February 26, 2013

Auction of recluse's gold coins net $3.5 million

When Walter Samaszko died, officials found a secret collection of thousands of gold coins stashed in the garage of his modest home.

The Associated Press

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Mexican 50 peso pieces were among the $3.5 million in gold coins auctioned off in Carson City, Nev., on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. Recluse Walter Samaszko died in June 2012, leaving thousands of coins hidden in his garage. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cathleen Allison)

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This Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 photo shows the Carson City, Nev. home of Walter Samaszko Jr. A crew sent to clean out Samaszko's house found more than $7.4 million worth of gold coins, bars and bullion left behind in the garage after his death in June. About 135 pounds (61 kilograms) of Walter Samaszko Jr.'s gold coins will be auctioned off in 11 lots Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, in a courtroom to pay government taxes and fees. Carson City Clerk Recorder Alan Glover says the auction will only include about half of the trove left behind when the reclusive man died in his modest Carson City home last year. An exhaustive search identified California substitute teacher Arlene Magdanz as Samaszko's first cousin and sole heir to the fortune that was decades in the making. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

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.

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