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The alluring glimmer of gold, silver, and a life free of financial worry have been the driving forces behind treasure seekers for centuries. Following are some of the most exciting—and often dangerous—treasure hunting endeavors from history and modern day.

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With the discovery of gold in California also came the birth of the San Francisco Mint and the need for a way to transport freshly minted U.S. coins. Founded in 1848, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company became a key component in the transportation of people and gold from California to Panama and from Panama to the east coast. One of the company's steamships was the ill-fated S.S. Central America.

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During World War II, the horrific nightmare that was the Holocaust stripped the lives away from millions of innocent people. Massive numbers of lives were lost to fatal gunshot wounds, inside sinister gas chambers, and to the dank breath of disease. But the Nazis didn’t stop at the murder of their victims. Colossal loads of gold in the form of wedding rings, pocket watches, and more were taken from concentration camp prisoners and stashed away in secret caches.

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Gold represents many things in the eyes of man: wealth, prestige, investment, security in an unstable economy, and even a lifetime of commitment. Jonathan Spall, with The National, believes that “[t]he reason that gold has these attributes is that we believe that it does. It has been embedded in human psychology and reinforced over the millennia.” Needless to say, the last few millennia have been sprinkled with gold dust and endless dreams of wealth and glory.

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For the majority of America’s early years, currency was bimetallic. That is, both gold and silver were minted into legal tender coins at a ratio of 15:1 (15 ounces of silver for 1 ounce of gold). But in 1873, the United States government made the decision to do away with the bimetallic standard by demonetizing silver altogether. France, England, and Holland demonetized their silver the year before, and with the encouragement of British economist Ernest Seyd, the U.S. followed suit.

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At some point in time, everyone dreams of unearthing treasure in the backyard. Though most will never see that dream become reality, our imaginations still come alive at every tale of missing treasure, and our hopes are raised with every rare account of a discovered cache. One of those rare accounts took place just last year in the hills of California.

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As I write this, the price of gold rests at just a little under $1,100 an ounce, but not that long ago, it was much closer to $2,000 an ounce. So what made it change? Is the price drop just a natural result of an “improving economy” or a waning appetite for the precious metal? Or is there something dubious brewing beneath the surface?

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So you want to invest in gold, but you don’t want the IRS breathing down your neck.

Well, fear not.

Following are the basic laws regarding gold investment and your guidelines for avoiding trouble with Uncle Sam.

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Hundreds of thousands of gold coins perished in the year 1933, melted down to make gold bars that would be stored in the Federal Reserve, safe from the clutches of the American people. It was the year our country began the process of leaving the gold standard for pure faith in the bank. Anyone owning monetary gold at the time was ordered to return it to the government, lest they be fined heavily or thrown into prison for 10 years—or both.

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The Seven Saints of Philadelphia Set is a unique collection of Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle $20 Gold Coins offered exclusively by US Gold Firm. The seven coins, dated inclusively from 1922 to 1928, constitute a date run of double eagles minted at the historic Philadelphia Mint. Each coin is professionally graded at MS-62. MS-63 , MS-64 and higher graded sets are also available.

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