When you think of the desert a few words come to mind: hot, dry, and barren. It’s where people go to get away from it all, and when it comes down to it, those who do brave the sand and heat usually come back with just a sunburn and an empty water bottle.
But sometimes, these dry land explorers return with much more than they could’ve ever hoped for. For a lucky few, these 20 valuable items found in the desert would make their days of suffering in the sun worth every sweaty step. The treasures these people found beneath the sand are some of the rarest finds in history…
1. Prada Marfa ($120,000): This art installation makes its permanent home just over a mile from Valentine, Texas. The lone store, which is inaccessible, is fully stocked with high-end Prada wares, shoes, and handbags. Even Beyoncé has visited!
2. Winchester Model 1873 ($15,000): This rifle, manufactured in 1882, was discovered resting against a tree in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park, over a century ago. Its value is still astronomically greater than the $35-$50 it was worth back in the 19th century.
Las Vegas Review-Journal
3. The James Ossuary ($50,000): Said to have contained the body of James the Just, brother of Jesus of Nazareth, this religious artifact was discovered in a cave in the Silwan area of Jerusalem. Since its authenticity was never verified, it’s valued at a shockingly low price.
4. The Atari Landfill ($108,000): Following the video game crash of 1983, gaming company Atari decided to bury its unsold games in the New Mexico desert. When the landfill was excavated, the surviving cartridges were auctioned off.
5. Libyan Glass ($110,000): Formed only by lightning strikes, volcanic activity, and meteor impacts, Libyan glass is considered one of the rarest minerals on Earth and can only be found in the deserts of Libya.
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6. Ptolemaic Coin ($10,000): Discovered in Israel in 2010, this coin was dubbed by researchers as the most valuable ever discovered. The 2,200-year-old coin is believed to have been worth a half-year’s salary during its circulation.
7. The Gibeon Meteorite ($383,806): This meteorite formed fragments after it struck the Earth during prehistoric times. Bits of it were used by natives to craft tools and weapons.
8. Death Valley Mother Lode ($500,000): In true treasure-hunting fashion, a pair of archaeologists discovered a large wooden chest in California’s Death Valley. The chest contained 80 coins, a hymnal, baby shoes, a pistol, pottery, and a letter from a lost pioneer.
9. The Fire of Australia ($675,000): Considered one of Australia’s greatest treasures, this otherworldly opal was found in 1946 in the small desert town of Coober Pedy, South Australia. The rough-cut gem weighs in at just under 5,000 carats and is roughly the size of two cricket balls.
10. The Ten Commandments Film Set ($1 million): The set for the 1923 film was destroyed and buried shortly after production. However, in 2014, a large sphinx head emerged from the sand in Santa Barbara, prompting a recovery effort to completely excavate the “lost” city.
11. Ferrari Enzo ($1.1 million): In a land of wealth like Dubai, million-dollar cars are about as expendable as Hot Wheels. This Ferrari Enzo was abandoned in the middle of the desert. Locals believe the vehicle’s owner may have actually been on the run from the law.
12. The Boot of Cortez ($1.5 million): This gold nugget was discovered in 1989 by a prospector using only a cheap RadioShack metal detector. Weighing in at 389.4 troy ounces, it remains the largest surviving gold nugget in the western hemisphere.
13. The Death Mask of Tutankhamun ($2 million): The story of the young King Tut is one of the most well-known in history, and the treasure trove he left behind is no less legendary. Tut’s mask and sarcophagus alone are worth more than any archaeological find in history.
The History Blog
14. Peg Leg’s Black Gold ($3 million): In 1965, an anonymous prospector claimed to have discovered Peg Leg Smith’s stash of black gold. This prospector’s find, valued at around $3 million today, has inspired countless other treasure hunters to search for Peg Leg’s legendary lost mine.
15. The Bom Jesus ($13 million): In a strange turn of events, a group of De Beers miners inadvertently found an even greater treasure at the bottom of a dried lagoon: a 500-year-old sunken ship. The ship, once belonging to the King of Portugal, was loaded with gold, tin, ivory tusks, and nearly 44,000 pounds of copper ingots.
16. Shell Documents ($60 million+): Following a 1992 pipeline oil spill in Midland, Texas, the Shell Company sold off the rights to that pipeline and quietly buried the proof in a nearby desert. The documents were discovered, however, and Shell was forced to pay some hefty litigation costs.
17. Delta Treasure ($100 million+): In 2005, Scott Taylor discovered a massive fortune but was unwilling to reveal its location to the U.S. government. As a result, Taylor never cashed in on a find of 280 gold bricks, two Civil War-era rifles, a six-shooter, and a load of dynamite.
18. Chinese Aluminum Hoard ($2 billion): A U.S. aluminum executive chartered a plane over the Mexican desert after hearing the country had a tremendous aluminum stash. So, what did this executive find? Nearly 6% of the world’s aluminum supply, enough to make 77 billion beer cans.
19. Iraqi Fighter Jets ($300 million+): During a sweep for weapons of mass destruction in the Iraqi desert, American troops stumbled upon 30 Iraqi fighter jets buried in the sand.
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20. The Copper Scroll (Priceless): One of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Copper Scroll is said to be a treasure map to riches. This includes a trove of 65 tons of silver and 26 tons of gold hidden away by the Essenes during the Roman conquest of Jerusalem.
21. A fully functional swimming pool: Artists seem to have developed quite the penchant for making art in the desert. This fully-functioning pool has everything a person wandering in the desert could want, all courtesy of one quirky artist! Talk about an oasis!
Who ever thought such dry and inhospitable places could be hiding such awesome treasures? A metal detector should be a must-have on your holiday wish list!
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