Treasure hunting may seem like something that only happens in the movies, but for many people, it’s a reality and one of the most fascinating parts of their lives. The best part is you don’t necessarily have to travel far to find something incredible. From shipwrecked artifacts to dinosaur fossils, these are some of America’s most incredible treasures.
Triceratops Skull Found In Hell Creek, North Dakota
In 2019, 23-year-old college student Harrison Duran scored major bragging rights when he found a Triceratops skull in Hell Creek, North Dakota. The chance discovery happened when Duran participated in a paleontology dig with his mentor, biology professor Michael Kjelland.
Duran landed a spot as an intern at Kjelland’s nonprofit, Fossil Excavators. The pair found the skull when they noticed a horn sticking out of the ground. Experts found the skull to be 65 million years old! The find is set to rotate to different locations and used for educational purposes.
42,000 Illegally Attained Artifacts Found In Rush County, Indiana
Few people are as enthusiastic about artifacts as Indiana resident Don Miller was. The former US Army officer managed to somehow amass 42,000 artifacts! The only problem with his impressive collection was that it was illegally attained.
The FBI found the artifacts at Miller’s farm in Rush County. Their investigation continued up to Miller’s death at the age 91, so he was not prosecuted. The collection included items from all over the world, 7,000 of which were found to violate treaties. The items included Native American arrowheads, pre-Columbian pottery, Italian mosaics, and much more.
Edgar Allan Poe’s First Book Found In New York
Hollywood film and television producer William Self was also an avid book collector who stumbled upon a finding that would make any literature major swoon. In the late 1920s, Self found the first edition of Poe’s first-ever published book, Tamerlane and Other Poems.
Poe didn’t even put his name on the cover, instead listing the author as “a Bostonian.” The exact location where it was found has been kept under wraps. What we do know is that it sold at auction for a jaw-dropping $662,500!
1,500-Year-Old Pottery Found In North Hall County, Georgia
A student at the University of North Georgia was visiting his grandfather’s cornfield when he spotted some broken pottery near groundhog holes. Fortunately, he told his anthropology professor, Jack Wynn, about it, which began a year’s long excavation of the site.
The Blue Ridge Archeology Guild got involved and found that the pottery dates back 1,500 years! The area has since been deemed the Duckett Mill site, and it’s given valuable information about the people who once lived on those very lands.
$10 Million Worth Of Gold Coins Found In California
One California couple got extremely lucky by stumbling upon treasure while out for a walk! In 2014, the pair strolled down a path they’d been on so many times before, but this day was unlike any other.
By pure chance, they noticed a rusty can sticking out of the dirt that miraculously contained a stash of gold coins! The couple continued to find more cans with coins, which totaled $10 million worth of gold. The exact location was kept secret, but we do know that the coins dated back to the 19th century.
A $50,000 Bamboo Flute Found In Hot Springs, Arkansas
Have you ever read or watched a treasure hunting story and wished it was real? Author Pete Bissonette made that dream a reality. His book, Breakfast Tea & Bourbon, contained within it clues to find a bamboo flute worth $50,000!
A family of four from Texas used the clues in the book to uncover the bamboo flute, which was buried in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Their first trip wasn’t successful, so they revisited the book, found another clue, and returned for the win! Even more exciting is that Bissonette released a riddle leading to another prize. He’s also due to release a missing chapter for more treasure hunting fun.
Revolutionary War Goods Found In Durham, Connecticut
In 2012, a group of treasure hunters proved that walking around all day with a metal detector just might pay off. Two dozen members of the Yankee Territorial Coinshooters went to the historic James Wadsworth home in Durham, Connecticut.
The group proceeded to walk the surrounding hills with metal detectors, and sure enough, they stumbled upon treasure. They found several artifacts dating back to the Revolutionary War, including coins, buttons, and pipes. Such priceless possessions should bring them some attention at auction.
