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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (06/2009) Headlines (04/2009) Headlines (08/2009)   Vol. 43 June 2009 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the June 2009 edition of W&ET Magazine


Deep-sea explorers who found $500 million in sunken treasure two years ago say they have discovered another prized shipwreck: A legendary British man-of-war that sank in the English Channel 264 years ago.

The wreckage of the HMS Victory, found below about 330 feet of water, may carry an even bigger jackpot. Research indicates the ship was carrying 4 tons of gold coins when it sank in a storm, said Greg Stemm, co-founder of Odyssey Marine Exploration, head of a recent news conference in London.

So far, two brass cannons have been recovered from the wreck, Stemm said. The Florida-based company said it is negotiating with the British government over collaborating on the project.

From the Napa Valley Register, submitted by Jerry R. Hallett, James Jarriel, Doug Amundson, Jeff Kehl, Bob Bolek, and many other readers.


Two leading archaeologists and about 15 paid workers had been digging in a parking lot outside Jerusalem's Old City for more than a year without finding any artifacts of great significance. But an auto worker from Britain, who had been digging as a volunteer at the site for the past three weeks, unearthed one of the largest and most impressive hoards of ancient gold coins yet discovered in the area.

"I didn't realize the impact of what we found," Nadine Ross, a 34-year-old engineer with BMW, said at the site, her clothes and hands dusty from the digging. "I'm only a volunteer. I thought it was normal, but apparently not."

She uncovered the 264 Byzantine gold coins, which are more than 1,300 years old. According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which runs the dig in co-operation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, it is the largest and most important find of its kind. The next-largest Byzantine hoard found in Jerusalem consists of five gold coins.

"We moved some big rocks out of the way and I dug underneath and there it was," said Ms. Ross as she knelt on the ground using a trowel and small pickaxe to continue digging.

Before she left Britain for the dig, her friends jokingly called her Indiana Jones. Now, she says, she's reluctant to tell them of her find. "I don't think they'd believe me if I told them I found... gold."

The coins were minted between AD 610 and 613 and are decorated with the image of Byzantine Emperor Heraclis in military garb on one side and a sign of a cross on the other. They were found among the ruins of a seventh-century building outside Jerusalem's Old City walls, in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan.

Archaeologists hope the discovery will help reveal something about the conquering of Jerusalem in 614 by the Persians.

"Despite so many years of excavations in Jerusalem, the destruction of Jerusalem [in 614] was not reflected in the archaeological record," said Doron Ben-Ami, director of excavations at the site.

Ms. Ross, the only unpaid digger, paid her own expenses to join the excavation. Despite her priceless discovery, she was still riding the bus back to her guesthouse. The Israeli diggers joked that she should threaten not to give any more interviews unless the antiquities authority provides her with a nice hotel room for her last week in the country.

From the National Post, submitted by Daniel Finch, Halifax, NS.


A diamond ring that a South Florida department store sales associate found inside a shoe has been returned to its owner. Susan Ray said she thinks she lost her great-grandmother's engagement ring while she was looking at shoes at a Loehmann's store. A sales associate, Maria del Carmen Servin, found the piece of jewelry in a Cole Haan pump. Servin gave the ring to loss-prevention employees, and Ray soon contacted the store. Ray, a retired tax attorney, said the experience "made me really rethink how I think about people."

From the DeSoto Sun, submitted by Mahlon Gascho, Arcadia, FL.


Three state highway workers cleaning up litter picked up an abandoned tire- and found about $100,000 inside. Indiana state police suspect the cash, in denominations of $5 to $100,- may be drug money. State Police spokesman Mike Burns says a drug-sniffing dog found the scent of drugs on the bills. Police said the workers found the tire recently in a ditch along Interstate 70 just east of Indianapolis. Police say the tire appeared to be from a large truck. It isn't clear how long it was in the ditch. Detective Sgt. Keith O'Donnell commended the workers for their "honesty and professionalism" in contacting police.

From The DeSoto Sun, submitted by Mahlon Gascho, Arcadia, FL.


