Parables and Fables

Treasure can come in many different ways; A good meal with friends, a quiet beautiful sunset, the laughter of children playing.  One thing that I definitely treasure are any drops of wisdom that I can acquire on my life’s journey.  They can more valuable than gold and silver.

I wanted to infuse this thought in the board game Treasure Trove as players traverse the world collecting fabled treasures.  We all fantasize about what it would be like to find lost treasure in an attic, or win the lottery, or what it what be like to have come up with Facebook.  It is human nature to wonder about such things.  And yet, the important things of life are right in front of us, if we choose to see them.  If we choose to search for them right under our noses.

I choose to place within the situation cards drops of wisdom that have come from all religions that remind us of spiritual truths.  I think it is God’s way of trying to teach us to search for the spiritual things of our lives, not just physical blessings.

Many truths about something of great value in God’s Kingdom are often conveyed in the sense of something that would be of value such as gold or diamonds.  One of the situation cards describes a large pearl, one of great value.  Most of you would recognize the saying as that of Jesus, who often taught in parables.

Have you ever tried to define what a parable is?  What is a fable?  We have an idea what they are, basically, short stories with fictional characters that have a moral lesson.  People love stories, and these are a great way to teach, which Christ did.

Included within the game is a booklet that gives brief descriptions of the treasures on the game board.  Some real, some only myths, and some of the treasures I just made up.  A footnote section at the back of the instructional booklet lists real treasure findings.  There is also some discussion about things on the game board.  What is an archeologist?  Who was Dr. Livingston?  What is a herpetologist?  Where is Shangri-La?

The following comment was placed in the footnote section concerning the difference between a parable and a fable.     

A parable is a brief story that illustrates a moral or religious lesson.  It differs from a fable that uses animals or inanimate objects as actors while parables generally feature human actors.  Jesus often taught his followers by use of parables.”

I don’t think people take the time to read the booklet given with the game.  Most of the time we are in too big of a hurry, including when we are playing the board game.  Such is the pace of our lives.  Consequently, we miss a lot of lot of little factoids, and truths. It takes time to search for those drops of wisdom and truth, but they can make the playing of the game that much more rewarding.  I think our lives are often the same way.  We are searching for life’s treasure often in the wrong places. 

Early this morning I read from the book of Matthew, Chapter 5.  Not one of the parables of Jesus, but his Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes. Now that is real treasure.  I could read it ever day, and never get tired of it.  If I had a large diamond, I suppose I would love looking at every day, but I don’t.  Instead, I will enjoy my treasure of living for Christ, and holding onto those beatitudes.



            The vast amounts of gold coming to Spain from the New World during the 16th,17th, and 18th  centuries has inspired many a tales of lost treasure.  The legend of lost gold of El Dorado somewhere in the Amazon jungle is one of the more famous.  Although that one is probably fictional, the truth is that not only large amounts of gold but hordes of silver were extracted from silver mines in Mexico, Bolivia, and Peru.  It has been estimated that over 80% of worldwide silver production during those centuries came from the New World.

            When I read about the Spanish taking the silver and gold from the Americas I have wondered how they knew how to search for it.  I knew early on in the 16th  century they just stole it from the Aztecs and Incas.  Sure they used the existing mines of the native Indians but they went on for another 300 years exploring and digging for precious metals.  There are abandoned and lost mines stretching from the American Southwest to the southern tip of Chile in South America.  I was curious where the Spanish learned this skill.  A quick historical read on the internet revealed that Spain for over 1000 years had silver mining operations, long before their voyages to the New World.  The Carthaginians’ exploited Spanish silver mines long before the time of Christ.  They were replaced by the Romans who profited from Spain’s silver for hundreds of years.

            It is estimated that almost 3 billion ounces of silver were brought back to Spain.  I do not know exactly how much that would weigh but if we estimate 16 ounces in a pound it would be at least 200 million pounds of silver.  200 million pounds would be about 100,000 tons of silver.  A bar of Spanish silver weighed about 80 pounds.  If my math figures are anywhere near correct, about 25 bars of silver would weigh a ton.  Some shipwrecks have been salvaged with hundreds of silver bars including gold and silver coins.

            Historical records indicate that some of the Spanish ships from that era had cargoes carrying hundreds of silver bars not to mention coins.  For example, the Spanish ship Atocha sank of the coast of Florida in 1622 with 900 bars of silver.  It is estimated the ship carried 35 tons of silver as well as an unspecified amount of gold.  It was located by the famed underwater treasure hunter Mel Fischer in the 1970’s.  Millions worth of silver and gold were retrieved but it was not until the mid 1980’s that his salvage efforts for the Atocha found the biggest yields of lost treasure.  There were thousands of lost ships during those centuries of Spanish conquest and acquired wealth.  Obviously there are many yet to be found and salvaged. 

silver coins fom Atocha

             I will never have the opportunity to be a deep sea treasure hunter, but it is sure fun to fantasize about, especially someone such as myself who has had the privilege to enjoy ocean scuba diving.  I am not sure if Silverado is actually a word, but I believe it is a hybrid Spanish-English word meaning a place where silver is found.  I included the following situation card among the 72 cards with the game TreasureTrove.     


