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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (06/2013) Headlines (04/2013) Headlines (08/2013)   Vol. 47 June 2013 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the June 2013 edition of W&ET Magazine


A New York family scored a huge payday when a small bowl, which they bought at a garage sale for $3, turned out to be a 1,000-year old Chinese piece that sold for $2.2 million at Sotheby’s recently. The family bought the rare bowl at the secondhand sale in 2007, and kept it sitting on their mantle for years, the auction house said.

After becoming curious, the bargain hunters began consulting experts about the bowl. They finally brought the piece to Sotheby’s, which estimated it would sell for somewhere in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.

But recently, London art dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi blew away those figures when he plunked down $2.2 million for the museum-quality piece.

He beat four other bidders for the Northern Song dynasty bowl— known as a Ding bowl— which dates back to the 10th or 11th century.

There is only one other bowl like it in the world, and it is in the British Museum.

From the New York Post, submitted by Marty Maher, Langlois, OR, and many other readers.


A sapphire ring found in a field south of York by a metal detecting enthusiast is probably much older than originally thought and may have been owned by royalty, according to a group of experts convened to examine the object.

Archaeologists say the Escrick ring is likely to be from the 5th or 6th century, and nothing like it from that period has ever been found in the UK before.

The expert group, convened by the Yorkshire Museum in York, believes the ring could have royal connections.

Curator of archaeology at the museum Natalie McCaul said: “What this workshop has shown is that this sapphire ring is even more special than we had previously thought.

“Nothing like it has been found in this country from the 5th or 6th century.”

The ring was found by metal detectorist Michael Greenhorn, from York and District Metal Detecting Club, in 2009 as he searched a field near the village of Escrick.

It measures around 2.5cm across and is intricately made of gold, prestige glass and a large sapphire.

Now the expert group has dated it to a much earlier period.

They have also suggested the ring was made in Europe, possibly France, and that it would have belonged to a king, leader or consort— not a bishop which was a previous theory.

The wear on the ring also suggests that it could have been a brooch first, which was later made into a ring.

“It has been fantastic to hear the thoughts of some of the world’s leading experts and their suggestions will allow us to now go away and try and fit the ring into a historical timeframe,” Miss McCaul said.

“Hopefully this will lead us to finding out more about the ring and possibly even who might have owned it.”

The workshop was attended by more than 30 experts from across the UK and included a day of talks, presentations and discussion, the museum said.

The expert group concluded the sapphire in the ring was probably cut earlier, possibly during the Roman period, but the ring itself was specially made around the sapphire.

And, by looking at the wear on the ring they decided it was worn for at least 50 years before it was lost.

The gold hoop that forms the ring also looks slightly different to the main part of the ring, with suggestions being made that it was turned into a ring later, possibly from a brooch or mount.

A museum spokesman said another theory suggested during the meeting was that the ring was from a later period, perhaps the 8th or 9th centuries, but was inspired by earlier styles in both jewelry and perhaps surviving stonework in Yorkshire dating from the 5th or 6th centuries.

He said further research was underway, in particular a search for any further archaeology or historical information which can link the ring to 5th or 6th centuries.

This will be conducted initially by researchers from the University of Durham.

The Yorkshire Museum has raised 35,000 pounds to buy the ring.

This has been made possible with grants of 10,000 pounds from the Art Fund, 10,000 pounds from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, 10,000 pounds from the Headley Trust and 1,000 pounds from the York Philosophical Society.

From The Yorkshire Post, submitted by Lisa Lommasson, Pebble Beach, CA, and many other readers.


There are plenty of reasons the Travel Channel might want to visit Santa Maria and the Central Coast: famous barbecue, fine wines, fabulous strawberries and fantastic scenery.

But what drew a 12-person film crew collecting footage for a new show called “DigFellas” to the city earlier this month was Los Flores Ranch Park and the possibility that famed bandito Salomon Pico lived in the area in the 1850s.

“It’s a brand new series. The Travel Channel authorized three or four brand new series around December, and this is one of them,” said Mark van de Kamp, spokesman for the city of Santa Maria.

When it was setting its lineup of shows for 2013, the Travel Channel gave a green light to several new original series, one of which is “DigFellas,” a show based on the search for historical artifacts by relic hunters Bill Ladd and Howard Hewitt.

“DigFellas,” produced by Santa Monica-based Kenetic Content, follows the searches by Ladd and Hewitt as they try to dig up relics and antiques in an attempt to separate history from legend and fantasy. Six half-hour shows are being produced for the 2013 season, which should air in the summer and fall.

