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So you've found a lender, secured a mortgage, and moved into your dream home.
Life seems perfect, but have you considered what might be buried deep below your backyard?
We don't condone haphazard excavations of your property, but we have compiled a list of unusual surprises people have found in their own backyards.
Saddle Ridge Hoard
Let's start with the most recent instance of a windfall buried in a backyard. An undisclosed couple in California has uncovered 1,427 gold coins from the mid to late 1800s. Known as the Saddle Ridge Hoard, historians have debated whether these uncirculated mint gold coins were hauls from two bank robberies more than 100 years ago.
U.S. Mint spokesman Adam Stump has thrown cold water on those theories. Stump tells SFGate.com "We've done quite a bit of research, and we've got a crack team of lawyers, and trust me, if this was U.S. government property we'd be going after it."
After appraisal, this couple who prefers to remain anonymous has discovered their backyard has provided them a windfall of $10 million. This doesn't mean they get to keep all $10 million. As per a 1969 U.S. District Court ruling, which confirms taxability of income provided by "treasure troves," this undisclosed couple may owe around half of their hoard to the government.
The IRS outlines the rules in the 2013 tax guide. "If you find and keep property that does not belong to you that has been lost or abandoned (treasure-trove), it is taxable to you at its fair market value in the first year it is your undisputed possession."
These taxes pertain to the year someone finds the items in question. So the California couple may be on the hook for a sizeable sum by tax day of this year. Needless to say, they may have a vested interest in finding buyers soon.
Amazon.com's Collectibles site has announced it will be the platform the couple will use to sell many of their newfound mint coins.
The story of the undisclosed California couple finding millions in gold coins has sparked the treasure-hunting interest of the nation. It's not every day that news breaks of massive windfalls getting unearthed in someone's backyard. But yet it does seem to happen with some amount of regularity.
In 2005, a Methuen, Massachusetts pair of friends unearthed a box packed with cash as well as gold and silver certificates. Valued at over $100,000, the stash included about 1,800 bills dating from 1899 to 1929.
Speculation ran wild when the lucky recipients attempted to theorize why this treasure trove might have found its way to their backyard. Both men have considered theories like profits from bootlegging, maybe a bank robbery, or savings of someone long ago who didn't trust banks.
Other historically important finds have popped up all over the world. While digging an extension to his backyard pond in 2011, an Austrian man accidentally uncovered a staggering trove of medieval artifacts including more than 200 rings, brooches, belt buckles, gold-plated silver coral and other ornate items dating back over 650 years.
It is a rare occurrence to find such a vast collection of anything from a specific time period buried in the same place. So rare in fact that the often reserved Austrian Federal Office for Memorials was unable to contain its enthusiasm for the find, saying, "Fairy tales still exist!" adding, "Private individual finds sensational treasure in garden." The Office for Memorials described the find as "one of the qualitatively most significant discoveries of medieval treasure in Austria."
The Austrian man's haul of these remarkable medieval pieces is appraised at $136,817. The homeowner's backyard is serendipitously located on the same land once used as a trading route running between Poland and Italy. Speculations on the reasons to bury such a large collection of jewelry included the possibility of thieves or a traveling trader who buried the hoard before approaching a buyer.
It seems these beautiful pieces were contentious enough to keep whoever buried them from returning to retrieve them. It seems this is another instance of a buried treasure providing a fractured view into a civilization long gone. This find presents a wondrous cornucopia frozen in time, but every answer these artifacts provide spawns two new questions in its place.
Money and jewelry are straightforward treasure troves. It's easier to understand why someone would bury something valuable and relatively small. But these aren't the only items found in people's backyards. Sometimes the find is much larger and often times much stranger.
A Puriton, England couple had no idea a fallen German Heinkel was hidden mere feet below their garden. The homeowner, Andy Jennings, received the shock of his life when he was contacted, "It came as quite a surprise and we are really quite excited by it. We had no idea it was there until the archaeologists got in touch."
Having an archaeologist lead the excavation has its benefits. The homeowners get a rare glimpse at the historical relevance of their land with more exacting specificity than most backyard finds would yield.
British Wing Commander Robert Stanford-Tuck shot down this specific plane on August 14, 1940. The German pilot who got shot down was Otto Uhland, who had been assigned targets near Bristol. There had been reports that mentioned Uhland declaring that he went to school at Bristol University and as a result had been intentionally dropping his bombs short of the targets.
And, based on where the initial scrap was found, archaeologists have a good understanding of where they might find the rest of the wreckage. Jennings adds, "There are two areas of land where the engines are expected to be and because of their weight, they could have been buried as much as 6ft deep."
Gareth Jones, an archaeologist working on the excavation added historical weight to the significance of this find by saying "Until recent times it was thought this historic site was built over. However, modern aerial photography and ground penetrating radar suggests that under the lawn lies a time capsule of artifacts from that event not seen in over 70 years."
