David Hall, co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Service, poses with one of the Gold Rush-era coins at his office in Santa Ana, California. A couple, out walking their dog on their property, stumbled across the modern-day bonanza: $10 million in rare, mint-condition gold coins. Picture: Reed Saxon

A Californian couple walking their dog struck gold by unearthing a horde of buried coins worth more than $10 million (R108m ), according to an expert.

The couple, named only as John and Mary, spotted a partially buried can jutting out of the ground – and after further digging found seven more, with more than 1 400 gold coins.

The Saddle Ridge Hoard is named after a feature on the couple’s property in an area of northern California known for buried treasure since the Gold Rush in the 19th century.

“What’s really significant about this find... is that unlike other hoards and treasures, this one includes a great variety of dates, many of [the coins] are in pristine condition,” said Donald Kagin of Kagin’s, a company that specialises in old gold coins. He said most of the coins dated from the late 19th century.

“I saw an old can sticking out of the ground on a trail that we had walked almost every day for many, many years,” said John. They carried it back to the house, despite its considerable weight.

“I said to Mary, ‘Wow, this thing is heavy. It must be full of lead paint’.”

At that moment, “the lid cracked off and exposed a rib of a single gold coin”, he said, adding: “I clamped the lid back on – I found a can of gold coins and I thought there was a zero percent chance of Mary believing me.

“When I told her, the look of bewilderment – her mouth was so wide open flies could have flown in and out several times.

“Like a lot of people lately, we’ve had some financial trials. I feel extreme gratitude that we can keep our beloved property.”

Mary added: “The answer to our difficulties was right there under our feet for years. Don’t be above bending over to check on a rusty can.” – Sapa-AFP