Despite the suggestive name and its archaeological appeal, the crew was not allowed to dig anywhere on Los Flores Ranch Park property, van de Kamp said.

“They did request to dig and were denied because of the cultural resources that are on the site,” he explained. “They did some filming at various locations along the Central Coast and wanted to come to Los Flores Park for its view of the valley.”

Their interest in the park was getting to the roots of the legend of Zorro, who robbed from Americans who took advantage of the native Californios. Pico’s family, which includes Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California, believe writer Johnston McCulley used Salomon Pico as the inspiration for his fictional Zorro.

Van de Kamp said the film crew visited many locations on the Central Coast during its search and made Santa Maria its home base. He said the crew didn’t publicize its visit.

“We haven’t had very much film activity the last few years,” said van de Kamp, listing three visits over the past four years. “It’s a modest economic boost for the city, and the publicity generated for Santa Maria is always positive.”

From the Santa Maria Times, submitted by Bill Ladd, W. Warwick, RI.


The tale of a mysterious Nevada recluse’s gold reached a new chapter recently when a portion of the trove raked in more than $3.5 million at auction.

It was the allure of mystery that pulled some bidders to the courtroom, but for others, it was the sheer value of a collection unknown to the public before Walter Samaszko Jr. was found dead in his modest ranch-style home last year.

There were numerous guards at the entrance, then more in the hallway outside the courtroom, and finally several with bullet proof vests and others with helmets inside the room holding the gold.

Five bidders diligently inspected the 11 lots of gold displayed in plastic sleeves, tubes and felt jewelry display boxes in the heavily guarded room before the bidding wars began.

By the time all sales were final, however, one bidder had secured nine of the 11 lots for sale. Carson City’s Alan Rowe of Northern Nevada Coin spent $617,000 from his own company, and another $2 million on behalf of the Illinois-based Rare Coin Company of America Inc. It was the uniqueness of the gold that drove his bidding, he said.

“Every one of us has a little hoarder nature in our culture and we all like to have things, but to this degree is quite a story,” Rowe told reporters after the auction, adding that the metal value “is not as exciting as the story itself, there’s actually value to the story.”

He added that some of the coins will be available in the store or online for locals hoping to snag a piece of history. Others, he said, will be marketed nationally and likely on television.

This auction was only for the bullion coins— items that are not necessarily rare, just expensive because they are made of gold.

“They’re buying and bidding on an ounce of gold, pure gold by the weight,” Glover said. In total, about 150 pounds of gold was sold at auction. About $800,000 will pay various fees and estate taxes, and the rest of the profits go to a first cousin and sole heir to the trove of Walter Samaszko Jr.

Because of the other coins’ rarity, that sale is expected to net higher profits.

James Mitchell of Reno’s Silver State Coin and a California-based group grabbed the two lots not purchased by Rowe.

That lot, a collection of 620 Canadian Maple Leafs, was the largest in terms of weight and the coins were the purest gold available. It fetched $1.6 million.

No one knows exactly when the collection began, or why Samaszko never sold it. Frankly, no one knew anything about him even though he lived in the same neighborhood for decades. Weeks passed before authorities even discovered he had died in his modest Carson City home. A coroner said he died of heart problems.

When cleanup crews arrived, they made the startling discovery of the 69-year-old man’s vast collection of thousands of gold coins worth millions of dollars stashed in old ammunition boxes in his garage.

Officials discovered the trove neatly wrapped and stored mostly in ammunition boxes stacked on top of each other. There were more than 2,900 Austrian coins, many from 1915; more than 5,000 from Mexico; at least 500 from Britain; 300 U.S. gold pieces, some dating to 1880; and more than 100 U.S. gold pieces as old as the 1890s.

Among the coins were meticulous records of the purchases dating back to at least 1964, when gold averaged about $35 per ounce. The precious metal currently sells for more than $1,600 an ounce.

Authorities believe that his mother, who lived with Samaszko until her death in 1992, purchased most of the coins.

Despite the millions of dollars in his garage, Samaszko didn’t appear to lead a luxurious life. Records show he only withdrew about $500 a month to pay modest bills. He died with $1,200 in a checking account and just a bit more than $165,000 in a money market and mutual fund account.

Since learning of her inheritance, Magdanz has shunned publicity and not made any comments about the fortune.

From the AP, submitted by Jerry R. Hallett, Napa, CA, Zoueva Grossmann, Pacific Coast, FL, and many other readers.

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