The Man Who Stashed $200 Million In Silver Dollars
Upon the death of 77-year-old Lavere Redfield in 1974, the IRS seized his estate. During their search a false wall was discovered and knocked down, revealing a cache of over four hundred 1,000 coin bags, or 400,000 silver dollars – which weighed a staggering 11 tons! (A regular bank vault couldn’t hold them all.) The estate was valued around $200 million, and to this day remains one of the largest private silver dollar collections ever found, known as the “Redfield Hoard”.
Because of the vast number of coins, the exact inventory of the Redfield Hoard of silver dollars was unknown. Amazingly, over 350,000 of the silver dollars were uncirculated, still in mint condition. At auction, there were so many coins the lot could not be properly examined by potential bidders. The whole collection went to the top bidder for a mere $7.3 million…
LaVere Redfield was born into poverty in Utah, in 1897. In his early twenties he made a meager living, digging potatoes in Idaho. From there he went on to manage a department store.
After careful saving, he began making investments. During the depression, in 1929 he moved to Los Angeles, learned about the stock market and became a stock broker, later gaining a reputation for gleaning the true value of stocks. He would buy blocks of stocks that no one else wanted – earning him the nickname “the junk man”. His investments paid off handsomely; some of his stocks became extremely valuable.
Upon acquiring an impressive amount of capital in 1935, (still the Depression era) from trading oil and mining stocks and real estate, he moved to Reno. There he purchased land and a large stone house, and began his hobby of collecting silver dollars. Periodically he would go to the bank and buy bags of 1,000 silver dollars. At the time, US silver dollars could be bought for $1 and sold by most banks. And as all the casinos in Reno used silver dollars, the banks kept a ready supply on hand.
Redfield didn’t trust banks for saving his money, preferring to store the silver dollars at home. He would collect them in his pickup truck and stash them in the basement, probably dropping the bags down the old coal chute. Many of the coins were mint condition, uncirculated. Others were badly marked, from rubbing against each other during transit. Before long word got out about his love of silver dollars, and he was robbed a few times. Probably due to the robberies he began purchasing coins from banks further afield. Occasionally he would sell a few bags of silver dollars, when he felt the timing was right.
He gained a reputation as an eccentric during this period, partly due to his mistrust of banks, but also due to his choice of clothing – worn old jeans and cheap shirts – continuing to drive an old dilapidated pickup truck, known to be a notoriously poor tipper in the casinos, and often spending afternoons at the library watching free movies!
Story has it that he once paid for land at a tax auction with $65,000 in cash – carried in a shopping bag! He also opted to spend some time in jail, to avoid paying fines.
In 1960 Redfield was indicted, for non payment of $335,000 in income taxes. Rather than spend money on an attorney, he defended himself, was found guilty and served eighteen months of a five-year sentence.
Estimates reveal that at one time he had a cache of over 600,000
silver dollars. When his house was burglarized in 1963, reportedly
approximately 100,000 silver dollars were taken, which probably encouraged him to build the false wall, to hide his stash.
Where are the Redfield silver dollars now?
Almost four decades later, they might be anywhere. Every now and then a silver dollar turns up in a special holder with Redfield’s name on it – the only way they can be distinguished from other old US silver dollars. The exciting thing is, that it is still possible, when purchasing old silver dollars, that you might be holding one of the original silver dollars lovingly collected by LaVere Redfield!
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