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Forrest Fenn’s Famed Treasure Chest, a $2 Million Hoard Discovered After a 12-Year Hunt, Is Heading to Auction

The trove includes gold pieces, coins, jewelry, and other artifacts.

by Vittoria Benzine

A set of items from Forrest Fenn's treasure. Photo by Lynda M. González/Heritage Auctions.
A set of items from Forrest Fenn’s treasure. Photo by Lynda M. González/Heritage Auctions.

Ever wondered what was really in that 42-pound treasure chest that late antiquities dealer Forrest Fenn once buried in Wyoming’s Rocky Mountains? Wonder no more: 12 years after he sent the public on a treasure hunt, and two since it concluded, the once-hidden hoard is going on sale with Heritage Auctions.

Bids opened on Friday on 476 individual lots featuring gold pieces, coins, jewelry, and other artifacts—once collectively valued at $2 million. The auction ends December 12.

Born in 1930 in Temple, Texas, Fenn started collecting arrowheads at age nine and flew in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. Though possessing no previous experience, he transitioned into antiquity dealing from his Santa Fe base from 1972, counting Gerald R. Ford, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Cher as clients.

In 2010, Fenn buried a treasure-filled bronze chest at an undisclosed location in Wyoming and launched a nationwide hunt for the case by leaving clues about its burial spot in his memoir. According to Heritage Auctions, Fenn “saw the treasure hunt as a fitting farewell to a life well lived” as much as an incentive for the public to get out and adventure into nature.

An estimated 350,000 people sought the treasure. Some even perished. It was found in 2020, and the successful hunter, a medical student named Jack Stuef, reluctantly identified himself that December.

“I thought that whoever found the chest would be absolutely hated,” Stuef said. “I put an end to something that meant so much to so many people.”

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