At Angel Island Immigration Station, the walls really can talk. Until now, though, they haven't told the whole story of this notorious entry point in the heart of San Francisco Bay.

Their first words were in Chinese, stately poems of longing and revenge carved into the wooden barracks by desperate detainees between 1910 and 1940.

"Sadness," wrote one anonymous poet, "kills the person in the wooden building."

"Thinking of affairs back home," wrote another. "Unconscious tears wet my lapel."

Angel Island was patterned after Ellis Island in New York Harbor, but it was a vastly different experience- particularly for Chinese immigrants who arrived in greater numbers, were detained longer and were deported more often than Europeans.

After the station was shuttered, the rickety complex was turned over to the state and slated for demolition in the 1970s.

But a sharp-eyed ranger spotted the verses and the demolition was canceled.

But as Angel Island Immigration Station reopens after a $16 million refurbishment, the walls have begun to tell a more complex tale.

There are writings from many nationalities. Japanese: "Get me out of here fast!" German: "Close the doors. There's a draft." Gurmukhi, a script used by Sikhs: "100 days. Tara Singh." Also, carved birds and a shrine to good fortune.

From the Los Angeles Times, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


The women gathered in the kitchen, enjoying brie and chocolate tortes as they told stories about their high school rings and pieces of jewelry given to them by ex-husbands and boyfriends. But they weren't just reminiscing for old times' sake.

The guests at Cheryle Podgorski's "gold party" were there to trade in their old jewelry for cash.

Gold parties- the recession answer to Tupperware parties- have become increasingly popular around the country as people cast about for ways to raise money. A professional gold buyer tests and appraises the guests' jewelry and then pays them on the spot.

Guests say getting together with friends in somebody's living room makes it a fun, social occasion, and feels more respectable than hocking their rings, necklaces and brooches at seedy pawn shops or selling them back to jewelry stores.

"It's terrific because it's a little bit intimidating to think about walking into a jewelry store, even though they may be heavily advertising it, and, you know, to someone that you don't know and turning over your valuables to them," said Pat Walsh, a 56-year-old retired store manager from Simsbury, Conn.

Walsh went home with $286 after selling a pinky ring she received as a wedding favor 35 years ago, circle-linked bracelets, broken necklaces and a few large, mismatched or outdated earrings.

Gold prices are close to their highest levels on record, hovering around $900 per ounce, up from $400 five years ago. Analysts say investors looking for a safe haven for their money while the stock market is in a meltdown could keep gold prices high for some time.

That- together with aggressive advertising by online scrap gold buyers, jewelry stores and gold party organizers- has led many people to clean out their jewelry boxes and dresser drawers.

Several companies are mining the phenomenon, which first began to thrive in Michigan a couple of years ago amid the struggles of the auto industry. My Gold Party LLC now has at least 35 representatives running parties in 21 states and is looking for more, said January Thomas, co-owner of the Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan-based company.

"It's definitely a growing trend. I mean, the economy is not getting any better," Thomas said.

The gold buyer at Podgorski's party, Maggie Percival, said she started organizing parties this year as a representative of My Gold Party to raise money to send her son to college. She soon learned that gold parties can carry an element of risk for organizers.

"I've actually given money to people for stuff that isn't gold because I didn't test it properly. That was when I was a newbie. I've gotten much better at it," Percival said. "I had to pay the price for that one."

In front of the guests, Percival uses a jeweler's magnifying loupe to asses the gold, a digital meter to test whether it is real, and an electronic scale to weigh it.

At Podgorski's party, women laughed as they narrated stories behind their jewelry, which included gifts from ex-husbands and boyfriends who no longer inspired fond memories, 1960s cocktail rings that a man gave to his wife before they divorced, and a souvenir from a high school trip to Russia.

"Somebody at a party last week had a pre-engagement ring from her boyfriend before her husband, and her 14-year-old daughter wanted the ring, and she said, 'If your father ever saw you with that ring on you...,' so she sold it," Percival said.

