Most of the time people think of the words hot, dry, and endless when they think of deserts and, while some people actually succeed in having an adventure in the desert, most people return with nothing else to show but a strong sunburn. However, there are still some people out there who have been lucky enough to discover some of the world’s greatest treasures, all by merely exploring the miles and miles of desert terrain.
And although not all desert artifacts, like the priceless Copper Scroll, carry a price tag, others are worth millions. Continue reading to find out which artifacts people have discovered that ended up being worth a lot of money!
The Worst Video Game Ever Released Found in the Atari Landfill
In 1983, approximately 700,000 unsold video games cartridges, computers, and gaming consoles manufactured by the company Atari, Inc filled a mass burial landfill in New Mexico. The burial had only been a rumor until recently, in 2014, when the landfill was finally uncovered. Workers excavating the landfill were happy to discover many cartridges of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
Simultaneously, one of the worst video games ever to be released was also found in the mass burial which is ironically worth thousands! In addition to that, other vintage video games like Pac-Man were also unearthed. It’s estimated that the entire landfill’s worth is about $108,000. Get ready to learn about the next extremely rare desert find!
The Rare Ptolemaic Coin
Dating back to 2,200 years ago, the Ptolemaic Coin is known to be one of the rarest coins ever discovered in the Israeli Desert and was found in Tel Kedesh, Israel by archaeologists in 2010. The coin weighed almost one ounce (27.71 grams) which was surprisingly greater than most other ancient gold coins, which commonly weighed about 4.5 grams. It is believed that the engraving on the coin depicts either Cleopatra or Queen Arsinoe II Philadelphus.
Head of the Coin Department of the Israel Antiquities Association Dr. Donald T. Ariel stated, “The coin is beautiful and in excellent preservation. It is the heaviest gold coin with the highest contemporary value of any coin ever found in an excavation in Israel, weighing almost an ounce.” It’s estimated worth? About $10,000. We don’t know about you but that’s certainly the most valuable coin we’ve ever heard of!
The Boot of Cortez Has an Estimated Worth of $1.3 Million
The story goes that in 1989, a prospector from Senora, Mexico bought a cheap metal detector from Radio Shack and began using it. To his shock, he discovered and unearthed a giant nugget of gold! Weighing in at a whopping 389.4 troy ounces, the gold piece is now notoriously known as the Boot of Cortez. It’s said that the Boot of Cortez is the largest nugget to ever be found in the western hemisphere.
$120 Thousand Dollars for Prada Marfa
Erected by artists Dragset and Elmgreen in 2005, Prada Marfa is a sculpture art installation that depicts the front of a Prada store. And while it isn’t exactly a standard artifact that you would find in the desert, the desert sculpture actually holds high-end merchandise from the designer brand inside. The funny part? The door isn’t a functioning door so there is no way to get inside the “shop”.
The desert store sits just outside of Valentine, Texas off of Highway 90. It is considered to be a popular tourist destination as the desert object accumulates a total wealth of around $120,000 due to its contents of designer shoes, handbags, and other Prada Marfa wares. Keep reading to find out the possible ossuary of Jesus’ brother’s bones!
The James Ossuary Is Might Be a Hoax
An ossuary is a limestone box that is designed to hold the bones of the deceased. In 2002, in the cave of the Silwan region of Jerusalem, this particular box was unearthed and became known as The James Ossuary. The reason for this was because the box bore an Aramaic inscription on the side, yet in the Hebrew alphabet, that read, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”
Although the artifact was certainly real, there is a chance that the inscription has been forged. Widespread skepticism has it that the box’s founder, Oded Golan, may have inscribed the letters himself and because experts haven’t been able to verify the item’s authenticity, the desert find is only worth $50,000.
