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The Treasure of Tuscaloosa

On an afternoon of March 1999, Steve Webb was conducting landscaping works his backyard in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He dug a few holes and unearthed an iron box buried in the ground. It was a lucky day for this 30-year-old American. Indeed, he had just discovered what would later be called the Tuscaloosa treasure, consisting of dozens of silver and gold coins!

A lucky discovery in Tuscaloosa

That day, Steve Webb was landscaping his yard with the help of his father. They built a fence to mark off his private space. As they dig a hole to bury the fourth post, they hear a glass break. Steve Webb kneels down and starts digging with his hands. At that moment, he saw an inscription: “United States of America”.

treasure tuscaloosa

About 1 meter underground, he discovered some coins along with a rusty iron box with a very damaged rag. Inside, there were other coins. The father and son spread the pages of a newspaper on the dining room table. They cleaned the coins and sorted them out. In all, the Tuscaloosa treasure consists of 276 coins. They were all minted before the Civil War, between 1746 and 1860.

The Tuscaloosa treasure: 276 coins in total

Steve Webb contacted a numismatic expert to find out the value of his find.

The expert inventoried the Tuscaloosa treasure: 8 gold coins, including 5 $2.50 coins and 3 $1 coins, 195 silver half dollars, 66 American quarters, 4 Mexican silver coins, 3 French silver coins from 1746 and a counterfeit Liberty half dollar.

The finder did not want to stop there. He wants to know more about the provenance of this loot. Where did these coins come from? Why were they buried? The local numismatic historian, Marvin Harper, began his research. The investigation was not easy, as the Northport property in Tuscaloosa was owned by four different owners before 1860. This information made it difficult to identify the owner.

A treasure buried during the Civil War

After several weeks of exploration, Marvin Harper retraced the steps of William Louis Christian. This merchant bought a house in 1863 with three acres of land. He was forced to go to war in 1863 and his wife sold the house the following year in 1864.

It is likely that the man, before leaving, buried his fortune thinking to recover it on his return. He buried his life savings along one of Alabama’s oldest stage roads, less than three miles from the center of Tuscaloosa, which later became Steve Webb’s backyard. At the time of the Civil War, there were no banks in Tuscaloosa. It is not known if he died in the war or if the coins, deemed worthless because of the change in the currency of the Confederacy, were left underground.

Steve Webb donated some of the coins to the Northport Museum in Tuscaloosa. The rest of the Tuscaloosa treasure was dispersed and is now in private collections.

Find coins from the Tuscaloosa treasure for sale on the Thomas Numismatics store.

Sources :
The Tuscaloosa news

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