A Stanwood man who works as a card dealer now has another endeavor: a free treasure hunt that he's financing for now but eventually hopes to parlay into a business.

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As Ryan Rathe emptied garbage bins in Gas Works Park one day in December, he noticed something dangling below a park bench.

A general laborer for the Seattle parks department, Rathe got on his hands and knees to retrieve the item — an envelope containing a piece of paper with an e-mail address, random numbers and the word “Congratulations.”

At first, Rathe didn’t know what to think. But eventually the 31-year-old e-mailed the address on the paper, and a few days later he received $25 in the mail.

The man who’d hidden the envelope and sent the money is Loren Anderson, a 25-year-old Stanwood resident who works full time as a card dealer at Angel of the Winds Casino in Arlington and part time as the founder of SeattleTreasure.com. The project, which started in November and kicked into full gear last month, bills itself as a “free treasure hunt.”

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Rathe’s accidental find is not how it’s supposed to work, of course. Normally, participants follow clues posted on the project’s Web site, Anderson said. The “treasure” is just a six-digit activation code of numbers and letters, and those who find it simply e-mail Anderson with the code and he in turn sends them the winnings, between $25 and $100.

“It’s just something I’ve talked about with friends and thought might be fun,” said Anderson, who has a business degree from Western Washington University. “I’m trying to target families and kids so they can, like, get involved and learn about the city at the same time.”

Although Anderson is now funding the project himself, he is hoping soon to get corporate sponsors to donate prizes in exchange for advertising on the Web site. Currently, the site averages 100 to 200 hits per day, said Anderson, who gets the word out mostly on Facebook, where he has 268 fans, and Twitter, where he has 70 followers.

It’s fun to see the site’s traffic increase and even more fun to hide the treasure, Anderson said.

“I feel like I’m always watching my back,” he said. “I have to make sure nobody’s watching because some of these places are pretty busy.”

Anderson said he’s now preparing to hide his most valuable prize yet, an Xbox 360 donated by a friend who is advertising on the site. That search will be more complicated, he said. It joins nine “treasures” hidden this month in different Seattle neighborhoods, each carrying a value of $25.

Two already have been found.

Of the 10 envelopes hidden under park benches last month, all were found within three weeks.

Karl Typolt, 22, of Wallingford, found one of them, a $25 prize in Golden Gardens Park. The civil engineer said he plans to spend the money on household necessities like toilet paper and paper towels.

“The fun part isn’t the money; it’s the thrill behind searching with your friends for it,” Typolt said. “But, of course, an actual monetary prize isn’t a bad thing at the end.”

Brian Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or brosenthal@seattletimes.com

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