, ‘Hell, this is massive.’”
The 52,503 coins weighed 350 pounds — strong testimony that the pot would have been buried first, and then filled with the silver and bronze coins. The market value was roughly approximately $1.6 million, to be shared between Crisp and the farmland owner.
See here for pictures of Crisp's find
• 2009: When UK farmer Fred Johnson in Staffordshire ripped ground a little deeper than usual, he exposed a medieval find for the history books. When Terry Herbert followed behind with a metal detector, he found “the largest hoard of gold from the period ever found.” Weapons, gear, crosses — 3,500 individual pieces of silver and gold craftsmanship valued at $5.4 million and split acrimoniously between Johnson and Herbert.
•2013: Producer Bruce Lilienthal hit the jackpot when he found a large, unusual rock on his Minnesota farmland. He dragged the beast to his driveway and forgot about it. His wife suspected it was a meteorite and after testing, she was proven right — the rock was an asteroid chunk. No word on whether Lilienthal sold the rock, but it should bring a hefty sum. In 2012, a 10.5-ounce Martian meteorite sold for $10.5 million. Lilienthal’s is 33 pounds, 16 inches long and 2 inches wide.
For more, see Meteorite find a golden harvest for farmer
• 2013: When Ifor Edwards, a Welsh farmer, lost his keys in his fields, he called on Cliff Massey, Wrexham Heritage Society, and his metal detector. Massey found the keys — and 14 coins from the 14th and 15th centuries. The coins were expected to bring approximately $750 each — split between Edwards and Massey. “You just can’t believe you’re holding something that is 600 and something years old,” said Edwards. “We only bought the land three years ago and nothing like this has ever been found before.”
It’s only a waiting game, more farmland secrets will be coughed up in 2014 ……