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                When I hear the word, “explorers,” the first thing that comes to my mind are the Spanish explorers.  Nowadays, I often think of archeologists such as Indiana Jones in the context of explorers with the adventure element.  For the most part my mind is still captivated by the wooden ships of the high seas discovering unknown and exotic far away destinations during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.  

            I love history and it began for me in early childhood during the 1950’s with the Davy Crocket and Daniel Boone stories.  Then in fifth grade we studied world history and the chapter on the Spanish explorers still rings in my mind.  I recall memorizing names such as Columbus, Balboa, Pizarro, Cortes, Ponce de Leon, Magellan and many others.  The picture in our schoolbook introducing that chapter had a colorful picture of the Spanish with their swords and muskets strapped to their belts standing on the sandy seashore with the masts of their ships in the nearby blue ocean behind them.  One of the men held the Spanish flag.  They looked like they were about to embark on an adventure.  They also had those cool helmets.

Francisco Pizarro

            We all know the wealth in gold, silver and gems that Spain acquired from the New World and the fortunes to be found.  Stories of fabled gold such as El Dorado in South America and Coronado’s golden Seven Cities of Cibolo in western Texas continue to intrigue us.  Not to mention tales of pirate treasure that also emerged during that same period of European exploration in the context of world history. 

            When I was creating the board game TreasureTrove I wanted to give players an option of choosing a player token representing what they might want to be if they were searching the world for fabled treasure.  For some, that might be like Indiana Jones and therefore they would want to be an archeologist.  Someone else may be fascinated with underwater diving and they might want to SCUBA for wealth such as a deep sea diver.  Others my think of an oil man exploring for black gold such as a wildcatter of the early 20th century.   A tycoon with money to invest in treasure hunts is in many ways the adventuresome individual of modern times.  For me though it will always be pirates and Spanish explorers that come to my mind when treasure is to be found.  Player tokens representing each of these give participants a choice in what they would want to be if they could travel the world hunting for treasure. 

            I choose to use a purple helmet to represent the conquistador.  You had to be of royalty to be given ships to explore the high seas and purple represents royalty.  I thought the helmet more than anything represents the Spanish explorer.  I also think conquistador is a cool name.

player token from TreasureTrove game board

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Solomon’s Treasure


Solomon_Dedicates Temple_at_Jerusalem

           The fabled wealth of King Solomon is legendary.  He is thought to have been one of the richest men to have ever lived and many believe he was perhaps the wealthiest of all time.  If what he possessed in his time was compared to today’s prices, his net worth would easily outpace the richest people living in modern times.  He would have been richer than the oil baron John Rockefeller at the turn of the 20th century or the computer billionaires of the early 21st century.   

Israelite Temple

    His kingdom is written about in the Old Testament books of 1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles.  The vastness of his wealth and how he managed the Israelite Empire he ruled over is quite detailed in these accounts.  He lived almost three thousand years ago.  He oversaw the building of the Temple in Jerusalem for the Israelites to honor and worship God.  It was probably one of the most expensive architectural accomplishments ever completed.  Rulers from distant places, such as the Queen of Sheba, traveled to visit him and marveled at his great wealth.  It has been recorded that the utensils and drinking cups of his palaces were only of gold.  It was plentiful enough in his household that silver was not considered of much value.  (1st Kings, chapter 10, verse 21)


    Hundreds of years after King Solomon lived, the Babylonian Empire(located in present day Iraq)destroyed the Temple and looted the treasures.  Archeologists discovered Babylon in the mid 19th century but no treasures of King Solomon.   Yet his greatest treasure remains with us to this day:  his wisdom.  He is regarded as the wisest man who ever lived.  The recorded writings of his wisdom are in the book of Proverbs of the Old Testament.  The following is a sample of his inspired words:


                      “Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.  For wisdom is more profitable than silver and her wages better than gold.  Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.  She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left.”   

   Proverbs 3:13-16

       When players compete in TreasureTrove, they are trying to collect as many treasures as they can as quickly as they can.   Included in the playing of the game are situation cards that by chance allow players different options.  Some of the cards allow players to acquire more treasure, some cause a lose a turn, while some send players to different places on the game board.  There are also some cards that offer a quote of wisdom to remind of us life’s true treasures.   A sample of one of such card reads as follows:


            A card such as this one is not going to help one win the game but reminds us hopefully that  treasure is held in our hearts not just in our hands.


