The treasure has been contrarily valued in the press on blogs and TV at half a million dollars, a million dollars, two million dollars and somewhere, I remember someone writing that it’s worth is a colossal, three million dollars. This is a wide gap..half a million to three million dollars. The real value is a hard number to pin down because only Forrest has a list of everything that he put inside that chest. And even if you had the list in your hands there would be controversy and contradiction about the precise value of many of the items. A list does not give you a real sense of the item. Holding it in your very own hands is the only way to truly appreciate the actual value of a lovely artifact. Some feel that placing a monetary value on the objects in Forrest’s chest is a crass example of capitalism at it’s very worst. How can you, these folks inquire, place a value on history, on craftsmanship, on beauty, on the last vestiges of a once vibrant culture?
I have no idea.
And there are other problems too. Often times the owner of an object feels it is worth much more than someone who is going to pay for it. Ask any insurance agent. If, for instance, I own a shiny, red, 1945 Willy’s Jeep in mint condition. I might feel that it’s worth $33,000 dollars because that’s what the bluebook say’s it’s worth. But that is not it’s value because I haven’t actually found anyone willing to pay me that much. When my neighbor buys it from me for $19,000 we have now established it’s actual value. I think the phrase is, “It’s only worth what someone is willing to pay for it”. The rest is just speculation. So the half million to 3 million dollar guesstimates by the press and others about the value of Forrest’s treasure are simply speculation. There is no basis for those values. But can we nail it down any closer than somewhere between half a million and three million dollars?
Even Forrest has stated that the true value of his treasure is a moving target. For one reason, the price of gold varies a great deal from day to day. In “The Thrill of the Chase” Forrest wrote that there are “over twenty Troy pounds of gold” in that chest. Elsewhere he has used the number 20.20671 Troy pounds. There is more than just yellow metal in there but let’s concentrate on the value of the gold since it may be the easiest to attach a value too, albeit a value that changes from day to day.
So…moving forward, gold, silver and gemstones are measured in an older system of weight called Troy pounds. Each Troy pound is made up of 12 Troy ounces. If we look up the price of gold on the web we will not typically see that it is measured in Troy ounces. The listings simply say “ounces” or “oz” for short but in truth they are using the Troy pound system which is universal in gold pricing. It matters to us because a Troy pound contains 12oz while an Avoirdupois pound…the measure we typically use for…say calculating the weight of a salad from the grocer…has 16ozs.
20.2 Troy pounds is roughly 242 Troy ounces. At the moment that I write this blog entry the spot price of gold is $1,751.40 per oz. The spot price of gold is the price that someone is willing to pay for gold at the moment. Forrest’s 242.4 ozs is therefore worth $424,539.36 at this very second. In the not too distant past gold was priced at $721oz. At that price the gold in that box would shrink in value to $174,770.40. On the other hand some gold speculators are saying that gold will top $5,000oz soon. Exactly when, they do not say but that would mean Forrest’s gold would then be worth $1,212,000.00. Based on these fluctuations alone the value of the chest will certainly rise or fall on a daily basis.
Okay…but what about the rest of the treasure. Well…here things get really sticky. We know some of the other items in that chest but not all. And we may…or may not know the weight of the chest and its contents. I remember reading somewhere that the weight of the chest and its contents was 42lbs. In fact, someone who actually hefted it before Forrest hid it told me that he figured the whole thing weighed in excess of 40lbs. I have also read that the chest by itself weighs 20lbs. If true, the contents should weigh-in at about 22lbs. We know that the gold alone in that chest weighs 20.2 Troy pounds. Now the difference between a Troy pound and an Avoirdupois pound is 2.8ozs. In fact 20.2 Troy pounds is equal to 16.99 Avoirdupois pounds. So if it’s true that the chest and contents together weigh 42lbs and the gold weighs 17lbs and the chest weighs 20lbs than there is about 5lbs of “other items” in the chest.
