Tennessee Hoard of 19th Century U.S. Gold Coins

The Discovery . . .

In 1985, city workmen in Jackson, Tennessee were busy working on a downtown municipal parking lot when a bulldozer apparently unearthed a container-pot or glass jar filled with hundreds of gold coins. The gold coins were said to have been quarter eagles ($2 1/2), half eagles ($5), eagles ($10), and double eagles ($20) dated as early as the 1830s and as late as 1858. Supposedly the Philadelphia, New Orleans, Charlotte, and Dahlonega mints were all represented.

However, the exact quantities by denomination and mint mark is unknown because as soon as the coins were unearthed, the workmen made off with most of them before police could cordon off the area. Eventually, the city was able to account for some of the coins, but most had been quickly sold to gold dealers with the finders keeping everything confidential.

In the end, it has been estimated that about $4,500 face value in gold coins was recovered with a possible numismatic value in excess of $1 million. Gold dealers that evidently examined and purchased some of the hoard, reported among the hoard approximately one hundred 1853-P quarter eagles, dozens of 1854-O and 1858-O eagles, and a rare 1856-D quarter eagle. The 2007 Redbook lists an 1856-D quarter eagle in MS-60 at over $67,000 alone.

While many of the recovered coins handled by dealers were said to be high grade, others were said to have deep gouges and heavy scratches due to damage from being excavated. Others were apparently damaged from careless cleaning afterwards which left major hairlines on their surfaces.

The Mystery

The real mystery surrounding this hoard comes from trying to determine just how the coins came to be buried in Jackson in the first place.

An early theory was that the coins may have been buried by someone trying to hide them from advancing Union troops during the Civil War.

Later, a theory that seems to have gained broad acceptance, although with no real evidence, is that the coins are the loot from a bank robbery in 1858. The story is told that a bank in Jackson was robbed and a cashier killed. The robbers made off with $8,000 of which $4,500 was said to be in gold coins. The bank robbery was never solved.

The interesting tidbit that seems to tie these coins to those of the robbery comes from the belief that the municipal parking lot was on the site of the former home of the bank's president in the 1850s. If true, the estimated amount of gold coins recovered appears to match that of the coins stolen in the robbery. This would seem to implicate that the bank president may have used the robbery as a cover to steal the gold himself and later report the missing coins as part of the robbery.

Wait! . . . Maybe the original theory was right!

I believe there is a possibility that the original theory was right. The hoard may have been hidden in order to keep it safe from advancing Union troops. There is just such a story about a woman in Jackson, Tennessee who did just that. The story appears to have been written in the late 19th or early 20th century. As far as I know, I am the only one to ever consider the following story as being associated with the Tennessee Hoard.

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