A town in eastern France that found rare gold coins in a local house has sold the treasure for more than €770,000 at auction, and is now set to use the proceeds to build a new hotel-restaurant in the centre.
The coins, which were discovered in the Jobez House in Morez, Haut-Jura, brought in €772,955 for the public coffers at auction. They had been estimated to go for €600,000.
The town is now set to renovate the central hôtel de la Poste building, and transform it into a new hotel-restaurant, with a view to energising the centre and helping the town to improve its declining financial fortunes.
Morez has been named as one of the “small towns of tomorrow” by the government, as one of 1,600 communes that are in need of support and new initiatives.
Mayor Laurent Petit told France 3: “We now have three possible projects. We will sign a contract by the end of the year, I hope. If all goes well, the hotel-restaurant will be able to open by the end of 2023."
The auction happened to take place while the price of gold is currently relatively high, at close to €56 per gram. But despite the final sales amount reaching €170,000 more than the estimates, auctioneer Brigitte Fenaux said the “bidding was not too crazy”.
She said: “For gold, people are almost reasonable. Gold is never going to double the estimate, unlike say, [famous] paintings.”
Most of the buyers attended the auction online, but some locals came in person to buy a small part of what has become known as “local treasure”.
One buyer, who bought a few of the coins as mementos, said: “My wife decided yesterday that she wanted to come to the auction, so like a good husband, I obeyed! But we’ve wanted a little gold for a long time. We combined business with pleasure by coming for a walk in Morez too.”
The treasure was first discovered in 2020, during renovations on the rundown house.
The first set of gold included five gold bars and more than 1,000 20 franc coins, estimated to be worth €500,000, found in jam jars. The second set of gold coins was discovered in a locked chest in April 2021. This cache includes 480 20 franc pieces, 50 10 franc pieces, and one 100 franc piece.
The second discovery brought the total estimated value of the treasure found at the house to as much as €650,000 at the time.
The commune bought the property for just €130,000, after the person who inherited the property said it was “full of junk” and they preferred not to deal with it. They had heard that the house contained treasure, but believed it had disappeared.
The mairie was renovating the property as part of an urban renewal campaign when it made the discovery. It also recovered several important historical items and documents that local historians consider to be important for the history and cultural heritage of Morez and Jura.