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Buried Treasure on Church Property

Who has a right to the treasure?


• Who owns buried treasure found on a church's property—the church, or the heirs of former owners who put it there? That was the interesting question before the Supreme Court of Iowa. A family owned a parcel of ground (which included a home) for several generations. The property was purchased by a church in 1987. When the church later demolished the home, it discovered a substantial sum of paper money and coins buried in the ground in tin cans and glass jars. Several silver dollars and half-dollars were from the 19th century. Also included in the hoard were several ten and twenty dollar bills. The face amount of the coins and currency totaled nearly $25,000. Heirs of the previous owners of the property learned of the discovery, and claimed all of the money. They argued that, as heirs of the true owner of the money, their interest was superior to that of the church. The church ...

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  • May 1, 1992

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50-State Religious Freedom Laws Report
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