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Recluse's gold fortune heads to auction

Mexican 50-peso gold pieces that belonged to Walter Samaszko Jr., who died in June 2012. They were set to be auctioned in Carson City, Nev.
AP
Mexican 50-peso gold pieces that belonged to Walter Samaszko Jr., who died in June 2012. They were set to be auctioned in Carson City, Nev.

The final treasures of a quiet man who collected a fortune in gold coins will be auctioned off Tuesday in Nevada.

The body of Walter Samaszko Jr. was found in his Carson City home in June 2012. After his death, a cleaning crew hired to tidy his modest, ranch-style house he had lived in for four decades came upon a stunning discovery: boxes and boxes full of gold coins and bullion—enough to fill two wheelbarrows.

One batch, mostly bullion, was sold at auction in February for $3.5 million. Tuesday's auction at the Carson City courthouse includes more than 2,600 coins to be sold in six lots.

"These are the rated coins, the collector types," said Alan Glover, Carson City clerk-recorder, who is charge of handling Samaszko's estate, on Monday. "It's a little more complicated on the pricing than it is on the bullion."

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He estimated the value of the collection at $3 million, though the final tally will depend on the condition of the coins as assessed by bidders.

The fortune, after taxes, will go to Samaszko's only surviving cousin, Arlene Magdanz, of San Rafael, Calif.

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A substitute teacher, Magdanz has shunned media attention and not spoken publicly about her newfound riches. Officials were able to track her down using a funeral bulletin at Samaszko's home that led to his father's service in Chicago in the early 1960s. Newspaper clippings listed survivors.

Glover said he's never met Magdanz, a substitute teacher, but has talked with her by phone.

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"She was just overwhelmed by all the publicity," Glover said.

The first lot set for auction is silver coins. Lot 2 contains more than 300 $10 U.S. gold pieces. The remaining four lots are composed of $20 gold pieces, including more than 1,200 Saint Gaudens coins.

Glover said he expects five bidders, the same who participated in the earlier auction, to be on hand Tuesday.

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"These guys are going to pay a lot of attention to these," he said.

Each has received digital images, front and back, of every coin to be sold, Glover said, adding the images can be blown up for experts to look for scratches or flaws that could affect their value. Bidders have been given set times, beginning at 9 a.m., to view the collection in person and in private.

Bidding begins at 1:30 p.m.

Glover said his office is awaiting final accountings from the Internal Revenue Service on how much is owed in taxes.

"After this sale, then we'll just sit on the money until we can find out what we owe them," he said. "Then we'll settle up."

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  • A reporter and editor, Robert Frank is a leading authority on the American wealthy for CNBC.