Kentucky man finds over 700 Civil War-era coins buried in his cornfield

On his Kentucky property, a man discovered a significant treasure of gold and silver coins dating to the Civil War.

Earlier this year, a Kentucky farmer discovered a stash of over 700 coins dating to the American Civil War while excavating in his field.

Along with a few silver coins, the "Great Kentucky Hoard" contains hundreds of American gold coins that date from about 1840 and 1863. The hoard's finder, whose name and precise location have not been made public, is heard in a brief video saying, "This is the most insane thing ever: Those are all $1 gold coins, $20 gold coins, $10 gold coins," as he points his camera at the items pouring out of the ground.

Ninety-five percent of the trove is made up of gold dollars, along with 20 $10 Liberty coins and eight $20 Liberty coins, according to the Numismatic Guaranty Co. (NGC), which verified the coins' authenticity, and GovMint, where the coins were sold. The 1863-P $20 1-ounce gold Liberty coin is the rarest. The Great Kentucky Hoard has 18 of these coins, and even one of them may fetch six figures at auction. The $20 Liberty coin, which was in circulation from 1850 to 1907, was struck by the Treasury Department following the discovery of gold in California, according to the NGC website. Because they lack the phrase "In God We Trust," which was added in 1866 following the end of the Civil War, the $20 Liberty coins in the trove are particularly uncommon.

However, what the trove may teach us about America's history during a very turbulent time may be more significant.

Given the time period and the hoard's location in Kentucky, which was at the time neutral, conflict archaeologist Ryan McNutt of Georgia Southern University suggested in an email to Live Science that "it is entirely possible that this was buried in advance of Confederate John Hunt Morgan's June to July 1863 raid."

There are rumors that many rich Kentuckians hid sizable quantities of cash to protect them from Confederate robbery. James Langstaff claimed in a letter that he had hidden $20,000 in coins on his Paducah property; William Pettit allegedly buried gold coins worth $80,000 in Lexington; and Confederate troops who were quarantined for the measles allegedly stole money and stashed it in a cave in Cumberland Gap. No one has ever managed to recover any of these caches.

Given that the hoard of coins is made up of federal money, McNutt speculated that it may represent the outcome of a Kentuckian's interactions with the federal authorities, which it would be prudent to keep hidden from a Confederate raiding party.Many Americans who were touched by the Civil War "became skilled at concealing goods and valuables," he claimed.

According to McNutt, the majority of historical item concentrations discovered on private property end up being sold or gathered without consulting an archaeologist. I find this loss of information extremely aggravating as a conflict archaeologist," he remarked. Hoards provide archaeologists with insight into a limited period of time since they include an extraordinary quantity of information about the individual who gathered the artefacts.

In the United States, historical discoveries like this on private property are not required to be reported to an archaeologist. But McNutt, who has forged tight ties with landowners, thinks that outreach and education are crucial to finding out more about these unusual coin deposits.

However, McNutt warned that if an archaeologist is not involved, "it's a snapshot of the past, lost forever." "It is entirely up to the landowner," he added.