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

CARSON CITY, Nev. — The tale of a mysterious Nevada recluse's gold reached a new chapter Tuesday when a portion of the trove raked in more than $3.5 million at auction.

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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)

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.

Regardless of motivation, those who converged on the auction could sense the immense value of the treasure upon arriving.

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 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. There will likely be a second auction for the larger portion of the collection which is comprised of the rare coins, said Alan Glover, the public administrator for Samaszko's estate.

"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 Tuesday's auction. About $800,000 will pay various fees and estate taxes, and the rest of the profits go to a substitute teacher in San Rafael, Calif., who is the 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 named Spectrum Group International Inc. grabbed the two lots not purchased by Rowe or his partners.

Mitchell landed the lot of 4,600 Mexican dos pesos, the largest number of coins in a single lot. He said the story posed no additional value to him.

"It had the most potential for profit," Mitchell said of his purchase. "There was one lot I wanted more, but this one will have to do."

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 $1.16 million from Rowe and the Rare Coin Company of America.

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.

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