An Ancient Shipwreck Found In Lewes, Delaware
In 2004, engineers made a huge discovery (literally) when they came upon the Roosevelt Inlet shipwreck off the coast of Lewes, Delaware. The wreck dates all the way back to the American Revolution but was completely unknown until the major finding.
Workers found the shipwreck while performing a dredging operation, and it was another two years before archeologists could uncover its mystery. It turns out the ship was a European commercial vessel that contained goods from Britain, Holland, Germany, South Africa, and China! Needless to say, the ship was chock-full of artifacts.
$8 Million Dinosaur Fossils Found In The Hell Creek Formation, Montana
Treasure hunter Clayton Phipps made a mesmerizing discovery near the Hell Creek Formation, Montana when he notices a fossil on the land of a ranch. The fossil turned out to be from two dinosaurs that have since been nicknamed the Dueling Dinosaurs.
The discovery spurred an ongoing court battle over who should financially benefit from the finding since two households shared the mineral rights. It was eventually ruled that whoever owned the land’s surface rights had ownership. The Guardian reported that the fossils are worth between $7 and $9 million, and are now on display at a North Carolina museum.
$1 Million Of Shipwrecked Treasure Found In Fort Pierce, Florida
The Schmitt family in Florida got the surprise of a lifetime when they came upon $1 million worth of shipwrecked treasure off the coast of Fort Pierce. They first found a 50-foot-long gold chain. Later, they discovered a gold filigree pyx.
The family also found several Spanish gold coins, one of which was made specifically for Spain’s King Phillip V. The treasures came from one of the eleven ships wrecked in a hurricane while traveling from the New World to Spain in 1715. The incredible discovery was valued at $1 million!
$800,000 Worth Of Paintings Found In Wamego, Kansas
The Columbian Theatre in Wamego, Kansas dates back to 1895 when builder J C Rogers opened it up as a music hall. Rogers decorated the theatre with six murals he snagged two years prior at the Chicago World Fair.
Fast forward half a century and the theater was abandoned, as were the murals and over a dozen other paintings. Residents took notice of the artwork and decided to have them appraised. The total collection turned out to be worth $800,000 despite having unknown painters!
King Kamehameha II’s Ship Found In Hanalei Bay, Hawaii
Hawaii’s second king, King Kamehameha II, owned a ship that ended up wrecked off the north shore of Kauai. Though it wasn’t this wreck that claimed the King’s life, the ship still held grave importance. One hundred and seventy years later, it was finally discovered at the bottom of Hanalei Bay.
The proud finder was a representative of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. The ship was loaded with over 1,000 artifacts including such treasures as the King’s conch shell horn, ivory, and coins. The findings are displayed at the Kauai Museum in Hawaii.
$2.6 Million Worth Of Gold Found In Demopolis, Alabama
Treasure hunters will be excited to hear that a man did once follow a map that brought him to pure gold! The man’s name was Gayus Whitfield and his grandfather was one of the richest Alabama citizens prior to the Civil War. Perhaps that’s why Whitfield’s father had a map that led to a stash of gold.
The old man left the map to Whitfield, who used it to hunt down $200,000 worth of Civil War gold. Today, it would be worth $2.6 million! The secret stash was buried in a powder can that crumbled to the touch. Whitfield found the treasure in Demopolis, Alabama in 1926, and the massive fortune was left to nine heirs.
Five Classic Muscle Cars Found In Kentucky
If anyone knows a thing or two about classic muscle cars, it’s Patrick Glenn Nichols. The muscle car enthusiast travels the country looking for such abandoned gems. After getting a tip about a salvage yard in Kentucky, Nichols headed to the state to see what was there.
The tipper wasn’t lying. Inside the salvage yard’s vintage tractor-trailers were four or five classic muscle cars. The rare finds included a Z 28 Camaro, a Pontiac Firebird convertible, and a Big Block SS Chevelle. The owner had been collecting cars for 40 years, but to Nichol’s dismay, they weren’t for sale.
