Are there still family vacations? I don't mean five people climbing on a plane and flying to Disney World. Yes, that's technically a family vacation, but what I'm referring to is everyone piling into a vehicle and heading out on a long road trip to somewhere enchanting.
I was lucky to have taken several of these. Some out west, and others to the east coast. All were filled with countless miles and highways, turnpikes and rest stops. Mom had the TripTik Travel Planer secured from AAA before we left. She would dutifully turn each page as we rolled along. My brother and I would be in the back seat gazing out the windows.
I would usually stare and wonder where treasure might be found. Most books I read featured pirates or cowboys — both of whom are associated with treasure. And whether cruising along the New England coast or the deserts and ghost towns of the west, there's treasure, and it still waits to be found.
None of this is far-fetched. Treasure is a staple all over New England and has been for centuries. As early as 1737, an article in the Boston Weekly Newsletter reported on a young boy in Salem, Massachusetts, who discovered several jars containing 2,000 silver coins. Most of these were the now rare 1652 Pine Tree, Oak Tree and Willow Tree shilling coins. Back then, they were just currency. Today, the coins in those jars could buy a home in the Hamptons with millions left over.
Over the centuries, more New England coin hoards have been found in coves and inlets in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, farms in Vermont and Virginia, and crevices pretty much all over. Many of the coins may not be silver or gold but copper. Nevertheless, the collector value of those early coppers can be huge.
Some wonder why these caches of coins keep turning up around the country. It's simple: In the earliest days there were no banks in which to store wealth. Then, when banks did come to be, for good reason, many did not trust them. Ergo, the best way to hide riches was in jars stashed or buried in a place the owner would remember. Though many of those owners didn't remember. Others died taking the location to the grave. Consequently, much treasure remains.
It's not as if the Midwest is void of riches. For those who yearn to see, and maybe even own some, an easy way to do so is at the annual American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money. It's not exactly on the shore or coast but close. Held in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont from Aug. 5-9, it's the largest and most spectacular assemblage of rare coins in the nation. It boasts over 1,000 coin and currency dealers buying, selling, trading and displaying every possible type of rarity.
The cumulative value of the coins at the World's Fair of Money will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of that will be in just one coin: the fabled Brasher Doubloon, considered by many to be the very first coin struck for the United States. Ephraim Brasher, a neighbor of George Washington, created the gold piece.
Brasher had submitted it as what could be produced as coinage for the fledgling country. It never became a circulating coin but is revered by collectors as one of the rarest of rare coins. This will mark the first time the coin has been on display in almost 30 years. It's not for sale but is currently insured for $10 million.
Admission to the public is free on Aug. 9, which is also known as Free Appraisal Day. If you are in the area, have some possible rarities of your own and are seeking an idea as to their value, this will be your chance. Other days there is a modest admission charge. That's not prohibitive considering there's sure to be more treasure found there than on most family vacations. Are we there yet?
Editor's Note: A JPEG visual of the famous gold Brasher Doubloon has been sent with this column.
To find out more about Peter Rexford and features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.