Could the Goonies Really Keep One-Eyed Willy’s Treasure?

The Goonies are awesome.  The movie, the cast, the plot – it’s all great.  Of course, with a movie that great, there’s always the risk of a remake, which should not be allowed. [Side debate: Has there ever been a good remake of a classic movie?  The True Grit remake was incredible but that’s because it was so different from the first one and it was done by the Coen brothers.  They’re an exception to all the rules.]


The kids are great (check out what they look like now).  I’ve always loved Martha Plimpton and Corey Feldman was a ton of fun as Mouth.  Chunk’s Truffle Shuffle, while not PC, was an instant classic.  (Ironically, given that this is a blog about geeky lawyers, Chunk himself is now a transactional and entertainment lawyer in Beverly Hills.)  And, of course, in what other movie could they turn a character like Sloth from one so completely scary when first seen into one so lovable by the end?

The kids are searching for the treasure to save their homes.  The local country club is foreclosing on all of them to tear them down in order to build a golf club.  (Country clubs and cemeteries are the biggest waste of prime real estate.)

But could the kids use the treasure they hid in Mikey’s marble bag to prevent the foreclosures?  In some states, such as Florida, the answer would be no because treasure troves abandoned on state-owned lands are the property of the state.  See Fla.Stat. § 267.061(1)(b).  Oregon, however, doesn’t have a similar rule (the movie was based in Astoria, Oregon). 

In 1904, in a classic opinion, the Oregon Supreme Court defined what could be considered a treasure trove and explained the rights of finders of treasure troves.  As the court explained, a treasure trove is “money, or coin, gold, silver, plate, or bullion.”  Ferguson v. Ray, 44 Or. 557, 561-569 (Or. 1904).  Such a treasure, if found hidden in the earth or other private place, belongs to the king; but if found in the sea or upon the earth, it belongs to the finder.  Id. The court then went on to analyze a series of old cases regarding what valuables are considered treasure trove (cups, a chalice, pyxes, and a paten, all silver) and what is not (Roman coins, because they were not made of gold or silver).  Id.

In another Oregon case, a court had before it money that had been found by a group of boys, ages 7 to 11.  Hill v. Schrunk, 207 Or. 71, 72-73, 292 P.2d 141, 142 (Or.1956).  The money, which the boys had found when poking the bottom of a pond with sticks (my 8-year-old son does the same thing) found the money, which had been wrapped in oiled paper, which was folded and placed in a waxed paper sealed fruit jar, the fruit jar being placed in a small wooden cask which was again sealed at its joining with tape, and this cask secured in turn in a section of rubber innertube, the ends of which had been secured against the entry of water, the innertube being rigged with wire or ropes to secure it to the bottom of the pool.  Given that some of the money was only a year old, and treasure troves carry with them “the thought of antiquity,” the court classified the money as mislaid property and therefore ruled that the boys were not entitled to keep it.

While the jewels in Mikey’s bag aren’t gold or silver, they are clearly a pirate’s booty and it would be reasonable to expect a court to find that, under all of the circumstances, the jewels fit within the definition of a treasure trove that the finder is entitled to keep.  Whether they were valuable enough to save the Goonies’ homes is a question I’ll leave to the appraisers.

Oregon does have an administrative rule, however, that makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly and intentionally excavate, injure, destroy or alter an archaeological site or object on public or private lands without first obtaining an archaeological permit.  See Oregon Administrative Rule 736-051-0090.  While the Goonies could be charged with violating this rule, given their intentional hunt to find Willy’s treasure, it’s unlikely that Oregon would attempt to prosecute a bunch of poor kids who were trying to save their families’ homes.

And, as proof that the Goonies stands the test of time, I’ll leave you with a video from The Whiskey Rebellion: their ode to the Goonies.

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Jessica has been litigating business and IP disputes for the past decade. During that time, she’s dealt with clients, lawyers, and judges who have varying degrees of appreciation for the challenges of managing discovery in an electronic age. Until the fall of 2011, she was an attorney at a large, Texas-based law firm, where she represented clients in state and federal court nationwide. That fall, she made a long-desired move back to the Midwest and is now a partner at Hansen Reynolds Dickinson Crueger LLC, a litigation boutique based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she continues to litigate while also consulting with business and law firms on e-discovery issues (before, during, and after litigation arises).