$1.5 Million Of Gold Coins Found In Palisade, Nebraska
When Alison Johnson decided to go on a hunt through Palisade, Nebraska, it wasn’t in search of historic treasure. She was looking for her father’s wealth. Apparently, her dad, Dean Krotter, was not one to trust banks. Instead, he hid gold coins on his property.
After Krotter passed, Johnson and her family decided to go out and search for the displaced wealth. They ended up finding $1.5 million worth of gold coins, and that isn’t even all of it! There’s reportedly another $200,000 hidden in the wilderness, but the Johnsons weren’t willing to look that far.
A 1907 Commemorative Medallion Found In Maine
Metal detector enthusiast Guy Marsden decided to perform his favorite hobby outside of an 1818 historic house in Maine. The first thing he detected turned out to be a penny, but the second item was quite valuable. It was a commemorative medallion that measures 1.75 inches in diameter and is from the year 1907!
The coin read, “Three hundredth anniversary American shipping 1607-1907 celebrated at Bath, Maine. August 5-10.” Being that the medallion had its history spelled out right on it, Marsden figured the local Historical Society would appreciate the find. He later blogged that they were “thrilled to have it.”
A Sunken Steamship Found In Malta Bend, Missouri
Malta Bend resident Steve Mertensmeyer grew up hearing tales of the steamboats that had sunk in the Missouri River. His fascination grew to such an extent that Mertensmeyer decided to recruit expert Bob Hawley to find Steamboat Arabia. The boat had sunk in 1856 while carrying 200 tons of cargo.
Due to erosion, the steamboat ended up 45 feet under a cornfield in Kansas. That’s where Mertensmeyer, Hawley, and three other men found it over a century later! The Hawley family then opened up the Arabia Steamboat Museum to showcase all of the sunken treasures they’d recovered.
Lulah Ragsdale’s Unpublished Work Found In Brookhaven, Mississippi
When one Brookhaven couple bought a vintage house, they couldn’t have imagined what they’d find inside. Roy and Elena Segers discovered that the building contained thousands of unpublished works from professional writer Lulah Ragsdale! The collection included poems, plays, and even a couple of completed novels.
Ragsdale was one of the first female writers in Mississippi, establishing herself around the turn of the 20th century. Along with writing, she was also a successful actress. Ragsdale lived her entire life in Brookhaven, so her works would be very valuable to the community.
A 10,000-Year-Old Meteorite Found In New Mexico
New Mexico resident Jansen Lyons was just 13-years-old when he made the discovery of a lifetime. He was using a metal detector that his grandfather had built when he stumbled upon a two-pound meteorite!
The Lyons family promptly took the finding to the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics. There, experts were able to determine that the object was 10,000 years old! They also offered Lyons a job when he’s older, should his meteorite fascination continue. The incredible discovery ended up at a local museum.
$200,000 Worth Of Vintage Coins Found In Lovelock, Nevada
Lovelock, Nevada went from a thriving city to a ghost town in the ’70s. Despite the sudden desertion, one construction company figured they could revive the place. Before they could get to building, though, they’d have to perform an archeological study.
As experts were studying the remaining buildings, they came upon something no one could have expected. One of the buildings contained a collection of gold, silver, and other valuable coins! Though the finding dated back to only the 20th century, it was still worth $200,000!
A Woolly Mammoth Tooth Found In Millersville, Ohio
A 12-year-old boy was on a family trip in Ohio’s Amish country when he made a huge discovery (literally). The Hepner family was staying at the Inn at Honey Run in Millersville and the boy, Jackson, spotted something while playing by the local creek.
The item turned out to be the tooth of a woolly mammoth! Rather than handing it over to the experts, Jackson decided to keep it for the time being. When, or if, he is ready to sell it, the tooth could go for hundreds of dollars!
A Gold Dredge Found In North Carolina
When father-son treasure hunting duo Tim and Ross Fisher bought an old piece of land to dig for gold, people thought they were crazy. The property was originally part of the Portis Gold Mine, so it didn’t seem that wild to think there might be something worth finding.
