The 5000-inhabitant village of Morez in the French département of Jura near the Swiss border has a problem: vacant houses right in the middle of it, i.e. an abandoned village centre. One of the houses belonged to the Jobez family, an old-established watchmaker family. The last resident of the house was an old lady who, like her siblings before, died at an old age without children. A relative inherited the house, but he didn’t want it and sold it for 130,000 euros to the city of Morez. The municipality was quite pleased about this opportunity in order to revitalize the said village centre. So much for the background, things like these probably happen on a daily basis in countless similar towns. But in Morez everything turned out differently …
The Treasure in the Jam Jar
In the fall of 2020, the mayor, Laurent Petit, an employee of the district government and the director of the local museum went to the Jobez house to take a closer look at the things stored there. The three men knew that the family had hoarded and never threw anything away. Therefore they were curious to see whether there were some nice antiquities for the museums. However, no one really believed the rumours about a gold treasure.
The mayor told the Guardian about their spectacular find: “Three jars full of gold bars were sitting behind lots of other objects on a shelf. … None of us had ever held a piece of gold. I’d only ever seen gold bars in photos, and thought they must be huge. But these were small, weighing 1kg and the size of a cigarette packet.”
Besides the jars with a total of five gold bars, there were other jam jars with inedible content: they were filled with 1000 20 franc gold coins. The total value is estimated at about half a million euros. The gold bars are now safely stored at a bank and are to be examined. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
All Good Things Come in Twos – At Least
They continued the decluttering and the mayor made a surprising announcement at a meeting of the local council on 14 April 2021: he had found even more gold!
He had found a safe behind a cupboard. At first, no one had been able to open it. But then the new owners had the safe opened by force and couldn’t believe what they saw: an additional amount of 480 20 franc pieces, 50 10 franc pieces and one 100 franc coin – all of them are gold coins with a total value of about 100,000 to 150,000 euros, as France Bleu reports. However, it is clear to see from the videos and pictures that the treasure doesn’t consist only of francs, you can also see Italian coins. Before taking the estimates too seriously, the lucky finders would do well to consult a numismatist. The treasure might even contain a particularly rare error coin …
The Coin Hoard of Morez: a Mystery
The mayor emphasizes that the town’s annual budget is around 6 million euros. Thus, the municipality didn’t become rich thanks to this treasure. However, it received plenty of media attention, both on the local and international level. In general, the story isn’t about mere money: it’s about dreaming of a treasure, about the excitement and the joy you experience when you look for junk in dusty corners and all of a sudden see flashes of gold. And then, of course, there’s a mystery about it: Who bought all that gold in the first place? And when? Who knew about it? The last residents were apparently clueless, they lived in rather wretched conditions, as the mayor pointed out. He guesses that the gold was bought in the “golden thirties”, when the family’s business flourished. But we can’t be sure about that and probably never will.
What Will Happen to the Treasure of Morez?
The question of what will happen to the treasure hasn’t been answered yet. The mayor is considering an auction. In this type of sale, the circumstances and the feeling of buying coins that were part of a “treasure” might actually drive up the price. And what does the town want to do with the proceeds? Mr Petit wants to discuss that with his colleagues. The money will go into one or two of the town’s projects. And no one knows for sure whether there might still be more gold in this valuable property.
By the way, the actual heir was quite relaxed when he discovered about the treasure that he gave away: “Well, well”, the mayor quotes him to France Bleu, “so the story about the treasure was true after all.”
France3 Bourgogne-Franche-Comté covered the story of the Morez treasure in detail.
There’s also a detailed article on the website of France Bleu.
The Hackney treasure was at least as spectacular as this find. However, there were a lot of complicated ownership issues involved.
Not just the coins of the Latin Monetary Union but all Swiss coins can be found in our database Cosmos of Collectibles.