What would you do if you came across an ancient treasure? It's a question you've probably asked yourself many times, but for a lucky few, their discoveries have netted them huge windfalls! From sunken ships to ancient coins and dazzling jewelry, these finds hold an extraordinary cultural value that extends far beyond their monetary worth, and there's a whole lot more out there just waiting to be unearthed.
Often, the items were the result of the owners having died without ever passing on their belongings to family members. In some cases, they may have even been hidden to ensure they didn't get stolen. Most importantly, the items we are about to list all have their own stories that will give you a better idea of the period they belong to
Here are 13 fascinating finds along with their monetary worth.
1. Ringlemere Gold Cup- $520,000
It was just an ordinary day for retired electrician Cliff Bradshaw. Like many people his age, Bradshaw had taken up metal detecting, but unlike most treasure seekers, Bradshaw made a life-changing discovery: the Ringlemere Gold Cup. The cup was found in the English county of Kent, with the Bronze Age vessel one of seven “unstable handled cups” found in Europe, cups which date back to between 1700 and 1500 BC.
Having been damaged from a plow before it was unearthed, the British Museum still made Bradshaw a very wealthy man when they purchased it for a whopping $520,000.
2. Ty Cobb baseball cards- $1m
You don't always need to find something ancient to get filthy rich! In a story of Hollywood proportions, a family was sorting through their late great-grandfather’s home when they noticed a brown paper bag. The family emptied the contents and found 8 Ty Cobb baseball cards- considered by many the rarest baseball cards you can own.
Dating back to 1901, the cards were first included in packs of cigarettes, but these ones are so rare only 15 are believed to exist.
3. The Hand of Faith- $1.1m
The Hand of Faith, owing to its hand-like structure, is a largely unblemished gold nugget and the second biggest of its kind. However, it is the largest to be discovered by a metal detector. Weighing a whopping 60 pounds, the alluring item was claimed by Kevin Hillier in the remote town of Kingower, Australia in 1980.
Making Hillier an overnight millionaire, the Hand of Faith is now displayed in the hotel lobby of the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, making it the largest gold nugget on public display.
4. The Boot of Cortez- $1.5m
Back in 1989, a fledgling treasure hunter from Senora, Mexico purchased a metal detector and immediately went to to the desert to test it out. While the first few days yielded little in the way of discoveries, the man eventually sifted through a pile of rubbish he had accumulated and noticed that a gold nugget weighing 26.6 pounds was nestled at the bottom.
The gold nugget is believed to be the largest of its kind found in the Western hemisphere and has been named the“Boot of Cortez" for its distinctive foot-like shape.
5. The Cuerdale Hoard - $3.2m
Rather than just one person, a group of workmen made a fascinating discovery way back in 1840 in the British countryside of Cuerdale, Lancashire. The Cuerdale Hoard is believed to be the biggest collection of Viking silver discovered outside of Russia. The incredible hoard of treasures included more than 8,600 9th Century silver items, a true windfall!
The coins are believed to have been buried between 905 and 901, not long after the Vikings were forced from Dublin in 902. In the Viking Age, silver was considered the primary currency and it was often buried as a way of protecting it in times of unease.
6. Crosby Garrett Helmet- $3.6m
Senior people have found most discoveries listed so far, but In 2009, an unemployed graduate in his early 20s took the initiative by purchasing a metal detector. Making the most of his British countryside surroundings, Garrett, from Crosby Garrett, Cumbria, England, soon found a Roman helmet! After taking it to an expert, he was informed that it was a Roman parade helmet.
Not wasting any time, he soon placed it up for auction, and the bidding surpassed all expectations, so much so that an anonymous bidder purchased the bronze piece for $3.6m. Sadly for history lovers, the helmet is now in the hands of private ownership.
7. The hoxne hoard- $4.3m
Another Roman discovery, the Hoxne Hoard saw a plethora of late 4th-century Roman gold and silver discovered, and it is believed to be the largest find of its kind. Like many artifacts on our list, the treasure was found in Britain, this time in the English county of Suffolk. The collection included gold and silver coins, jewelry, spoons and much more.
Unsurprisingly, The British Museum in London soon swooped in and purchased the collection but required help from donors due to the collection's unprecedented value.
8. The saddle ridge hoard- $10m
Now, this is a good story! When walking their dog across their property, a couple spotted an unusual looking can poking out of the ground. Amidst the stones and gravel, there was also a visible set of $20 gold coins. Returning to the site with the correct equipment, the couple discovered eight cans brimming with 1,427 U.S. coins.
Dating back to 1847-1894, the coins had a face value of $27,980, but after taking them for further examination, they were worth a staggering $10 million.
9. 5th Magna Carter - $15m
For those unaware of British political history, the Magna Carta is a charter designed in 1215 by King John of England. Whilst the document was initially intended to bridge peace between himself and a group of rebels, the text also established one of society's most important principles, that being that all people are subject to the rule of law, even royalty.
Fast forward 800 years and an edition of the Magna Carta was found in a group of achieves kept in Maidstone, Kent. There are widely believed to be only 24 editions of the Magna Carta, though some have long been presumed missing.
10. The Merker's Mine- $520m
Nazi treasures have been the rage for years. After all, they stole and hoarded billions of valuable objects during WWII, be that paintings, artifacts, and anything else with a significant monetary value and cultural significance. However, after being on the losing side, $520 million of Nazi riches were “lost”, though they also stored a lot of their possessions in a place called Merkers Mine in Thuringia, Germany.
However, it wasn't long before the U.S. army recovered paper money, gold, and artwork that was stored in the mine, with a reported value of $520m! Unbelievably, the German government has been attempting to retrieve their lost treasures that the Americans confiscated it back in 1945. To this day, it is thought that billions worth of Nazi treasure remains hidden around Europe.
11. Venus Di Milo- $1 bn
Just imagine the shock a Milos island farmer experienced when he dug up some stones but then inadvertently ended up discovering one of the most famous statues in the world – the Venus de Milo,
Now housed in the famous Louvre museum in Paris, the prized sculpture's origins are thought to stem from the Classical age, and it is now considered one of the most important sculptures from ever to have derived from ancient Greece.
12. San Jose Galleon - $17 bn
Named after the 62-gun, three-masted Spanish ship overcome by British ships when sailing from Panama to Columbia in 1708 during the War of the Spanish Succession, all onboard lost their lives, though the ship was also carrying some serious treasure which lived on. The contents included gold, silver, and rare emeralds from the mines of Potosi, Peru.
Over 300 years later, the treasure was finally discovered off the coast of Cartegena, Colombia in 2015.
With the treasure valued at over $17b, there have been a host of legal disputes between private companies and various government over who should own the artifacts.
13. The Bejewelled Martyr Skeletons- $N/A
These intricately decorated skeletons have seen the most prized jewels rest on their skeletal remains in the Rome area of Italy. The skeletons were deemed Christian martyrs who were held in the highest regards by the Catholic Church and were thought to have performed miracles, hence the lavish, though highly macabre jewel-incrusted ornaments placed on their remains.