An Antiquities Dealer Buried $2 Million in Treasure in the Rocky Mountains a Decade Ago. Now, an Intrepid Explorer Has Finally Found It

Five people are said to have died in search of Forrest Fenn's hidden treasure.

Forrest Fenn's treasure was allegedly buried in an ornate, Romanesque box filled with gold nuggets, gold coins and other gems. Courtesy of Forrest Fenn.

A decade ago, a New Mexico art and antiquities dealer buried $2 million worth of jewels, gold, and artifacts in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains and invited would-be treasure hunters to try and claim it. Now, an unnamed explorer has finally solved the riddle, finding the treasure that eluded hundreds of thousands of hunters before him—including at least five who died in the attempt.

Forrest Fenn, the eccentric millionaire and amateur archaeologist who buried the loot, announced the news on his website Sunday. “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 10 years ago,” he wrote. “So the search is over.”

New Mexico authorities had urged people to give up the hunt after Paris Wallace, a Colorado pastor, died in pursuit of the treasure in 2017. But Fenn refused to call off the contest.

The art dealer, now 89, planted clues to the treasure’s location in his memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, self-published in 2010, with a 24-line poem inviting adventure seekers to search for the 13th-century Romanesque bronze chest and its valuable contents. He estimates that some 300,000 people have taken up the challenge over the years, some quitting their jobs in order to dedicate themselves to the task.

Forrest Fenn. Courtesy of Forrest Fenn.

Forrest Fenn. Courtesy of Forrest Fenn.

“I feel halfway kind of glad, halfway kind of sad because the chase is over,” Fenn told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “The guy who found it does not want his name mentioned. He’s from back east.”

The art dealer said the anonymous treasure hunter had sent him a photograph revealing the hidden trove, said to contain gold dust, coins, and nuggets, as well as carved Chinese jade, gold pre-Columbian animal statues, antique jewelry, gemstones, and other valuable artifacts, had been uncovered at long last.

Already, there is controversy over the discovery, however. Barbara Andersen, a Chicago real estate attorney, is filing a lawsuit against the person who found the chest. She claims she solved the puzzle first, but that the current winner cheated and beat her to the physical location. “He stole my solve. He followed and cheated me to get the chest,” Andersen told the New Mexican.

Clues to Forrest Fenn's treasure from one of his self-published books. Courtesy of Forrest Fenn.

Clues to Forrest Fenn’s treasure from one of his self-published books. Courtesy of Forrest Fenn.

Fenn was inspired to create the treasure hunt to offer people who had lost their jobs during the recession some hope, and also to encourage people to explore the wilderness and seek old-fashioned adventures. But he didn’t necessarily expect anyone to succeed in the task.

“I’m actually a little bit shocked, because I hid it in a pretty good place and lots of people over the years couldn’t find it,” he told local ABC affiliate Denver7. “But this man followed the clues in my poem, and they took him right to the treasure, and that is what it was all about.”

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