Oklahoma Baptist University

Gold Discovered On Campus

Dennis Traxler with the safe where the gold was found.

When Valynda Ewton received a call about some valuable items found in a safe, she wondered if it could be the lost treasure from her youth.

The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER’s™ first thoughts were that perhaps workers had stumbled across her baseball card collection when they found some items inside a large safe her father had given to Oklahoma Baptist University.

Instead, one of the university’s physical plant supervisors had uncovered 10 krugerrands inside one of the compartments of the vertical, double-door safe Bill Ewton donated to OBU more than a decade ago.

Approached by an OBU attorney, Ewton said the process was somewhat mysterious.

“He asked me a series of questions. He was very careful in his approach to me,” said the 1967 Shawnee High School graduate.

When she finally learned that the university was holding some family property, her mind raced back to her hobby in the 1950s and ’60s.

“I was actually quite hopeful that they were my long-lost baseball cards,” she said from her Dallas office. The baseball cards were last seen packed into a Baby Ruth candy bar box.

“I had Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris cards,” said Ewton. “They would be worth even more than the coins.”

Indeed, a few websites offering rookie cards of Mantle value the printed cultural icons in the four-figures each. Ewton had not forgotten the crowned jewels of her collection. Cards of Mantle, the Oklahoman dubbed the Commerce Comet, are some of the most prized items for collectors.

But the krugerrands – gold coins minted by the Republic of South Africa – were not an insignificant find. Dennis Traxler, an OBU physical plant supervisor, marveled at the find briefly before he took the coins to his supervisor, Robert Cash, physical plant director.

From that point, OBU’s attorney, Jim Marshall, of the Shawnee firm Henson, Henson, Henson, Marshall and Milburn, set out to find the owner.

Valynda Ewton’s parents, Bill and Martha Moore Ewton, were long-time Shawnee residents. They met in downtown Shawnee, while both were attending Oklahoma Baptist University.

Bill Ewton was president of Pioneer Insurance Agency from 1955-88. When he left the business, his safe was moved from the agency offices to the Ewtons’ home on Kickapoo Street. It took a tow truck to relocate the safe. It was moved to OBU’s physical plant warehouse a few years later. The Ewtons, who had a home on the Texas side of Lake Texoma, completed a permanent move to Texas in the 1990s.

Bill Ewton attended OBU in the early 1940s before serving as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He studied at OBU for several years after the war, and also studied at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He died in November, 2000. Martha Ewton graduated from OBU in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She died in March, 2001. Valynda, their only surviving child, has carved out a successful career in the financial services industry as a regulatory and compliance consultant. The family history in financial work made the krugerrand discovery even more unusual.

“I remember them telling me they had given the safe to OBU,” said Valynda. “It is ironic that we didn’t have good financial records. There were so many compartments in the safe that the coins were overlooked, but that was uncharacteristic of my father.”

Traxler’s find led to Ewton being reunited with a significant family possession. She is very grateful for his honesty and the university’s efforts. But she still holds hope of finding the baseball card collection, though she thinks it may have met its demise as many other such collections have in the past few decades.

“My mother probably threw them away,” she said.

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