Vaults and rotting chests, cobwebs, skulls and devious traps. Shining, shimmering dragon heaps and leprechaun cauldrons. These are the stuff of dreams.
My dreams, anyway.
But whether it’s called a treasure trove or a hoard actually makes a difference.
When is a Trove Not a Hoard?
A treasure trove is defined by Dictionary.com as “any money, bullion, or the like, of unknown ownership, found hidden in the earth or any other place: in the absence of statutory provisions to the contrary it may be kept by the finder.” In most countries, valuable artifacts that are not money, bullion, etc. would not be considered a treasure trove.
On the other hand, a hoard is defined as “a supply or accumulation that is hidden or carefully guarded for preservation, future use, etc.” So gold coins from a burial would not be considered a hoard since it is not for preservation or future use (though it would be a treasure trove). On the other hand, a collection of ancient tools or weapons that had been cached for later use would not be a trove, but would be a hoard.
Definitions and circumstances have high stakes for the finders. Ownership of the Broighter Hoard in Ireland was legally contested between the British Museum, which had purchased the find, and the Royal Irish Academy. Because the court determined the treasure was not a religious offering, it was forfeit to the crown (represented by the Academy).
I enjoy reading about the treasures found and about the circumstances of the finding. Here is a tiny sampling of fun ones:
In 2012, a man cleaning out the family attic in Defiance, Ohio found a stash of 700 rare, mint-condition baseball cards that had been put there years before by a grandfather he never knew. The collection includes such baseball greats as Ty Cobb and Cy Young and has an estimated value of $3 million.
This hoard of 360,000 14th century silver coins from England, Ireland, Scotland and continental Europe was discovered in 1831 by workmen repairing a mill-race on the River Dove. It is now worth approximately $65 million. The hoard likely came from Thomas Plantagenet, the Earl of Lancaster, Leicester, Derby, Lincoln and Salisbury and one of the richest men in England during his time. Unfortunately for him, he led a rebellion against Edward II and had his head lopped off.
In June 2011, the Supreme Court of India directed authorities from the state archaeology department to open the secret chambers of an ancient Hindu temple that is mentioned in writings as far back as 500 BC. The hoard they found is worth an estimated $22 billion. Among the many treasures are a 3 ½ foot tall statue of pure gold, studded with emeralds, rubies and other precious stones as well as sacks—plural—of diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds.
Roll over Indiana Jones, you small-time piker.