Gun Winchester Model 1873 Is Worth Almost $15k
Park workers in 2015 discovered a gun leaning against a tree in The Great Basin National Park within The Great Basin Desert. They had no idea how long it had been there but, much to their surprise, the weapon was a Winchester Model 1873 and known as the “gun that won the west”. With its manufacturing years between 1873 and 1916, the gun was initially sold for around $35-50.
Around 760,000 pieces were made during those years and now, more than one hundred years later, this particular Winchester Model 1873 has an approximate worth of $15,000! Tourists have the ability to see this artifact at the Lehman Caves visitor center when traveling through Nevada.
A 40-Foot Hole Holds Controversial Shell Documents
A massive oil spill occurred underneath development in 1992. The company responsible has Shell-oil owned Texas-New Mexico Pipeline Co and, in efforts to avoid being associated with the disaster, the company sold the rights then buried the documents. Later, the rights to the pipeline were bought by EOTT who was equally unaware of both the spill and the buried documents.
The documents were buried in the New Mexico desert and the 45-foot hole they were found contained a grand total of 190 boxes of documents and files regarding the spill. The items became extremely valuable as their hidden nature revealed that there were hopes to cover up criminal activity. The total value? More than $60 million. Read on to learn more about another criminal activity artifact but first, let’s talk about King Tut.
King Tut’s Death Mask Is Worth Two Million Dollars
Young Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun(King Tut)’s death mask was made up of numerous precious stones, quartz, obsidian, lapis lazuli, and high-karat gold. The mask was discovered on October 28th, 1925 by Howard Carter. Three years prior, in the Valley of the Kings, only the burial chamber of King Tut had been found.
It took an entire year for archeologists to open the chamber and an additional two to open the sarcophagus, which was essentially the stone coffin that held the famous figure. After Carter opened the case, he revealed the elaborate death mask. The item weighs 22.6 pounds, resides in its permanent home in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and is worth $2 million.
The Dubai Desert Holds a Ferrari Enzo
A Ferrari Enzo was found decaying in the Dubai Desert in 2011. While it’s certainly no surprise that wealthy people own expensive vehicles in Dubai, it certainly raises eyebrows when a supercar is abandoned in the middle of a 115-degree desert. Only 399 Ferrari Enzos were ever sold to the public for $600,000 apiece at the time.
Now, due to irresponsibility on behalf of many Enzo owners, very few are left. After the founding of the Ferrari Enzo in the Dubai desert, the car has since been impounded and moved to a facility indoors. However, since only so few of the supercars remain, the price has skyrocketed to approximately $1.1 million. Continue reading to discover an out-of-this-world artifact.
The Prehistoric Gibeon Meteorite Is Valued at Almost $400,000
The Gibeon Meteorite is composed of nickel, small amounts of cobalt, and iron, and weighs between 200 and 1,100 pounds. It was found in 1836 in Great Namaqualand, Namibia, Africa, and is thought to be differing asteroid fragments that assorted together. Research believes that these fragments were the result of an explosion of a star nearly four billion years ago.
Natives used to use fragments of the meteorite to construct various weapons and tools due to the hard exterior of the rock. Around 100-150 various fragments have been discovered since that time and are worth about $383,806 today. Some pieces can be found on display in Post Street Mall in Namibia.
The Fire of Australia Opal Sells for Less Than Market Value
The Fire of Australia is a 998-gram uncut opal that sits just under 5,000 carats. It was discovered by Walter Bartram in Coober Pedy, South Australia in 1946 and remains a rough-cut, although it is polished on two sides to demonstrate the colorful nature that opals are known for. After remaining in the Bartram Family since it’s discovery, the precious stone was sold to the South Australian Museum for $500,000 in 2017.
Although the actual value of the Fire of Australia was estimated to be around $900,000, the family wanted to make sure that the stone would remain uncut. They compromised and agreed on a lower payout. South Australia supplies around 90% of the world’s highest-quality opals.
