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Its discovery at the Champagne Lanson Bonnet vineyard in France a year ago would have had no problem gracing the pages of Hans Christian Andersen.

According to the vineyard, a number of the coins rained down on a worker remodelling a former grape-drying facility.

Further investigation in the attic above uncovered 497 gold US coins minted between 1851 and 1928, which had lain untouched for nearly a century and range in condition from very fine to choice mint state.

It is not known how the coins found their way to the attic in the eastern village of Les Riceys, France, but the building was owned by a wine producer who traded with the US and England in the 1930s.

Under French law, half the proceeds from the auction will go to the individual who discovered the coins, a man described as a modest employee of the Lanson firm.

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