LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A California couple out walking their dog struck it rich by unearthing a horde of buried gold coins, worth more than US$10 million (S$12.6 million) according to experts.
The so-called Saddle Ridge find is believed to be the most valuable treasure trove ever discovered in the United States, according to Kagin's Inc, which specialises in ancient gold coins.
The couple, named only as John and Mary, spotted a partially buried can jutting out of the ground - and after further digging found seven more, with more than 1,400 gold coins.
"This family literally found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," said company boss Donald Kagin, adding that most of the coins date from the late 19th century.
"What's really significant about this find... is that unlike other hoards and treasures, this one includes a great variety of dates, many of which are in pristine condition," he added.
The Saddle Ridge Treasure is named after a feature on the couple's property in an area of northern California known for buried treasure since the Gold Rush in the 19th century.
The couple said they were simply taking their dog for its daily walk when they made the first find.
"I saw an old can sticking out of the ground on a trail that we had walked almost every day for many, many years," said John, who used a stick to dig it out.
They carried it back to the house, despite its considerable weight.
"I said to Mary, 'Wow, this thing is heavy. It must be full of lead paint.' I couldn't figure out what in the world would weigh that much," John said.
At that moment, "the lid cracked off and exposed a rib of a single gold coin," he said, adding: "I clamped the lid back on - I found a can of gold coins and I thought there was a zero per cent chance of Mary believing me!
"When I told her, the look of bewilderment - her mouth was so wide open flies could have flown in and out several times."
Mary added: "I never would have thought we would have found something like this. However, in a weird way I feel like I have been preparing my whole life for it."
After further digging, including with a metal detector, they eventually unearthed eight cans.
The couple, who are around 40, have decided to remain anonymous for the moment.
"Like a lot of people lately, we've had some financial trials. I feel extreme gratitude that we can keep our beloved property," John said.
Mary added: "We're the same people we were before, just with more freedom of choice.
"Our finances won't have to dictate so many of our day-to-day decisions... The answer to our difficulties was right there under our feet for years. Don't be above bending over to check on a rusty can!"