The Rare Mineral Libyan Glass
The formation of the rare mineral Libyan Desert Glass is uncertain. Some believe that it was formed when a meteorite struck the border between Libya and Egypt, while others believe that the glass formed when lightning struck sand (think Sweet Home Alabama). Regardless, this rare glass can only be created in events of combined high-pressure and high-heat.
A piece of Libyan Desert glass can be worth anywhere between $750 and $1000 as they are extremely rare and hard to find. However, experts claim that there are over a thousand tons worth of the precious mineral glass hidden across the desert. Multiply the price of a Libyan Desert Glass by the amount that might be out there- that’s a whole lot of money! No one thought that they would ever find the next desert object.
The Sand Dunes Holds the Film Set of the Ten Commandments
Hollywood made a film in 1956 called The Ten Commandments. It was a groundbreaking debut that used props and special effects that had never been seen before in a movie. The set, which included a twelve-story high 800-foot wide set designed by Paul Iribe, was buried. Filming director Cecil B. DeMille made the decision upon wrapping up filming.
Then, archeologists unearthed the set in the Guadalupe-Nipomo sand dunes in 2017. The first item to be discovered was one of the twenty-one sphinx heads. The artifacts remained in so much tact, regardless that they had been buried for decades, that the craftsmanship of the set makers is renown. The estimated worth of the set of 1956 The Ten Commandments is approximately $1 million.
The Namibian Desert Holds a Shipwreck Worth More Than $13 Million
While there might be many shipwrecks found in the desert, the most valuable of these is the Bom Jesus. The Bom Jesus is a Portuguese ship that went down in 1533. It was en route to India but was never seen again. The ship was discovered in the Namibian Desert in 2008.
In addition to materials such as old cannonballs and muskets found, the ship also held many other priceless artifacts aboard. Some of the artifacts included 44,000 pounds of copper, ivory tusks, and gold coins that accumulated worth of $13,000,000. It’s definitely safe to say that the shipwreck was a modern-day buried treasure! Next up, find out the hoax that pretended to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars!
The Death Valley Mother Lode Hoax
Jerry Freeman unearthed a wooden chest in the Panamint Mountains in Death Valley in 1999. Called “The Death Valley Mother Lode”, it was said to contain artifacts that dated as far back as the 1850s. Some of the items were a pistol, a hymnal, pottery bowls, baby shoes, 80 coins, and a letter written by William Robinson, a pioneer of the Gold Rush.
Although Freeman valued his find at around $500,000, the Western Archeological and Conservation Center, as well as the Smithsonian Institute, deemed a letter fake only a few days after it’s discovery. They also determined that several other artifacts from the find came from a later period, not 1950.
The Delta Treasure Was Never Cashed Out
It’s said that Scott Taylor of Utah discovered a mass of treasure in 2005. The treasure is said to have included a six-shooter, two Civil War-era rifles, 280 gold bricks with “U.S. Cavalry” stamped on the top, and a few boxes of age-old dynamite. The odd thing about the Delta Treasure? Taylor won’t tell anyone where it is.
Although a Brigham Young University professor says that the finder’s fee for Taylor should be about forty percent, Taylor remains skeptical. The reason he refuses to tell the government where the trove is located is that he doesn’t think that they will give him a fair share. All in all, the approximate worth of the Delta Treasure is about $100 million.
The Estimated Value of Chinese Aluminum Hoard Is Thought to Be $2 Million
A scheme was believed to have been started as early back as 2008. Trade representative Jeff Henderson believes that Liu Zhongtian, an aluminum magnate and billionaire, sent shipments of aluminum through Mexico in hopes to avoid US tariffs. And then, in 2014, a large pile of aluminum in central Mexico was discovered.
Zhongtian, who is the founder of China Zhongwang Holdings Limited, the world's second-largest industrial aluminum extrusion company, had since been indicted for allegedly smuggling large amounts of aluminum in the U.S. The pile of aluminum found in central Mexico would’ve avoided an estimated $2 million in tariffs. Keep reading to learn about the Iraqi desert fighter jets.
