Treasure Hunting in California (large jaw-dropping treasures)

During the gold rush, thousands of people swarmed California wanting to strike it rich.

This period was long over. But this doesn’t mean that all the treasures have been taken.

In the first part of this post, I’ll tell you about three of the largest treasures discovered in California. And I’ll show you how you can find yours.

In the second part, I’ll share with you a little secret…

It’s about three lost treasures that could be hidden in California. I hope this inspire you to get into treasure hunting.

Let’s start the treasure hunt!

Saddle Ridge Hoard

This hoard consists of 1455 gold coins. Most of them are $20 pieces. They were minted between 1847 and 1894.

The coins are well preserved and they were buried inside rusty metal cans somewhere in northern California.

The value of each coin is way higher than its face value. One of the coins is special. It can be sold for 1 million dollars. The hoard could be sold for $10 million in total.

This treasure was discovered by a couple while they walking their dog in 2013. They spotted one exposed can. After digging for a while, they found more.

They wanted to remain anonymous because they don’t want treasure hunters to swarm their land looking for more gold.

The containers were buried at different depths and in different locations. More cans can be buried in the vicinity.

Butte nugget

This nugget was discovered in 2014 in Butte County, California. It weighs a whopping 6 pounds. It is pure. It has no quartz content.

It was discovered by a metal detecting enthusiast. He sold it for somewhere around $ 400,000.

The finder wanted to keep his identity secret. He is an experienced detectorist. He owns many machines and he knows the area very well.

This is not his first find. He already found multiple nuggets. But they were small.

As always, he didn’t share the location of the find with others. But he said that it was buried 12 inches deep.

This video is about this nugget.

Mojave nugget

In 1978, a huge nugget that weighs nearly 11 pounds was discovered in the Mojave Desert.

mojave nuggetIts value is estimated to be $250,000. The finder, named, Ty Paulsen, bought an RV, brought his metal detector, and went back to the same location looking for more.

He didn’t disclose the location to anyone. But we know that he discovered the nugget near Randsburg California.

It is an abandoned mining town. Back in the day, they used primitive gold prospecting technics. They missed many opportunities like the Mojave nugget.

With technological progress, we can still find gold in the California desert. You only need to use the right tools.

Fricot nugget

This nugget was discovered in El Dorado County, California in 1865. It weighs 13.80 pounds. It was buried 200 feet under the ground and it was accompanied by smaller nuggets that weigh 12 pounds in total.

Huge nuggets like that were common during the gold rush. Unfortunately, they were melted down and turned into bullions.

The fate of this one was different. It didn’t end up in the oven. It is displayed at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum.

It is placed in a well-secured spot. In 2012, four thieves broke into the museum and they failed to steal it.

Your turn

If you want to find a treasure in California, you have two options: hunt nuggets or hunt hoards.

For the first one, you need to get a metal detector specially designed to detect gold nuggets.

best metal detectorUse it to scan the areas surrounding abandoned old mines. As I said earlier, there are many overlooked opportunities.

Many nuggets are still buried waiting to be found. All it needs is the right tools and an experienced patient treasure hunter.

To hunt hoards, you need to learn more about the history of the Wild West. But I don’t think they are as common as nuggets. Since they are larger in size than nuggets, a standard detector can locate them. You can find more details here.

The Saddle Ridge hoard was buried during this era. It could be the saving of a miner or a loot.

Looking for hoards buried by prospectors can be relatively easier if they buried it near their properties.

For bandit’s hoards, things get a little bit more complicated. There are many myths about them.

It is difficult to tell which ones are true and which ones are not. It will be very difficult to locate the treasure even if the story is real.

You can find many tales about hidden treasures in California here and there. I’ll only list three of them.

In the next section, I’ll tell you about three outlaws and how much money they robbed. This part of the story can be confirmed by examining historical documents.

You can know how much money was stolen and how much was recovered. However, you can’t tell for sure what happened to the rest.

It can be spent or it can be buried. It is hard to find out.

Lost treasures in California

In this section, I’ll share with you a list of three possible buried treasures.

Roy Gardner buried loot

Roy Gardner is an American robber who was active during the 1920s. He stole valuables worth more than $350,000 during his criminal career.

He is considered one of the most wanted men on the west coast. He had a $5,000 reward for his head.

He was arrested multiple times. And he always, somehow, found a way to escape. He even escaped the famous Alcatraz prison (he met Al Capone there).

He was nicknamed the Smiling Bandit, the Mail Train Bandit, and the King of the Escape Artists

In an attempt to reduce his sentence, he said that he could tell the guards where he hid his loots. But they found nothing. He later stated that he thinks he forgot the location.

If he really did, then a large portion of the $350,000 are still waiting to be found.

Richard Barter’s hidden treasure

Richard Barter was born in Canada. He moved to California in 1850 during the gold rush. He didn’t become rich. But he was making enough money to support himself.

Later, Richard decided to turn outlaw. He formed a gang and they started robbing stagecoaches.

They made one of their big hunts in 1856. They stole $80,000 worth of gold bullions. However, the getaway plan failed.

Two members of the gangs were captured. And $40,000 were recovered. To this day, nobody knows exactly what happened to the remaining $40,000.

Ruggles Brothers loot

John and Charles Ruggles were known for robbing stagecoaches. Some of their loots were big. Others were not.

They always managed to escape. Until they run out of luck in 1892. Charles was wounded and captured.

John was later captured after a reward of $11,000 was placed on his head.

Locals were very angry and they thought that the authorities were taking too long to punish these bandits.

This is why they stormed the jail and hanged them in a nearby tree. They didn’t give the brothers enough time to tell them about the treasure’s location (if it really existed).


California is full of treasures. Some have been already discovered; others are still missing. To find them, you need the right tools, knowledge and a good strategy.

Treasure hunting is a fun activity. You are always going to have a good time even if you found nothing.

Happy hunting!

Read more

Top 5 largest surviving gold nuggets [infographic]

11 Real-Life Treasure Hunters that you didn’t know about

Lost treasures that could be hidden in Colorado

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