Donald Kagin has the world's only Ph.D. in numismatics, the study of money and its history. Last week, he showed ABC7 News the stash, found in cans, on the Gold Country property of a couple that prefers to remain anonymous.
Then, an amateur coin aficionado named Jack Trout floated a theory that the coins might have been stolen from the U.S. Mint.
"It must have been a Mint robbery or an inside job," Trout said.
More specifically, the missing loot of a San Francisco Mint employee named Walter Dimmick, who was convicted for stealing $30,000 worth of gold coins from the mint's vault over a long period of time.
"We knew about this story long ago and we researchers did our due diligence," Kagin said.
"I feel very strongly that I had solved the case and what had happened," Trout said.
The problem is, the coins don't match. One $5 piece, for instance, came from a mint in Georgia, not San Francisco.
As late as Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the United States Mint told ABC7 News and Kagin that the U.S. government has no claim to this money.
When Trout heard that, he was actually relieved.
"There is no way the government should come in and take these people's coins," Trout said. "They dug them up, they found them, and that's it, it's cut and dry."
One of those coins, a $20 gold piece, will likely bring more than $1 million because it's rare, uncirculated and was printed without the words, "In God We Trust."