Iraqi Fighter Jets Discovered Hidden in the Sand
Buried in the sand at the Air Base al-Taqqadum in Iraq were multiple fighter jets discovered by U.S. troops in 2003. The jets were SU-25 Frog Foot fighter-bombers and Iraqi MiG-25 Foxbat fighters. Former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss, stated, “Our guys have found 30-something brand new aircraft buried in the sand to deny us access to them.”
The estimated worth of the Iraqi fighter jets is guessed to be about $300 million or more. It’s believed that the jets were hidden in the desert by Saddam Hussein. He hid them from the United States military in hopes to dig them back up at a later time when he could attack. Hussein never got the chance.
The Priceless Copper Scroll Abacus Artifact
Discovered in 1952, the Copper Scroll Abacus was unearthed in a cave near Khibet Qumran. The Copper Scroll is written on copper mixed with one percent tin, unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls which were written on papyrus. Although the scroll is eight-feet in length, it was divided into two separate pieces when it was uncovered.
While most scrolls are literary work, this desert artifact was actually a treasure map depicting various locations of silver and gold. Because of its historical significance, the scroll has been claimed priceless. You can view the Copper Scroll Abacus on display in Amman at the Jordan Museum.
Timbuktu’s Hidden Library
On the edge of the Sahara Desert sits the city of Timbuktu- home to three ancient centers of learning located in Timbuktu, Mali. One of these learner centers, the University of Sankoré for 30 years, existed there for 30 years. A library with the literature on Islamic and African religion, sciences, and history was built by founder Mohammed Abu Bakr al-Wangari. Unfortunately, the library’s items were split amongst his family and lost after his death in 1594.
Only in the last decade have some of the artifacts been discovered and many have been destroyed due to termites and water. However, others remain willfully still intact, all thanks to the searing desert heat. Just like the Copper Scroll Abacus, these items are also said to be priceless.
More Than Just Gold in This Egyptian Goldsmith’s Tomb
The ancient tomb of an Egyptian goldsmith named Amenemhat was uncovered by archeologists in 2017. Located in an area not far from the iconic Valley of the Kings, Amenemhat’s grave was found in the Dra’ Abu el-Naga’ burial ground. This burial site was specifically for noblemen who belonged to the left bank of the Nile.
Amenemhat lived sometime between 1550 B.C. to 1292 B.C. and would’ve been a man held in high regard for his skill and ability to work with such precious metals some 3,500 years ago. Because he was a goldsmith, his grave possessed elaborate jewelry and even 150 small statutes to “watch over him in death”.
Surprise: A Precious Mineral Can Be Worth a Lot
Borax can be found in the desert and, while it is worth a lot of money, is still one of the more lesser-known minerals. Borax is a chemical compound used to extract boron, an important component for many manufactured goods some of which include anything from glass to cosmetics to pharmaceuticals.
It is believed that California’s Searles Lake has an abundance of borax located there. Ever since it was discovered, more than $1 billion worth of borax had been extracted, some even claiming it more valuable than gold.
The Tomb of the Silver Pharaoh
The grave of Pharaoh Psusennes I was discovered in 1939. It is believed that he was the man who ruled the kingdom of Egypt nearly 3,000 years ago and for more than half a century. Psusennes is known for turning the city of Tanis into a fully-fledged capital by surrounding its temple with a formidable brick wall.
It should come as no surprise that the former pharaoh’s tomb was packed with all kinds of treasures. Inside the tomb were sandals, rings, a golden death mask, and other clothing made from gold. Because his tomb possessed so many luxurious items, some consider Pharaoh Psusennes I’s grave more lavish than Tutankhamun’s.
A Lucky Prospector in Australia Uncovers a Massive Gold Nugget
Uncovered in a desert goldfield near the town of Kingower, Victoria, a man named Kevin Hillier found a massive gold nugget in. The Australian prospector was out exploring with his metal detector in 1980 when he discovered the whopping 960-ounce piece of gold.
