Lost Mormon $10 Gold Coins







This is one of the greatest lost gold stories in Utah ever told. Should the cache, if lost, ever be found, the person finding it could retire a very wealthy individual. 


As with any good legend, there is more than one version of the story. Both similar, yet different enough to leave you scratching your head wondering which part of what story is correct, if any. I will share details of both, and let you figure it out if you can!


It all begins back in 1848. The newly established settlement of Great Salt Lake City was not even two years old. Though young, the city and surrounding valley needed money to help assure healthy commerce. Up to that time, paper slips signed by church leaders had acted as money, but real coins were more practical and far more desirable. 


Brigham Young, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) directed that a mint should be established, and in that mint, gold coins were to be produced. Sources differ as to the origins of the gold, some say it came from the California gold fields, others say it was gold from the lost Rhodes mine. Whatever the source, there was gold, and coins were produced. Just how many is the basis of this legend!


The mint was really nothing more than a small outbuilding and security was not exactly top notch. The days stamping would be left unattended overnight, and work would resume the next day. It supposedly was not practice to secure the coins, possible because the local residents were deemed to be trustworthy. Whatever the reason, both versions tell of the coins being left unattended overnight.




In one version of the story, a single individual, a traveler passing through the valley had learned of the mint by way of casual conversation with a Mormon local, possibly Brigham Young himself. Seeking out the mint under the cover of darkness, he found a pile of newly struck coins left unattended on the mint table. He scooped up all the coins and stole away on horseback, disappearing into the night and Utah’s west desert. He was never seen or heard from again! (1)




In a second version, it was not a single individual, but rather two brothers, their names unknown (possibly Baldwin) who made off with the coins. This version has the brothers traveling through Great Salt Lake City as members of a wagon train headed to California. 


The two, hearing of the mint (again in casual conversation), dropped back from the wagon train, returned to the city under cover of darkness, found the mint and supposedly found some two hundred newly struck $10 coins left unattended on the mint table. Like the first version of this story, they scooped up all of the coins and quickly rode out of town to rejoin the wagon train. 


In this version, when the theft was discovered the next morning, a posse was dispatched to overtake the wagon train and recover the stolen coins. The group found the wagon train, but they did not find the gold! They were to late. The brothers, fearing that the law might be hot on their heels, decided to cut and run. For a second time they separated from the wagon train and headed south into Utah’s west desert. Like the first version of the legend, neither the brothers nor the gold were ever seen or heard from again! (1)




Both versions of the story tell of the gold thieves getting lost in vastness of the desert valleys, running out of supplies, and meeting their end starving and thirsty in the endless sea of sagebrush. 


Is it possible? Somewhere out there in Utah’s west central desert a leather saddle bag full of gold coins lies beside the bleached bones of the would-be thief or thieves? 


Are you ready to go yet? 


Well, here’s a bit more to fuel your gold fever…




There are incomplete records in the church archives, but it is known fact that $2.1/2, $5.00, $10.00, and $20.00 gold coins were produced in this early mint. The $10.00 coins are the most rare of all, with less than 20 known 1849 samples. Church records show that less than 50 of the 1849 $10 coins were ever produced. Still, according to some who have examined the original dies, they show wear that would lead one to conclude that far more than 50 coins of that denomination were struck.


10 more? 20 more? 200 more? Who knows? What is known is this. The coins are worth as much as $100,000 each. Do the math on that. Possibly as much as $20,000,000 in gold just waiting to be found!




Think it’s impossible? Think again. Late in the 1970’s, Tony Kruletz, a rancher and former town Marshall of Ophir, Utah, was riding horseback far out in Utah’s west desert. While riding, he came across bleached human bones scattered and hidden in the sage, lying nearby, a rusted pistol, an old saddle, and old leather saddlebags. (2)




The story of the find quickly made local news, and then national news. Unfortunately for Tony, it was not the bones of a thief and a bag full of lost gold. Nevertheless, it was just as exciting. The bag turned out to be full of undelivered letters and documents. The bag, the saddle, the gun, and the bones all belonged to a long lost Pony Express rider. A rider not seen or heard of since 1861! (2)




If there is one set of bones and a saddlebag out there in the desert, who says there could not be another? A bag full of Mormon gold coins perhaps? 


What do you think?


Have fun!  






(1)  Verbal communication - Scoutmaster Larry Hartly, Scout camp 1973, Settlement Canyon, Utah

(2)  Verbal communication - Tony Kruletz, Utah Movie Ranch, 1996, Tooele, Utah