Nov 17, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

Forrest Fenn's Treasure Goes Up for Auction - Gold Coins, Nuggets and Jewelry and a Secret Message

In 1988, an eccentric millionaire named Forrest Fenn dealt with the news he had terminal cancer by burying a small fortune in gold, rare coins, jewelry with the hope that he would see a massive treasure hunt during his dying days and possibly be buried where the treasure chest would be found. In 2010, Forrest Fenn was still alive as was his treasure hunt – mostly because few people knew about it. Fenn decided to kickstart the hunt with a self-published memoir containing hidden clues to the location of the treasure chest that was revealed to be buried in the Rocky Mountains areas of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. The treasure chest was found in 2020 and Fenn lived to meet the finder and see the treasures one more time. Since then, it has been sold and the current owner has put the times up for auction. The collection is befitting of the eclectic Forrest Fenn. Let’s take a look.

It's a lot more than this.

It has been estimated that a few hundred thousand adventurers went searching for the treasure, while millions more followed the story closely and dreamt about it.

In the summer of 2020, a decade after Forrest Fenn announced his hidden treasure, one lucky searcher sent him a picture confirming that the chest had been found.

The treasure has since been sold, and after choosing a few souvenirs to hold onto, the new owners have decided to give others an opportunity to own a piece of possibly the greatest treasure hunt of our time.

The "Chase" might be over, but the "Thrill" of owning a piece of Forrest Fenn's treasure is just a click away.

Your Treasure Hunt Starts Here:

Heritage Auctions, the “World's Largest Numismatic Auctionee,” introduced the online auction, scheduled to end on December 12, 2022, with a brief description of the Fenn Treasure Hunt and letters of affidavit from Fenn’s attorney, who verified that Fenn bequeathed the treasure to the finder, Jack Stuef; Jonathan ‘Jack; Stuef, who verified that he sold the treasure chest and its contents on September 19, 2022, to Tesouro Sagrado Holdings; and Zoe Fenn Old, daughter of Forrest Fenn, who confirmed that her father requested to keep a turquoise necklace. That still left 476 items from the chest to be auctioned.

Since Heritage Auctions is a numismatic auction site, the rare coins are given top billing for the Fenn auction. There are American $5 gold coins dating back to 1851, with asking prices around $450 and current bids around $100 and up.  The $10 gold coins dating back to 1854, are more valuable, with asking prices around $1000 and bids already in the hundreds. Many of these gold pieces are the “Indian Head” coins, which is appropriate since Forrest Fenn was at one time investigated by the FBI for allegedly looting Native American artifacts in the Four Corners area of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. A collection of $20 gold pieces dates back to 1882, with many valued over $2,000. Moving south, there are also gold coins from Mexico. For those who like their gold in the natural state, the collection includes single large gold nuggets (some over an ounce) and many packets of small ones, flakes and gold dust.

Forrest Fenn obviously liked gold … the collection contains gold ornaments, gold beads, gold pendants, gold necklaces, gold bracelets … gold, gold and more gold. It is interesting to ponder at this point if the tens of thousands of people who risked their lives (and a few lost their lives) hunting for the Fenn treasure, said to be valued at $2 million, if they knew the contents were mostly gold coins, gold nuggets, gold dust and gold jewelry.

Speaking of risking and losing their lives, five people were believed to have died while searching for the Fenn treasure – most got lost and died from falls or exposure. The National Parks administrators were not happy with the hunt as its teams were called out numerous times to rescue stranded treasure hunters … who often faced criminal charges and bills for the cost of their rescue. Fenn himself suffered from break-ins by desperate or frustrated treasure hunters. The deaths and drama ended on June 6, 2020, when Fenn revealed that he had been contacted by a man who sent him definitive proof that he had found the treasure chest. Fenn released photos of the treasure and revealed it had been hidden in Wyoming, but never stated the exact location. Forrest Fenn died on September 7, 2020, at the age of 90. In December 2020, Jack Stuef went public with the announcement that he had found Fenn’s treasure.

The late Forrest Fenn

There were two odd items in the Fenn treasure chest that were not gold coins, pieces or jewelry. One was an ordinary pair of scissors listed at $750 (bidding at this time is close to the asking price). Why ordinary scissors? David Mayfield, vice president of Heritage Auctions, told Yahoo! Finance his two theories for the inclusion of the clippers:

"I assume the scissors were put in there to help the person who found the chest open the wax seal on the jar. But I've also heard rumors — and this is a story with a lot of rumors — that he [Fenn] left them in there by accident."

The jar? That is the other interesting item found in the chest – a small glass jar sealed with wax … the scissors were not used to open it. Inside the jar is believed to be a 20,000 word autobiography of Forrest Fenn that Fenn referred to in his clue-filled tome, “The Thrill of the Chase, A Memoir.”

"I also wanted to include something personal with the treasure because maybe the lucky finder would want to know a little about the foolish person who abandoned such an opulent cache. So I placed a 20,000 word autobiography in the chest. It's in a small glass jar and the lid is covered with wax to protect the contents from moisture. The printed text is so small that a magnifying glass is needed to read the words. I tried to think of everything."

Indeed, it appears the eccentric Fenn did think of everything … although probably assumed the finder of the treasure – in this case, Jack Stuef – would have opened the jar and read his story as part of celebrating the victory of the hunt. The asking price of the jar is $20,400 and the bidding is currently over $17,000.

Would Forrest Fenn have approved the contents of his treasure chest – the sole driving force of the last 32 years of his life -- being sold to the highest bidder? Well, Fenn himself was a collector of fine art as well as Native American artifacts, so the buyers are doing the same thing he did. Let’s hope they don’t try to start another treasure hunt … there was only one Forrest Fenn.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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