Hillier was quick to sell the special find after his discovery. The buyer? None other than the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas! They purchased the enormous lump of gold for $1 million. Of course, a casino with that name had to buy it!
A Can Full of Valuable Coins
A couple was walking their dog on land owned in Saddle Ridge in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains in 2013. Their names still remain unknown to this day. While on their walk, they spotted an old can and picked it up, all to discover that it contained gold coins.
As they walked, they continued to find even more cans with more coins, the total number of coins found being 1,427. The coins were from 1847 to 1894 and estimated to be worth around $10 million.
Digging Unearths 250 Mummies
A team of researchers stumbled across something amazing in 1996. While they were excavating at the Bahariya Oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert, a series of digs uncovered around 250 mummies from around 2,000 years ago. The mummies were from the Greco-Roman era.
Although not all of the mummies had been buried with lavish items, many had been decorated with death masks, waistcoats, and more. In addition to the valuable items, the mummies were in excellent condition. The name given to the site was the Valley of the Golden Mummies.
A Lost Treasure Claims to Have Been Found
A mysterious package arrived at the offices of Desert Magazine in 1965. The parcel contained a letter, some other papers, and most notably, two gold nuggets. The letter was written by an anonymous person who claimed that the sender had discovered the location of Pegleg’s “burned black gold.”
“Pegleg” was a real person named Thomas Smith who passed away in 1866. The writer of the letter claimed to have removed $300,000 from the spot but said that they were much more left however, they never shared where it was. Keep on reading to learn more about different types of desert finds!
The Desert Has More Than Just Buried Treasure
While many people imagine treasures full of gold, silver, and jewels, that’s not always the most valuable. Another valuable treasure that can be found in the desert is uranium- one of modern society’s hottest commodities.
One of the world’s largest uranium mines can be found in the Namib desert. The Namib Desert stretches along the coast of Namibia for over 1,200 miles. Uranium is a radioactive element that can be used for many purposes, including the making of dangerous weapons and thus can be used for power.
Ancient Kings Who Used Ancient Cylinder Seals
Around 3,500 years ago in the time of the Mesopotamians, cylinder seals were used to roll across the clay to create impressions of symbols and figures. These cylinders were used by everyone, from royals to slaves, as well as in sending correspondence and transactions of a business. The cylinders were about an inch in length.
Most of the time, they were used as official or royal signatures and sometimes were even worn as pieces of jewelry. While most of the cylinders in the best condition reside in museums, some can be sold for a good price either to researchers, collectors or even on the black market!
Spanish Coins Unexplainably Found in Utah
Hiking in the desert of Utah’s Glen Canyon National Recreational Area in May 2019, a man came across a strange pair of coins. Just by looking at them, he understood that there was something unique about them, so he took them to some experts who identified them as coins of Spanish origin. The experts also determined that one likely dated back to the 1660s while the other one as far back as the 13th century!
The oddest part about the story is that no record exists of the Spanish reaching that part of the United States until about the 1700s. Where could the coins have come from? The coins date to at least a century before the famous expedition of Silvestre Vélez de Escalante and Atanasio Domínguez, who crossed southern Utah in 1776.
The Discovery of Diamonds in the Namib Desert Makes a Small Town a Hotspot
Until 1908, the town of Kolmanskop was a rather unmentionable place in the Namib Desert. Then a man named Zacharias Lewala discovered a diamond buried in the sand as he was shoveling railroad tracks clear of approaching sand dunes.
From that point on, an endless stream of people flooded into the area in hopes of finding their own buried treasure in the desert sands. The town exploded in population and was wealthy until the early 1950s. Although the town boomed for over 40 years, the town ended up being no more than a ghost town by 1954. Continue on to learn about buried objects in Mongolia.