However, even the Fishers couldn’t have anticipated what happened next. As the weather became drier and drier, a gold dredge started to emerge from the land! The surprising find was a century old and made the property purchase all the more worth it.
19th Century Gems Found In Lone Grove, Oklahoma
A seven-year-old boy and his grandfather decided to test out their metal detector for the first time in the backyard. After coming up empty-handed for hours, the grandfather wanted to stop. However, the boy insisted they try once more, and that’s when their luck turned.
Miraculously, they came upon multiple gems! They found diamonds, pearls, a diary, and half dollars that date back to the 19th century! Though the items are worth thousands, the duo plans on only getting them appraised but still wants to hold onto everything.
Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavor Found In Newport, Rhode Island
Captain James Cook is famous for charting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and for creating the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. What’s interesting is that the ship he made such famous travels on, the HMS Endeavor, was actually found off America’s east coast.
In 2016, the Rhode Island Marine Archeology Project dug up remains from the ship, which was more than two centuries old! The team of archeologists involved in the excavation found thousands of artifacts in the HMS Endeavor, as well.
A Counterfeit “Piece Of Eight” Coin Found In Vermont
When Green Mountain Metal Detecting worker Brad Martin was given access to an acre of private land in Vermont, he didn’t pass up the opportunity to find something big. He ended up finding several vintage coins worth a couple hundred dollars a pop, but then came the treasure.
Martin stumbled upon one coin that stood out among the rest: a piece of eight. The coin is highly valuable due to its history with pirates, but the one Martin found turned out to be counterfeit. Even so, it still was worth enough to go for thousands at auction.
A Shipwreck Full Of Gold Found In South Carolina
The Steamship North Carolina saw its fateful end back in 1840, but it is still widely popular due to its high content of gold. The sunken ship was found off the South Carolina coast and 150 years after it sank, one lucky diver found gold.
They ended up collecting $700,000 worth of gold coins in the 1990s from the ship. The news spurred other divers to search for more gold and earned the ship the nickname “Copper Pot.”
A Box Of Artifacts Found In Huntington, West Virginia
Boy Scouts do a ton of exploring, but there was one troop that came upon an especially unique find. While working on a project, a group of Boy Scouts found a wooden box buried in the dirt at Guyandotte Park in Huntington, West Virginia.
Opening the box was like looking into a time capsule. It was full of political campaign buttons from the early 1900s, old money, vintage coins, jewelry, beads, metals, and pearls! There was even a letter instructing whoever found the chest to keep it!
The Oldest Tattooing Tool Found In Pullman, Washington
A Ph.D. student studying anthropology at Washington State University found the oldest tattooing tool found in North America. The funny thing is that he came upon it while searching through an on-campus storage facility.
The student, Andrew Gillreath‑Brown, was taking inventory of the artifacts on campus and realized the cultural importance of this particular item. The instrument dates back 2,000 years and had spent the last 40 unnoticed in the storage unit. He could tell what it was by the ink residue left on the tip!
10 Ounces Of Gold Found In Wyoming
Gold prospector Jan Earle has spent decades hunting down gold in Wyoming. It took her three seasons to find 10 ounces, her largest discovery yet. At the time, each ounce was only worth $35, but now that number has risen to $1,500!
Earle enjoys the hunt purely for the fun, though, not just the money. She now uses her background in geology to teach others how to properly pan for gold, reminding them of the value of patience.
Antique Vases Found In Detroit, Michigan
After WWII, a Marine duty officer returned from the Pacific with two vases he gave to his daughter. The girl was Detroit resident Valerie Panosian and she kept the vases for decades without thinking much of it. Then she realized that similar items were quite valuable.
After doing some digging on eBay, Panosian decided to get the vases appraised. They turned out to be worth $300 each! While that isn’t exactly gold, it’s quite a hefty price for an everyday home item.