French Town Strikes Gold

When officials of the French town of Morez agreed to purchase and renovate an old building last year they never imagined they were also acquiring a treasure trove. But as they cleaned out the building they came across two separate caches of gold coins.

The three-story building was the former home of four brothers and sisters, none of whom had children. When the final sibling died in his 90s last year, an elderly relative offered to sell the building and all of its contents to the town for 130,000 euros, or about $158,000.

The house was packed with furniture and old items. The siblings had lived frugally, holding on to most of their possessions. As town officials and staff of the local museum sorted through items to see if there might be anything of historic interest they came across three jars filled with gold coins and five gold bars that were sitting behind objects on a shelf.

“None of us had ever held a piece of gold,” Mayor Laurent Petit told The Guardian newspaper. “I’d only ever seen gold bars in photos and thought they must be huge. But these were small, weighing 1 kilogram and the size of a cigarette packet.”

The cache of more than 1,000 gold coins and the bars was estimated to be worth well over $600,000.
Then, in April, the town found more gold. Behind cardboard boxes, at the back of a cupboard was a safe. When authorities broke into it they found another collection of gold coins with an estimated worth of about $180,000.

The elderly relative who had sold the building and all its contents had heard family rumors of hidden treasures in the house but didn’t think it still existed. “He was very philosophical—he had heard about a stash of gold but thought it had been given away,” said Mayor Petit.