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Seeking Treasure Coin Photographs

By Q. David Bowers, Co-Founder

Author: Q. David Bowers / Thursday, June 06, 2019 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers

A Guide Book of Gold Quarter Eagle Coins Shipwreck Photography

As you read these words I am putting finishing touches on my latest Whitman book, A Guide Book of Gold Quarter Eagle Coins, to be published later this year. There will be a special section on quarter eagles found in various caches as well as recovered from shipwrecks. I have photographs of coins from the  Central America and New York steamships, but am seeking others. I would like coins that are specifically pedigreed to certain finds, not generic images of similar coins.

A case in point is furnished by this scenario:

On August 31, 1934, two young boys, described as poor and underprivileged, were playing in the cellar of a house at 132 South Eden Street, East Baltimore, owned by sisters Elizabeth H. French and Mary P.B. Findlay and rented by the mother of one of the boys. Henry Grob, age 15, and his companion, Theodore Sines, 14, came upon a cache of gold coins. After a brief discussion as to what should be done, the lads took the treasure to the local police station and turned the find over to the authorities. Later that evening, the boys said that they had "held out" some of the pieces, and these were subsequently added to the first group. One Baltimore Evening Sun article put the amount as 3,556 coins with $11,424 face value. All were dated before 1857.

Multiple claims were filed for ownership. For the rest of 1934 and into May 1935 the matter was in the courts. Judge Eugene O'Dunne of the Second Circuit Court of Baltimore eventually awarded proceeds from the entire find to the two teenagers, negating an offer by the two ladies who owned the house to give the boys 50%. During the litigation, all parties agreed that the coins could be sold at auction. The sale was held on May 2, 1935, at the Lord Baltimore Hotel downtown, with Perry W. Fuller serving as auctioneer. About 100 attended including a few out-of-town dealers and many local curiosity seekers. The major buyer was Thomas L. Elder, who came from New York City. Grouped into 438 lots and casually described (most pieces were simply called "very fine") in a printed catalog, the hoard realized $19,746.15.

Leonard Augsburger, the author of Treasure in the Cellar, a book about the find, created an inventory that included these $2.50 gold coins:

1834 Classic Head (2) • 1836 (5) • 1839-D • 1843 • 1843-O (4) • 1843-C • 1845 (2) • 1847-O • 1848-D • 1850 (3) • 1851 (5) • 1852 (11) • 1853 (14) • 1854 (7) • 1855 (3) • 1856 (4)

In the late 1930s, Elder offered many gold coins marked as "Baltimore find" in his auction catalogs, but I have not been able to trace any specific quarter eagles today. Similarly, I seek images of quarter eagles from the William and Mary (wreck located off the coast of Florida) and any other cache or hoard. I invite you to contact me if you can help: [email protected]