It’s the kind of thing we all dream about happening to us one day. Imagine walking in a field near your house and noticing something sticking out of the ground that on closer inspection, turns out to be a collection of rare coins worth over £10 million? Or going diving on holiday then picking up what looks like an old piece of rubble, only to find out it’s actually a rare and valuable 16th-century artefact?
That’s what happened to the people in the list below, who managed to stumble their way into huge sums of money completely by accident. We’re definitely going to be a little more eagle-eyed next time we’re out and about walking! Scroll down our list of 15 incredibly valuable items that were found completely by accident, to see just how much money people have made by simply going about their business. It’ll justify the cost of that new metal detector you want to buy anyway…
15. The Hand of Faith
The so-called ‘Hand of Faith’ is the second largest intact gold nugget in the world, and the largest nugget ever to be discovered using a metal detector. Kevin Hillier was walking near the small town of Kingower, Australia in 1980 when he came across the monumental find whilst using his detector. The nugget weighs 60 pounds and is valued at a whopping $1.1 million. The Hand of Faith is now displayed in the hotel lobby of the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, where members of the public can get up close and personal with the largest gold nugget on public display in the world.
14. Santa Margarita Gold Chalice
Diver Mike DeMar was on holiday in Key Largo, Florida in 2008 when he decided it was high time to test out his metal detector during an expedition. The stars aligned when Mike stumbled upon a rare golden chalice, an artefact which he nearly disregarded as junk. After clearing away the debris and visiting an appraiser, Mike discovered that the item was worth over $1.3 million!
Historians have stated that the chalice is around 385 years old and probably came from a ship called the Santa Margarita, which sank off the coast of Key Largo in 1622.
13. The Cuerdale Hoard
A group of workmen accidentally discovered a massive collection of Viking silver whilst they were digging in Cuerdale, Lancashire. The Cuerdale Hoard is the largest collection of Viking treasure ever discovered outside of Russia and contains more than 8,600 items of 9th century silver. After studying the coins carefully, archaeologists estimate that they were probably buried between 901 and 905, shortly after the Vikings were driven back from Dublin. Silver was the most common form of currency during the Viking Age and often ended up being buried during times of unrest.
12. The Crosby Garrett Helmet
This impressive-looking helmet was discovered in 2009 by an unemployed graduate in his early 20s! Students eh…The man was using a metal detector on farmland located on the outskirts of Crosby Garrett, a hamlet in Cumbria, when he found this fully-intact Roman helmet. After doing some research, he discovered that the item was actually worn during parades and ceremonies in Ancient Rome.
At an auction in 2010, bidding for the helmet surpassed the finder’s expectations. An anonymous bidder purchased the bronze piece for £2.3 million – it is now privately owned and is being kept safe in an estate for the buyer to enjoy.
11. The Saddle Ridge Hoard
In 2013, a couple were taking their dog for a walk across their property when they noticed what looked like a rusty can jutting out of the ground. Inside the can was a collection of extremely rare $20 gold coins. They made several visits to the site and managed to find a total of eight cans filled with 1,426 rare US coins. The coins date back to the late 1800s – whilst they had a face value of $27,980, they have now been appraised and are said to be worth around $10 million.
10. The 5th Magna Carta
The Magna Carta was drawn up in 1215 by King John of England. It was a charter intended to create peace between the unpopular monarchy and a group of rebels. It ended up establishing the principle that not only the general population but also the king himself is subject to the law of the land. In 2015, an edition of the Magna Carta was found in some archives in Maidstone and experts valued it at around $15 million. Rumour has it that there are only 24 editions of the Magna Carta around the world, but as this story shows, there may still be some versions missing.
9. Ship of Gold
In September 1857, the SS Central America was carrying nearly 600 passengers when it crashed 200 miles off the coast of Carolina. Tragically, over 400 people died and 21 tons of California gold were lost to the depths of the sea. For over 150 years, this massive haul of treasure remained somewhere at the bottom of the ocean, away from prying eyes. In the 1980s, an expedition was launched to recover the treasure, but it came away empty-handed. However, in 2014, explorers had more luck – they discovered 3,100 gold coins, 10,000 silver coins, 45 gold bars and more than 80 pounds of gold dust in the wreckage of the Central America.
