Alabama family finds part of a hidden treasure

A token redeemable for an $8,500 bejeweled ladybug was recently found by an Alabama woman.

Susan Peplinski, 28, of Grant, in the northeast part of the state, found the gold, leaf-shaped token in a knothole of a tree in a Kentucky state park, the The Birmingham News reports.

The token was the seventh found as part of a real-life treasure hunt for bug tokens interwoven into the fairy tale A Treasure’s Trove, by Michael Stadther, which debuted last November.

The tokens, representing bugs based on the forest creatures in the book, are hidden on public property nationwide, the newspaper reports. Of the dozen bugs, valued at more than $1 million together, the most expensive is a $450,000 spider, set with jewels including a 6.36-ct. Kashmir blue sapphire and more than 21 cts. in yellow diamonds.

The ladybug, which the sisters plan to give to their mother, features retractable wings and is set with six Burmese rubies and 51 diamonds. Stadther, who previously owned a software company, is providing the 12 jeweled pieces, including three from his private collection. The other nine were created by jeweler Robert Underhill, and designed by Underhill and Stadther.

The nine tokens for the ladybug, hummingbird, ant, firefly, caterpillar, grasshopper, snail, dragonfly and butterfly have been redeemed, the newspaper reports. The bee token is missing, and the spider token has been found, but not redeemed. The rhinoceros beetle is still at large.

Peplinski discovered A Treasure’s Trove in February, when she read about it in People. magazine, the newspaper reports.

“I like to work on puzzles, so I went online and ordered the book,” she told the newspaper.

Next thing you know, it was a family affair, including her mother and six sisters.

“They all bought the book, and we worked on it together,” Peplinski reportedly said. “We’d call each other and e-mail each other and say, `Oh, did you try this?’ and try and figure out the clues.”

After several months, they hit paydirt in June when they solved a puzzle that revealed the clue “paintsvillesp,” which they researched online and decided probably stood for Paintsville State Park in Kentucky, the newspaper reports. Peplinski; her mother, Polly Hammett; and three of her sisters, Sylvia Phillips, Sarah Hammett and Sheena Hammett, decided to go for it.

“We all jumped in the car,” Peplinski reportedly said. “We drove overnight on Saturday, and got there on Sunday, real early, like 3 in the morning. We got a hotel room, but none of us could sleep because we were looking at the book. As soon as the sun came up, we were at the park.”

An hour later, they found an overlook—a clue to the token’s whereabouts—where they thought it might be. When they spotted a familiar-looking tree, they knew they were on the right track.

“There was a tree there that looked like the tree in the book,” she told the newspaper.

The women tried to reach inside a knothole in the tree, but their hands didn’t fit.

“We got a stick and kept digging,” Peplinski reportedly said. “We pulled up the stick and there was the token, hanging on the end of it. … It was unbelievable.”