Kids Book Provides Big Payoffs

A Treasure's Trove : A Fairy Tale about Real Treasure for Parents and Children of All Ages (Paperback) by Michael Stadther
Treasure Trove Inc
As so often happens in fairy stories, all is not what it seems in Mike Stadther's "A Treasure's Trove."

There is more to this tale than a best-selling children's fantasy. Filled with strange creatures including one that is half-dog and half-moth, who in the end saves the day, reports CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Martha Teichner.

"He's a doth, belly too big, wings too small, afraid of almost everything, especially the dark," Stadther reads.

In the great forest where all these characters live, every night a sinister dust cloud passes over. Any insect or animal caught in its path is instantly crystallized and turned into an astonishing jeweled version of itself.

And the jewels actually exist: 12 of them, together worth $1 million.

They are prizes in a treasure hunt, embedded throughout the text and pictures in the book are clues to the whereabouts of gold tokens hidden all over the United States, which, once found, Stadther will redeem for the matching jewel.

Just stop and think about it. Here's a guy, the son of a single mom so poor she worried about where their next meal was coming from, who's just paid $1 million of his own money to create jewels he intends to give away. Who spent seven years writing and illustrating what amounts to an elaborate treasure map.

Stadther says he often wondered, "how could you hide information in a book and have it be obvious but you can't find it."

It was an obsession he could finally indulge thanks to the fact that he and his wife had created, built and sold not one, but two big banking software companies by the time Stadther was 45.

Stadther recalls that, "for 20 years my wife had to listen to me go, 'how can I hide something without burying it?' And then maybe seven years ago we were driving down the road. We weren't even talking to each other and I said, 'I've got it.'And she said, 'how?' And I said, 'I can't tell you.'"

And he wouldn't tell us. When we first met Stadther he still had one token left to hide.

"So this one represents the grasshopper and you would receive the $50,000 grasshopper if you find this gold token," Stadther tells Teichner.

We begged him to let us watch as he hid it. We promised not to tell where, cross our hearts.

But this is all we got: a guest appearance by Misty, the Stadthers' dog, the real-life model for the doth in the story. And then, a few deceptive trips up and down his driveway, in New York's Westchester County.

By then, his wife, Helen Demetrios, was in on the fact that the last token, like all the others, would be hidden in a hole in a tree within a state park.

"I can't show you where I'm really going to hide it because that's a secret, but it will be very near here, and I'm off to do it right now.

His entire cross-country hiding expedition took four weeks.

"Mike's a little strange anyway," Demetrios quips in response to a playful questioning of her husband's sanity by Teichner. "So he's very creative, so that makes him very different. When he puts his mind to something, somehow it gets done," Demetrios says.

Which is why when all 12 of the publishing houses Stadther approached turned him down he decided to publish "A Treasure's Trove" himself.

"Forty-thousand was the initial print run and by December '04, we had orders for over 100,000 books. And they just continued. I think now we've got orders around 600,000 Treasure Trove, puzzle books, audio CDs and all the other products that have come out as a result of the treasure hunt," Stadther says.

Stadther has insisted all along that figuring out the clues would be easy.

"I said anyone who could read could solve them," Stadther says. "I thought children could solve them."

Yeah right. Web sites popped up so "trovers," as the treasure hunters dubbed themselves, could swap theories or join forces.

But it wasn't until May that the first token was found. Computer consultant Jake Pulterak located the one for the dragonfly, worth $25,000, near Red Rock, Penn. And then, people started finding tokens right and left.

All 12 tokens have been found: the spider, on June 22nd by Tim Stone, his son, Todd, and Scott Kunze of Tucson, Ariz. with some help from Scott's brother, who drove all night from Green Bay, Wis., to get to the hiding place in West Virginia before anybody else could.

"This is what you get for your token," Stadther explains. "The spider, the most valuable of the jewels, is worth $450,000."

"In the borders there's clues. Actually we had to solve the poem clues first," Tim Stone says.

Finders have to demonstrate how they figured out the clues.

"You have to take parts of it and put it together and see what it says," Todd Stone says.

The poem is a kind of key to getting the rest.

Todd reads: "1, 30, 26. A code of numbers, five to a side, reveals the name where the treasures abide."

Remember we're talking about a different set of clues for each creature. Somebody said this would be simple?

"This one here would be a one," Tim remarks.

No way would I have ever thought to put numbers on a grid to find letters, Teichner admits.

"1, 37, 24. It says Prickets Fort State Park picnic area. I called Scott at this point. I couldn't concentrate I was shaking," Tim recalls.

It took them three weeks spending every spare minute to figure that out.
"In this picture here there's a road map," Tim reveals.

How did they know that? A fairy told them.

"The fairy is pointing to the exact spot on the road that you had to go to," Stadther says.

"Big question. In the end was it really easy?" asks Teichner

"Yes, it was very simple," Scott and Tim say.

Indeed, considering what they do for a living.

"We're electronic technicians in Tucson," Tim admits. The two tell Stadther that they are in the business of missiles.

"So you're rocket scientists," Stadther asks.

For Stadther there's a delicious irony about how well this venture turned out.

The publishers who said no to his first book have been clamoring to get involved with his second treasure book, "The Secrets of the Alchemist Dar."

Stadther has hired artists to help him so this time it won't take seven years to finish.

"The new book will be about 100 rings, which will be the treasure and these will be fairy rings. It will be actual rings, valuable jewels and these rings will be worth up to $3 million in total," Stadther explains.

Undoubtedly, Mike Stadther will swear up and down the clues will be simple to figure out. So simple even rocket scientists will get them.