As a aficionado of legends and stories, you’ve probably dreamt about finding a lost or buried treasure. Haven’t we all? At least I hope you have! We love the books, art, and all the other treasures that fill up our lives. We seek out the items that complete our collections, and we may even yearn to find that undiscovered novelty in our collection, the piece with the history and the story that makes it our most treasured possession.

I first heard the story of Forrest Fenn and his buried millions a few years ago. A few of my co-workers and I were sitting around and talking. I’m not sure how the conversation turned in the direction of buried treasure, but I was fascinated by the story. Who wouldn’t be? It has everything: lost riches, eminent death, adventure, and a secret! Where is that long-lost treasure, and what rare and wonderful (irreplaceable) items are hidden there?

About the Collector & His Collection

Forrest Fenn was a man on the verge of death, diagnosed with cancer (as he claims in his memoir, Thrill of the Chase).

He’s been an antiques dealer, and he’s accumulated many treasures through his lifetime, but, since he couldn’t take it with him, he appears to have decided on a different course for many of the pieces in his collection to take!

For any collector, the catalog of the contents of his treasure lockbox (bronzed) is tantalizing. Last year, he told Newsweek, “He tossed in ancient figurines, a 17th-century Spanish ring, and turquoise beads excavated from a cliff dwelling near Mesa Verde. He added American eagle gold coins, gold nuggets, a vial of gold dust, two gold discs, and ‘a lot of jewelry,’ including rubies, sapphires, and diamonds.”

The Treasure Map?

Like so many adventurers or pirates of bygone days, he took his treasure lockbox into the mountains north of Santa Fe, and left it there. He left a sort of treasure map–in the form of clues in his memoir, which also contains a poem. There’s 78 million acres in New Mexico (and 11 million acres of that area are managed by state and federal agencies). That’s a lot of land to cover, even with a cryptic game of words to guide you.

In his interview with TODAY, he told them that he wanted to get people outside (away from the influences of TV or video games). His goals were simple: “Getting people to fall in love with America’s scenic trails and passing on what he calls the “thrill of the chase,” something he has experienced over more than seven decades of hunting for rare objects.”

The Rest of The Story

Before you pack up and drive (or fly) to New Mexico to search for Forrest Fenn’s treasure, there are some questions you must ask:

  • Is it a hoax, a way for an art-collector to gain media attention? His friends say we should trust him, and he seems to have an honest face (friendly old guy), but who really knows if the treasure is hidden out there?
  • Is it safe? When searching for million-dollar treasure, safety is probably the last thing on most of our minds, but treasure seekers have been putting themselves in serious (even mortal) danger in search of the Fenn treasure.
  • Is it legal? The TODAY story highlights Fenn’s controversial history. Where did the treasures in Fenn’s lockbox come from? Even if the collectibles prove to be authentic (and without further controversy), what happens if the lockbox is located on state or federal land?
  • What about the other artifacts? Perhaps it’s an irrational fear, but (with all the treasure-seekers out there) what about the other ancient and sacred sites that will be damaged or even irrevocably destroyed in search of the evasive million-dollar prize?

We could go to all that trouble of searching for the treasure and then find that the lockbox is really not all that we’d hoped or dreamed. Such is the danger of following myths and legends (ancient or modern) in the search of our most cherished collectible treasures. Still, given the opportunity, will you search for Fenn’s bronzed treasure lockbox in the mountains of New Mexico? Would you bring your kids with you on your search?


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