8. The Antikythera Treasures
OK, so again this wasn’t really discovered by accident, but the explorers in question definitely brought back more than they were expecting! In 1900, a group of Greek sponge divers set off on the world’s first major underwater archaeological expedition to the coast of Antikythera, Greece in order to recover items from an ancient ship that had sunk all the way back in 65 BC.
They managed to find the wreck, and discovered treasures beyond their wildest dreams. They found pottery, weapons, huge bronze statues, glassware, jewellery, coins and even copper couch beds. They also found the Antikythera Mechanism, which is widely believed to be the world’s oldest analog computer. It has pointers that display the positions of the sun and stars, plus an eclipse prediction dial and even a timetable of athletic events.
7. The Whydah Gally
The Whydah Gally was discovered in 1984 and it still remains the only pirate shipwreck whose identity has been unquestionably authenticated. The ship was found off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and was identified as a former slave vessel that belonged to the rich pirate Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy. Black Sam is known as the ‘Robin Hood of the sea’ and was said to be the highest-earning pirate of all time. The Whydah sunk in 1717 and held more than 200,000 artefacts, including the ship’s bell (still intact), gold jewellery, gold coins and giant cannons.
6. The Merkers Mine
When it became clear to the Nazis that Germany was losing the war, the Nazi government decided to store their riches in the Merkers Mine, located in Thuringia, Germany, in 1945. That very same year, the US army managed to find the secret caves and recovered a huge haul of paper money, gold and artwork worth millions of dollars. The German government is still trying to claim back the riches that the Americans confiscated in 1945, but maybe they should start looking a little bit closer to home. It’s rumoured that there is still Nazi treasure worth billions of dollars scattered in secret locations across Europe.
5. Tutankhamun’s Tomb
When Howard Carter and his team of archaeologists stumbled upon a rubble-filled stairway in the Valley of the Kings, they had no idea what they would be about to find. On November 26th, 1922, the entrance of King Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered, and the vast array of treasures they found inside would become the stuff of legend. Amongst other valuable items, Carter and his team unearthed Tutankhamun’s gold burial mask, a statue of the Egyptian god Anubis, the young prince’s golden fan, a gold leopard head and even a royal chariot!
4. Venus de Milo
In 1820, a farmer from the Greek island of Milos was digging up ancient ruins in his field to get some stones he needed (only in Greece!). However, he ended up discovering one of the most famous statues in the world – the Venus de Milo, or Aphrodite of Milos. Now on display in the Louvre in Paris, the Venus de Milo (or Aphrodite of Milos) is considered to be one of the foremost examples of Ancient Greek sculpture in the world, and dates back to about 150 BC.
3. The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea scrolls are essentially a priceless discovery thanks to their hugely significant links to two of the world’s largest religions – Christianity and Judaism. They were discovered some time between 1946 and 1956, and contain fragments from every book of the Old Testament except the Book of Esther. Perhaps the most important manuscript is the Copper Scroll, a kind of ancient treasure map that contains information about dozens of gold and silver caches. None of the hidden locations have been found yet, but it’s thought that the treasure they contain is valued at approximately $1.2 billion.
2. The San José Galleon
The San José Galleon was a Spanish ship with 62 guns and three masts. It contained gold, silver and emerald from the mines of Potosi in Peru and sailed from Panama to Columbia in 1708 before sinking after losing a battle with British ships in the Spanish Wars of Succession. The treasures it contained were only discovered off the coast of Cartegena, Columbia in 2015, and since then the government has been battling private companies to determine who keeps it all.
1. Indian Temple Hoard
The Padmanabhaswamy Temple is a 16th century Hindu site located in Trivandrum, India which contains a series of underground vaults. In 2011, treasures worth an astonishing $22 billion were found hidden in the complex. The haul consisted of gold coins, jewels, statues made of solid gold and even some valuable diamonds. After the discovery, the Indian government sent 24/7 security to guard the temple and its riches. However, it still hasn’t been decided whether the treasure will remain the property of the temple or if it will be given to the state instead. In India, it’s very common for temples to keep their ancient riches.