The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 34, August 12, 2012, Article 10


Is there a fortune in gold waiting to be found in Virginia? I came across a reference to an 1885 pamphlet that purports to contain hidden clues to the whereabouts of "a fabulous wealth of gold and silver". -Editor

Beale Papers cover If you see someone digging with a shovel under the moonlight in Bedford County, Virginia, chances are you've come across a treasure hunter. For more than a century, hopeful treasure seekers have combed these green hills, searching in vain for a fantastic treasure said to have been buried here, as described in a mysterious coded document.

The story goes that a man named Thomas Beale discovered a fabulous wealth of gold and silver in 1818 in what is now Colorado, and along with his company of thirty partners, brought it back to the east and buried it in Virginia. Beale wrote three encoded letters: one giving the exact location of the treasure, a second giving its detailed description, and a third giving the names and contact information of the thirty partners. Only one of the letters — the second describing more than four tons of gold, silver, and jewels — was ever deciphered. It has tempted the greedy and adventurous ever since.

The world first learned of the Beale ciphers in 1885 with the limited publication of a pamphlet in Lynchburg, Virginia entitled The Beale Papers: Containing Authenticated Statements Regarding the Treasure Buried in 1819 and 1821, Near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and Which Has Never Been Recovered.

To read the complete article, see: The Beale Ciphers (

Here's some more background. -Editor

In 1885, a pamphlet was published supposedly telling where to find millions of dollars in gold and silver. The instructions were encrypted. The pamphlet told the story of Thomas Jefferson Beale, who made a fortune out west, and buried it in Bedford County, Virginia. Three separate messages were encrypted in the pamphlet, and consist of pages of numbers, separated by commas. The writer of the pamphlet gave the solution to the second message:

I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford's, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number "3," herewith:

The first deposit consisted of one thousand and fourteen pounds of gold, and three thousand eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited November, 1819. The second was made December, 1821, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight pounds of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at $13,000.

The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number "1" describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.

The key to decrypting this second message is the Declaration of Independence. Every number in the message refers to the first letter of a word in the Declaration of Independence. A 115, for example, would mean the first letter of the 115th word. The third message is relatively uninteresting to treasure hunters, as it tells who the treasure belongs to. Apparently, no one has ever decrypted the first or third messages.

Evidence points to this being an elaborate hoax. But it doesn't stop some people from trying to decipher the directions to the treasure, even though some smart folks who study cryptology have concluded that the unsolved ciphers are actually unsolvable and meaningless. Still, the pamphlet would be a fun piece of ephemera for a collection related to numismatic treasure finds. -Editor

To read the complete article, see: The Famous Beale Cipher (


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Wayne Homren, Editor

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