$1 Million in US Gold Coins Fall from French Rafters

An unsuspecting worker turned the ceiling of an old building into possibly the world's most lucrative piñata

By Sam Schulz
|  Thursday, Feb 16, 2012  |  Updated 3:23 AM PDT
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A worker renovating a former grape-drying facility in France hit an unlikely motherlode when he struck the ceiling with a crowbar.

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Striking gold in France is unlikely enough — but in your own ceiling?

The head of a Champagne-producing company in the village of Les Riceys did just that this week when workers who were renovating a building at his winery happened upon almost $1 million worth of U.S. gold coins, AFP reports.

"One of the workers was attacking the building's ceiling with a crowbar when gold coins started to rain down on him, followed by sacks of gold," said Francois Lange, who heads the Champagne house, Alexandre Bonnet.

After unwittingly turning the building into the world's most lucrative piñata, the workers and the building's owner counted 497 gold coins minted between 1851 and 1928, each with a face value of $20 and collectively worth $980,000 today.

According to Lange, the owner of the building will keep half of the lode, and the workers will keep the other half. He said he might produce a special vintage to commemorate the lucky strike.

AFP reports that the building, which once housed drying grapes, once belonged to a wine producer who traded with the U.S. in the 1930s, which could account for the store of coins.

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