From pirate gold to royal jewels, the search for missing treasures has fueled many to risk life and livelihood in hopes of grand riches and notoriety. Hollywood has long capitalized on stories shrouded in mystery over lost treasure — think Titanic’s “Heart of the Ocean” sapphire and diamond necklace, Indiana Jones’ quest to find the Holy Grail or a group of soldiers’ search for Kuwaiti gold in Three Kings, just to name a few.
TV has also struck it rich in ratings gold with many popular treasure-seeking shows. (The latest one, Discovery Channel’s Devil’s Canyon, premieres Tuesday, June 6 at 10pm ET/PT.) Here we showcase five of the best and rate their treasure-seeking success.
1. Gold Rush (Discovery Channel)
Discovery Channel’s No. 1-rated show follows three diverse miners and their respective teams in their attempts to find gold in Alaska, the Yukon and other parts of the world. For seven seasons, we’ve followed the gambler Todd Hoffman, 22-year-old Parker Schnabel and hothead Tony Beets as they prospect, move dirt and sluice for big-time nuggets. Schnabel has regularly walked away with millions, but this past season he hit major pay dirt when he simultaneously worked two wash plants on his claim, which yielded him his biggest gold weigh of his life worth over $5 million. The show has been renewed for an eighth season and will return in fall.
Found Or Lost Forever? This one is a jackpot! These guys have found millions in gold.
2. The Curse of Oak Island (History)
Ever since they were kids, Rick and Marty Lagina have shared an insatiable desire (Rick a little more than Marty) to solve the mystery surrounding Oak Island, a 140-acre island off the coast of Nova Scotia believed to be the resting place of ancient treasures dating back to the Knights Templar (some even believe the ark of the covenant is located there). Many legends about deadly curses and glorious treasures surround the island that the brothers now co-own. They’ve spent years (four TV seasons) digging and searching for evidence of the treasure. “The goal is to solve the mystery. It’s not so much of a treasure — my brother might differ a bit on that — but there is a wonderful story written there,” Rick told us. “I’d like to put pen to paper and tell that story. We asked our father prior to his passing: ‘Dad, if there’s real treasure on Oak Island, what should we do with it?’ My father didn’t hesitate. He said, ‘Do good with it.’ I guess that would be the endgame, if treasure were involved, and I believe that there will be.” As of today, History has yet to renew the series for a fifth season. You can watch past episodes on On Demand or on History.com.
Found Or Lost Forever? While we love the Lagina brothers, we think they’ve taken this exploration as far as it can go. The ark of the covenant is not on Oak Island.
3. Treasure Quest: Snake Island (Discovery Channel)
A handful of adrenaline-fueled adventure seekers were scouring one of the world’s deadliest islands (apparently over 4,000 snakes inhabit this 110-acre nightmare) in search of the legendary Treasure of the Trinity — an elusive Inca treasure of gold believed to be worth nearly $400 million. Well, they didn’t find the treasure there, but they did find a map (with a clue!), which took them deep into South America’s Atlantic Forest in Argentina and to Season 2, where they found more maps (Jesuit treasure maps), an Incan nose plate and more that led to a cave that led to more drawings that led to a significant find. At the end of last season, the treasure hunters requested that authorities extend their location permit for another three months, and they continued to find “extremely valuable items linked to the Treasure of the Trinity.”
Found Or Lost Forever? Found some extremely rare artifacts including an Incan gold sun mask. Discovery renewed the series for Season 3 to continue to chronicle what the team has uncovered.
4. Cooper’s Treasure (Discovery Channel)
This series, billed as “The Hunt for an Astronaut’s Secret Fortune,” launched April 18 and airs Tuesdays. While orbiting Earth looking for nuclear missile sites in the 1960s, pioneering astronaut Gordon Cooper believed he discovered a large number of shipwrecks in the Caribbean that could hold unimaginable wealth. Cooper worked for decades in secret to create a treasure map with the information he collected. Before his death in 2004, Cooper shared his secret with longtime friend and treasure hunter Darrell Miklos. The series follows Miklos and his team as they use Cooper’s maps and data to hunt for sunken riches. “We’ve been lucky that the information that Gordon’s given me is legitimate,” Miklos says. “Luckily enough, the archival data that Gordon turned over to me has proven to be extremely accurate. And so far, we’re five for five.” Miklos and his team have discovered several artifacts, including an anchor, believed to be from a shipwreck from Christopher Columbus’ fleet.
Found Or Lost Forever? Looks promising for riches, though Darrell’s ornery, foul-mouthed father might be this show’s most entertaining discovery.
5. Devil’s Canyon (Discovery Channel, premieres June 5 at 10pm ET/PT)
Based on the success of Gold Rush, Discovery’s next new series will explore the Devil’s Canyon area of British Columbia, which is home to the largest creek-side gold deposit the world has ever seen. This area, however, is the most hostile terrain for survival. Three extreme prospectors head deep into the forest where big mining companies can’t reach to find as much gold as they can before winter hits.
Found Or Lost Forever? We’re betting this one will strike gold.