Decade-Long Search for Rocky Mountains Treasure Yields Trove Worth $2 Million
By Alex Fox; smithsonianmag.com
Nine clues embedded in a 24-line poem led to art dealer Forrest Fenn’s hidden chest of gold, gems and rare artifacts
“The treasure has been found,” declares a sparse blog post dated to June 6. The words signal the end of a ten-year search for a chest of gold, jewels and rare artifacts hidden in the Rocky Mountains by art dealer Forrest Fenn, reports Danielle Prokop for the Santa Fe New Mexican.
As many as 350,000 people unsuccessfully sought the treasure, which is worth an estimated $2 million. Five died while searching with only a poem said to contain nine clues to guide them.
“The guy who found it does not want his name mentioned,” Fenn — who confirmed the find through a photograph — tells the New Mexican. “He’s from back East.”
The bronze chest’s location at the time of its discovery remains a mystery.
Fenn’s blog post simply states, “It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than [ten] years ago. I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.”
As Johnny Diaz reports for the New York Times, Fenn is a former Air Force fighter pilot who runs an art gallery in Santa Fe. A diagnosis of potentially fatal kidney cancer led him to devise the treasure hunt, which he hoped would inspire people to “get off their couches.”
Fenn published the 24-line poem that revealed the treasure’s whereabouts in his 2010 autobiography, The Thrill of the Chase. His cryptic verses sent seekers to remote stretches of wilderness in the American West. Per the Associated Press, numerous treasure hunters quit their jobs and devoted themselves to chasing down Fenn’s trove full-time. Others drained their life savings or placed themselves in physical danger.
In June 2017, local authorities called on Fenn to abandon the treasure hunt after a second person died while searching. Instead, the art dealer tried to dissuade searchers from putting themselves at risk.
“The treasure is not hidden in a dangerous place,” he told NPR in an emailed statement. “I hid it when I was about 80 years old.”
Over the years, Fenn released several additional clues to the treasure’s location: Hidden between Santa Fe and the Canadian border at an elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level, it wasn’t inside of a mine or a graveyard, reported John Burnett for NPR in 2016. Neither was the chest tucked away in a tunnel or atop of a mountain, “[though] it may be close to the top,” Fenn told the National’s Eric Spitznagel in 2018.
The ornate bronze chest weighs 20 pounds on its own. Its contents weigh another 22 pounds, according to the New Mexican. Among the items nestled in the chest are 265 gold coins; hundreds of gold nuggets; and a bracelet made with hundreds of rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds, reported Jenny Kile for Mysterious Writings in 2013. Per the AP, the trove also includes gold dust, pre-Hispanic animal figurines, prehistoric “mirrors” of hammered gold and ancient Chinese faces carved from jade.
As the search drew to a close, Fenn offered his congratulations to “the thousands of people who participated in the search,” saying that he hoped they would “continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries.”
Asked how he feels about the treasure’s long-awaited discovery, Fenn tells the New Mexican that it’s been quite the decade.
Revealed: The World’s Best Passports
Passports were ranked on visa-free travel, international taxation laws, global perception, dual citizenship and personal freedom.
Americans may be surprised to learn that they don’t own the best passport in the world.
According to research conducted by world-leading offshore consulting firm Nomad Capitalist, Swedish, Luxembourgish and Irish passports are the best ones to own.
Nomad Capitalist has ranked the best passports in the world by scoring 199 different passports in five categories. Each passport was scored on visa-free travel, international taxation laws, global perception, dual citizenship and personal freedom.
This year, three countries came out on top with Sweden, Luxembourg and Ireland all scoring 114 points.
Sweden which ranked 2nd on the index last year has climbed its way to the very top thanks to visa-free travel to 186 countries, high levels of personal freedom and an excellent global reputation.
Luxembourg is tied for first and maintains its place at the top of this list for the third year in a row, having climbed its way up from tenth place just three years ago. Luxembourg grants its citizens high levels of freedom, has an excellent global perception and fortunately for ex-pats living there, it recently became easier to naturalize as a citizen.
The Irish passport also came out on top thanks to having one of Europe’s lowest corporate tax rates, high visa scores and an excellent global reputation.
Here’s a look at the top ten
- Czech Republic
So where did the US passport rank?
The British passport ranks highly at number 11 as its citizens can visit 185 countries visa-free, are almost always allowed to hold another citizenship, have relatively high levels of personal freedom and are thought-about quite highly abroad.
Unfortunately for Brits, it is more difficult to become legally tax non-resident when moving abroad.
And what about the US passport?
By comparison, the US passport which ranks at number 40, also allows visitors to visit 185 countries visa-free, but citizens are taxed on their worldwide income no matter where they live and are not perceived as highly as their British counterparts.
Japan, which ranked 21st on the list, is the best passport for traveling with access to 191 countries visa-free.
According to the research, the worst passport to own is the Afghan passport.
This passport only allows entry into 26 countries visa-free, its citizens are often refused entry to a substantial number of countries and also encounter substantial hostility, its citizens are strictly forbidden to hold other citizenships and they also experience less freedom.
Iraq is second-worst, with travel permitted to 28 countries, low perception from other countries and low levels of freedom and Yemen is third from the bottom.