The gold-buying services typically are not interested in the jewelry itself. Instead, they sell the items to gold refiners to be melted down.

The gold party host and gold buyer generally get a 10 percent cut. Podgorski made $300 at her party, which she said she donated to a charity she runs that provides free prom dresses to high school girls who cannot afford one.

"It's fun; it's something different. It's not a Tupperware party, it's not Pampered Chef," said Jennifer Phillips, a 39-year-old high school suspension supervisor and mother of six, who made $321 on her gold sales.

Alona Bloom, a 34-year-old mother of two and a teacher's assistant in Pittsburgh, recently sold old jewelry at a friend's gold party. Bloom thought she would leave with $100 but walked out with $700.

Now, she is now working to organize her own party to earn the 10 percent commission.

From The Napa Valley Register, submitted by Jerry R. Hallett, Napa, CA.


A rare copy of the first comic book featuring Superman has sold for $317,200 in an internet auction. The previous owner had bought it for less than a buck.

It's one of the highest prices ever paid for a comic, a likely testament to the volume's rarity and its excellent condition, said Stephen Fishler, co-owner of auction site and sister dealership Metropolis Collectibles.

Managers at the site said the winning bid for the 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1 was submitted by John Dolmayan, drummer for the band System of a Down.

From The Chicago Tribune, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


Scientists are studying a huge cache of Ice Age fossil deposits recovered near the famous La Brea Tar Pits in the middle of the nation's second-largest city.

Among the finds is a near-intact mammoth skeleton and bones of saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, bisons, horses, ground sloths and other mammals.

Researchers discovered 16 fossil deposits under an old parking lot next to the tar pits in 2006 and began sifting through them last summer.

Officials of the Page Museum at the tar pits plan to formally announce their findings. The discoveries could double the museum's Ice Age collection.

Such a rich find usually takes years to excavate. But with a deadline looming to build an underground parking garage for the next-door art museum, researchers boxed up the deposits and lifted them out of the ground using a massive crane.

"It's like a paleontological Christmas," research team member Andie Thomer wrote.

The research dubbed "Project 23"- because it took 23 boxes to house the deposits- uncovered a well-preserved mammoth with tusks that scientists nicknamed Zed. An examination reveals Zed had arthritic joints and several broken and re-healed ribs- an indication that he suffered a major injury during his life.

"It's looking more and more as if Zeb lived a pretty rough life," Thomer said.

Some scientists not connected with the discovery said this is the first significant fossil find since the original excavations at the tar pits more than a century ago.

From the Napa Valley Register, submitted by Jerry R. Hallett, Napa, CA.


Jazz musician Duke Ellington has become the first black American to be prominently featured on a U.S. coin in circulation with the release of a quarter honoring the District of Columbia.

U.S. Mint and D.C. officials celebrated the release of the coin during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

"Like many great Americans who succeed in what they love doing, Duke Ellington was equal parts talent, hard work, passion and perseverance," U.S. Mint Director Ed Moy said.

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was born and raised in Washington. He and other black music legends, such as Ella Fitzgerald, helped establish the city's U Street as an entertainment corridor.

Ellington beat out designs featuring abolitionist Frederick Douglass and astronomer Benjamin Banneker.

Last year, the Mint rejected a proposed design for the D.C. quarter that included the slogan "Taxation Without Representation," a phrase borrowed by D.C. residents to voice objections that they pay federal taxes without full representation in Congress. Instead, the Ellington coin includes the D.C. motto "Justice for All."

The coin with Ellington resting his elbow on a piano was released late January, but officials took time recently to hand out some of the "mint condition" quarters to D.C. schoolchildren.

"With Duke on the coin, we are sending an important message to the world that D.C. is a lot more than a government town," D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said.

Prior to the Ellington quarter, the only U.S. coin to depict a black person was a 2003 Missouri state coin that featured explorers Lewis and Clark with a black slave named York.

Commemorative coins also have featured black figures but those coins were not put into circulation.

From The News Herald, submitted by Doug Amundson, Cambridge, MN.

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