Perhaps the greatest part of this particular find is the appreciation and willingness of the homeowner to help archaeologists find this amazing piece of buried history. Mr. Jennings agreed to lend a hand and the excavators have agreed to return his garden to the state they found it after completing the dig.
As far as Andy Jennings is concerned, he's quite pleased at the prospect of digging in the dirt, saying "I think it will be absolutely fascinating."
Let's be honest. This wouldn't be a well-rounded account of backyard discoveries if we didn't touch upon a few unwelcome finds.
Sure, sudden windfall and massive troves of historically significant artifacts get the headlines. But oftentimes what homeowners find in their own backyard is a little more unpleasant.
Marshall Brain is the Founder and Vice President of HowStuffWorks.com, and a Cary, N.C., homeowner. Mr. Brain was in the middle of a large yard project and had piles of overturned earth covering his backyard.
After cleaning out his work desk and finding his headlamp he decided to test it out as he let his dog out that night.
As he surveyed his incomplete project he noticed a beautiful sparkle that coated the mounds of disturbed earth.
Like anyone we've discussed in this article Mr. Brain assumed the best and explained on his blog, "I assumed it was mica or quartz crystals or something in the clay. So I walked up closer to investigate."
What Marshall Brain found was not something as stationary as mica or quartz crystal. Mr. Brain found his mounds of dirt were covered in thousands of wolf spiders.
A wolf spider's body, not including legs, can range from 0.04 to 1.38 inches, and including legs can be as large as the palm of your hand. They have fantastic sight, are venomous and capable of jumping:
Now that you have sweaty palms, consider thousands of those shimmering eyes staring back at you at night.
We now turn our focus to Florida for another common backyard find: Snakes.
Finding large snakes in your Florida backyard is so common that businesses thrive by specializing in backyard snake removal.
And of course, we present to you a worst case scenario. A massive Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake was found by Animal Planet's Gator Boys. Six feet long and packed with venom, a massive rattlesnake is not something anyone would consider a great backyard finding.
An all too common and unfortunate find for any homeowner are old gravestones. Repurposing land is a byproduct of that runaway train called time. This sometimes means displacement of graves to accommodate new homes.
We all remember Poltergeist, where an unlucky family of four realizes their home sits atop an ancient Indian burial ground.
Homeowners from all over the world have found gravestones buried under their backyards for ages. Each time, these stones provide a glimpse into a long departed world.
Gravestones are occasionally uncovered without any corresponding body below. It seems cemetery workers are often tasked with disposing of old markers when loved ones get upgraded stones.
An instance in Washington, D.C., provides insight in what to do if you find one in your yard.
Cora Thornton wanted to build a new shed. Upon knocking down her old shed and dusting off the concrete slab where it stood she found each corner of the slab consisted of a headstone.
Shocked and fearful that her yard had at one time been a cemetery, she alerted the authorities, who found no bodies buried beneath.
DC's resident City Archaeologist, Ruth Trocolli, sheds light on what to do if a homeowner happens upon some earthly remains on his property. "If human remains are found then District laws kick in and the police (MPD) and DC Medical Examiner (ME) need to be contacted. We work together with the ME and MPD when it is clear that the location of a former cemetery is involved," she said in response to a Washington City Paper inquiry.
Ms. Trocolli adds that the city's Office of Planning working with the MPD and ME can help identify the cemetery where rogue headstones may belong. She adds "Once it is established that the remains are not part of a crime scene they can be turned over to a cemetery for reburial."
Of course, bodies can be found sans marker as well. Like a Canadian couple who were digging to add a new fence on their property. Ken Campbell and Nicole Sauve accidentally uncovered an eerily intact 400-year old skeleton of a Native American woman.
And due to Ontario's Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, the homeowners are on the hook for a $5,000 archeological assessment now that they've unearthed human remains. Some might consider this finding the backyard anti-windfall.
Campbell and Sauve feel conflicted with the Good Samaritan act of notifying the authorities then getting hit with a multi-thousand-dollar penalty. But, not notifying anyone didn't sit well with Sauve. "God forbid you have a murder victim. Never will that person be brought home; never will their family have closure," Sauve explained to The Toronto Star.
In the end, owning property is a responsibility. Fantastic and lucrative finds on your property may provide a windfall for you and yours. But remember that more disturbing and macabre finds may force unexpected expenses for the homeowner. The thrill of the hunt wouldn't be as thrilling if it didn't include an element of danger and intrigue.
Again, we cannot stress enough, we are not telling you to grab a metal detector and start digging. The odds are not in your favor, there's a reason these troves are national news, they're incredibly rare.
But if you do decided to dig, the Common Ground Alliance requests that any project or exploratory dig on your property should begin with a call to 811 to make sure you're not going to hit any buried electrical lines, pipes or cables. Calling 811 is absolutely not necessary by law, but the Common Ground Alliance suggests it may help a homeowner from feeling foolish by cutting vital cables buried beneath their property. Remember if you "want to avoid spending a day in the dark? It's as simple as 8-1-1."