A Buddhist Treasure Hidden From Communists Is Found in Mongolia
Buddhist treasures were uncovered in the Mongolian Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is known as one of the most desolate and remote places on Earth and, although not many people go out here looking for treasure, artifacts were found there in 2009.
In the 1930s, a monk named Tudev buried 64 crates containing Buddhist items. Tudev buried the items in hopes of protecting them against the communist purge. Although the secret of the buried treasure was left with Tudev’s family, they didn’t excavate the crates until 2009, which contained statues, artwork, manuscripts, and more.
One of History’s Greatest Discoveries: The Rosetta Stone
During Napoleon Bonaparte’s campaign in Egypt in 1799, a member of his army discovered the Rosetta Stone. The stele has three different translation inscriptions of a decree that was issued in Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC on behalf of Ptolemy V Epiphanes.
There are top, middle, and bottom texts. The top and middle texts are in Demotic scripts and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, while the bottom text is in ancient Greek. The Rosetta Stone is the beginning of the study of Egyptology as the stone became the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs.
A Rare Meteorite From Mars
Discovered in Western Sahara near the Moroccan City of Smara, a 75-ounce meteorite from mars was uncovered. The official designation is Northwest Africa 7397, often shortened to NWA 7397.
Although meteorites are relatively common, this particular one is special because it makes up 75 ounces of the total 300 pounds of meteorites from Mars that have ever been discovered on Earth. Pieces of the meteorite sell in small amounts on the internet for around $500.
A Gold Hunter Scores in Western Australia
Many people go looking for treasure in Australia’s desert. It's estimated that 20,000 people went looking for buried objects there in 2019 alone. Out of the thousands of people, at least one of them actually struck gold- literally!
One man hunting for gold near Kalgoorlie-Boulder caught his big break. He uncovered a gold nugget that weighed 50 ounces and was worth around $70,000.
Remember: Silver Is Valuable Too!
Dating as far back as 1859, the United States has been a hotspot for silver. If you're on a treasure hunt for silver, look no further than American deserts.
Nevada earned its nickname "the Silver State" during that year due to the mass amounts of silver found by miners. The precious metal was found in mines in the Nevada desert during the mid-19th century, bringing in around $225 million. You might get lucky and find some next time you're out in the Nevada desert!
The Dead Sea Scrolls
While this desert artifact might not be precious gold or treasure, the Dead Sea Scrolls are known for being one of the most valuable pieces of information discovered.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are centuries-old pieces of parchment paper containing some of the earliest passages of text that appear in the Hebrew Bible and other major religious literary pieces. The Dead Sea Scrolls are said to have been written in 150 B.C.
Ancient Greek Treasure Found in a Desert in Israel
A group of Israeli cave explorers came across an unusual find while exploring in 2015. Their find was two silver coins, a necklace, and some jewelry. After examination from exports, the treasure was determined to be over 2,000 years old. They would've been a major score had they not been completely priceless artifacts!
One amazing aspect of this find was the incredible condition that they were in. The silver coins held the image of the famous Greek god Zeus and assumed to be from Alexander the Great.
Deadly Diseases Can Be Cured by Microorganisms That Live in the Desert
Although finding a buried treasure like jewels, gold, and ancient papers is incredible, there are other things as equally exciting that can be found in the desert. A great example of this is the discovery of a microorganism that might be able to fight against deadly diseases, found in Chile's the Atacama Desert.
Researchers have found that this particular microorganism has the potential ability to treat the human immunodeficiency virus(HIV). This particular strain possesses a specific enzyme that could allow for it to reproduce itself inside the human body.
A Pool That Is Fully Functioning
It's common knowledge that artists love creating art installations in questionable places. One of the best examples of this is when an Austrian artist constructed a fully-functioning pool as a piece of art in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The best part was that the pool was top of the line.
The pool is a cool-water pool that possesses many of the same features you might see when visiting a million-dollar mansion. And although it might not exactly be a treasure at the moment, we can certainly say that it would be for someone meandering in the desert!