The gold includes 265 coins, pre-Columbian animal figures, gold dust, placer nuggets and two pre-Columbian, hammered gold “mirrors”. The mirrors are 4-5 inches in diameter and have holes in them for wearing. But what about the “other items”? Forrest, once again helps us out. In his memoir he mentions some of the items that are not pure gold and therefore not already accounted for. He mentions the following:
– Ancient Chinese human faces carved from jade
– 17th century Spanish gold ring with large emerald
– Antique dragon coat bracelet with 254 rubies, 6 emeralds, 2 sapphires and numerous diamonds
– Silver bracelet with 22 turquoise disc beads and a wonderful history
– 2,000 year old Indian necklace from Columbia
– Modern olive jar with biography inside
I cannot begin to estimate the value of these things so I pressed an acquaintance who trades in historic and prehistoric artifacts to provide some estimates. Of course he declined, “its impossible”, he said. Of course I insisted saying “lets just make some educated guesses”, and of course he declined again. So I threatened to stay through day and night until he gave me what I wanted. That seemed like a terrible curse so he relented. I also agreed to buy him as much Bacardi on the rocks as he could drink and drive him home afterward and make sure he got in bed safely. Here is what he had to say about the items, understanding that he knows not a tinker more about them than you do. I promised not to reveal his name because he felt that this was a really ridiculous request and therefore his guesstimates are ludicrous and completely unprofessional. Perhaps, but I think it’s fun to try and place some sort of value on these things.
Ancient Chinese human faces carved from jade
How big are they? I don’t know.
How many are there? I don’t know.
What color are they? I don’t know.
Are they the same or different? I don’t know.
How finely carved are they? I don’t know…but…knowing that they are Forrest’s I am guessing that they are the best of whatever they are.
Okay..lets say $550ea.
17th century Spanish gold ring with large emerald
How many carats is the emerald? I don’t know.
What color is it? I don’t know
What cut is the stone? I don’t know.
What kind of condition is it in? I don’t know…but…knowing that it was Forrest’s I am guessing that it is the best of whatever it is.
Okay…Last year Atocha divers found a 16th century Spanish gold ring with an emerald that was reported to be worth half a million. But I think that’s high. You can see it here:
Forrest’s is from the17th century so lets say $210,000 for it.
Antique dragon coat bracelet with 254 rubies, 6 emeralds, 2 sapphires and numerous diamonds.
I don’t suppose you know anything about it? No, I’ve never seen it. I don’t even know what a coat bracelet is.
Silver bracelet with 22 turquoise disc beads and a wonderful history
Forrest has stated publicly that he would like to have this bracelet back and will pay for it.
The bracelet’s history makes this much more collectible and therefore more valuable. The fact that the beads came from Richard Wetherell means that there may be more known about them. The fact that the silver was worked by a Navaho also gives it more value. The fact that Forrest wants it back is even more interesting.
I’ll guess $34,000.
2,000 year old Indian necklace from Columbia
Do you know anything else about it. Yes…Forrest describes this in his memoir. It is a Tairona and Sinu creation. It contains 39 animal fetishes carved from quartz crystal, carnelian, jadeite and other exotic stones. It also has two cast gold objects. One is a jaguar claw and the other is a frog. Forrest considers it one of the prizes of his collection.
Sounds stunning and special…I’ll say $40,000.
There are other items too. Things never listed but hinted at. Items too numerous to mention.
There is also the chest itself. Forrest writes that he overpaid for it at $20,000, but it was the perfect treasure chest. Forrest likes to do things right!
And one other consideration about the gold. It’s value is going to be more than the spot price of gold because it is “collectible”. There are 265 gold coins in that chest. A few are ancient coins. Some are pre-twentieth century, US eagle and double eagle coins. They stopped making these in 1933. The eagle contains .48oz of gold. It’s face value as a coin is $10. It’s value based on the spot price of gold this minute is about $841. As a collectible it’s worth even more. Mint, they appear to be worth about double the spot gold price. Well worn they are valued at just over their spot gold price.
But all this talk about value is moot if a true collector finds Forrest’s 12th century bronze chest, the beautiful objects inside might never be traded for money. They will simply be appreciated, admired and enjoyed by the finder. The bracelet will go back to Forrest and the rest will become legend. Creative and embellished stories will be told and retold about the chest and it’s fantastic contents.
Oh…one other item that we know a great deal about is the olive jar. It’s a classic, modern olive jar that Forrest used to protect his biography which is rolled up inside the bottle and sealed tight. In a thousand years it might very well be the most valuable item in the chest but for now, that jar is…well…appreciating.
So…after all this talk, what is the treasure’s value?
Knowing what we now know I think we can pin it down to somewhere between half a million and 3 million dollars…give or take.