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Anglo-Saxon Hoard

      News reports in September 2009 flashed the exciting story of a treasure find in England by an amateur treasure hunter.  With a metal detector and checking out a farmers land he discovered a seventh-century hoard of gold and silver items.  Over one thousand objects have so far been unearthed.  Initial reports by scholars and archaeologists believe the artwork on the different pieces reveal an Anglo-Saxon time period, about 700 A.D. when England was ruled by Anglo-Saxon tribes from Germany.

     When I first heard about the finding I just assumed the British government would claim the medieval treasure.  As of now it looks as if the items will be auctioned off and the money split between the farmer and the treasure hunter who are friends.  I thought that was cool.  It is assumed they each will receive a very nice financial reward.  The government has not revealed the location in order to keep out looters. 

     I posted a blog article in July 2010 called, “Roman Coins.”  That article touched on the Treasure Act passed in Great Britian in 1996.  The English law encourages treasure hunters, or for that matter anyone lucky enough to discover treasure by happenstance, to work with authorities in order to preserve any historical significance to the find.  The government not only wants to reward the finders but also desires to professionally excavate and evaluate any discoveries.  It seems to be working.  The laws are in place to preserve any cultural clues, exactly what a find such as this one can reveal regarding England’s long and rich history. 

     In addition to gold and silver, some copper items, garnets and glass objects have been excavated.  It is being referred to as the greatest Anglo-Saxon treasure discovery of all time.  Many dozens of crosses and religious artifacts have been found.  One of the objects is a small strip of gold with a Latin quotation saying, “Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face.”   

     Speaking of crosses, one of the situation cards in the TreasureTrove board game talks of discovering some medieval crosses and crucifixes.  I liked the fact that this was part of my board game years before this recent historical treasure finding occurred.  The card reads as follows:

                                    MEDIEVAL ARTIFACTS

            While caving in some caverns in Croatia and Kosovo uncover

            caskets containing carved crucifixes and crusaders’ crosses.

                                          Keep this card

                                 REWARD:  TEN MILLION    

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Roman Coins


        News reports the last few days report of a remarkable recent discovery in Britain by a lone treasure hunter.  A cache of thousands of Roman coins was found in April by the use of a metal detector that picked up metal objects under about a foot of soil.  The treasure sleuth handled the find very professionally by immediately contacting the proper authorities after digging up a portion of his discovery. The find is worth millions and is also one of valued historical significance.  

            Hundreds of the coins have the inscription of Marcus Aurelius Carausius, a Roman ruler of Britain during the 3rdcentury.  They may be some of the first coins minted on the island of England.  This will generate renewed interest in the history of Roman Britain.  In 2009 another treasure find occurred in England of gold artifacts also discovered by an treasure seeker.  These artifacts are presently referred to as the Staffordshire Hoard.   The numerous images on the artifacts of the Staffordshire find shed light on the early Anglo-Saxon history of Britain.  The Portable Antiquities Scheme(PAS) of the British Museum is tasked with handling the treasures from discoveries such as these.  England passed the Treasure Act in 1996 which allows compensation to the finders of such discoveries.  As for the Roman coins, they are valued at over $1 million dollars.

           The purpose of the PAS is to encourage the public to voluntarily report findings that may have archaeological value.  Each year chance discoveries are made by gardeners, farmers, and sleuths using metal-detectors.  The sooner any find is reported the greater the ability of professional archaeologists to evaluate the value of the find and the historical circumstances of the culture relating to the found artifacts or treasure.  The Treasure Act states:  “All finders of gold and silver objects, and groups of coins from the same findspot, which are over 300 years old, have a legal obligation to report  such items.”      

The individual who found the Roman coins did just as authorities had hoped these measures would encourage.  The man stated:

“I knew the find was important and I needed archaeological help, so I contacted my local Finds Liaison Officer. I have made many finds over the years, but this is my first coin hoard and it was a fascinating experience to take part in the excavation of it.”

English museums are currently raising the money to compensate not only the individual with the metal detector but also the owner of the land where the coins were found.  This process strives to make everyone a winner in the hunt for lost treasure.  It seems to be working. 

            When I created the board game TreasureTrove in the late 1980’s one of the sixteen treasure pieces on the board is called Roman Coins.  I placed the treasure finding in Central Europe on the game board.  The following description within the game’s instructional booklet reads as follows:

Faux Roman coins fabricated for Game

                     The Mediterranean Sea is full of sunken ships.  Find a  Roman galley laden with coins. 

Value: 10 Million   



  I had read about occasional findings of Roman coins in Europe.  When I lived in Germany in the early 1980’s Roman coins were found underneath a bridge in a city called Trier which at one time housed a Roman garrison.  Trier was about a 20 minute drive from where my wife and I lived.  I believe it was only a few dozen coins here and there, nothing of the magnitude of hundreds, much less thousands of coins as was recently unearthed.   Little did I envision that my imagined treasure for the game would actually come true for someone.

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