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Perhaps, like me, you’re too frugal to spend your money on lottery tickets. But you would still love to win big somehow, right?
Why not try treasure hunting? In the true stories that follow you’ll find people who made thousands, or even millions of dollars from treasures they discovered, and the search often required very little investment of time or money.
We’ve covered this subject before, with posts on ways to find treasure, how to go treasure hunting without leaving home, and more places to look for hidden treasures. Now it’s time for some big time motivation, starting with the story of…
1. A Bottle of Bourbon and $50,000 in the Wall
As reported in the Mirror, a Phoenix, Arizona couple was doing some renovation on a home they had bought when they found a safe inside a wall. Previously they had found a combination in the back of a medicine cabinet, and sure enough, it opened the safe.
Inside they found a bottle of bourbon and… $51,080 in cash.
They also found a copy of the book, A Guide for the Perplexed, by E.F. Schumacher, which was published in 1977. Inside that there were clues of some sort, as well as a black and white photo of a man, with a note to someone named “Alan” on the back.
Since they have not (as yet) located the owner or solved the mystery of the safe, it looks like they get to keep the money.
2. Half-a-Million in Silver and Gold in a Storage Unit
When you buy the abandoned contents of self-storage units, you’re not allowed to inspect the contents thoroughly before the auction so you never really know what you’ll get. That element of the unknown makes it a true treasure hunt.
Now, if you’ve seen A&E’s Storage Wars, you know that sometimes the winning bidder gets a nice payday. And one of the best discoveries wasn’t even caught by the cameras.
ABC News reports that a man in California (who chooses to remain anonymous), won the contents of one unit for a bid of $1,100 in an auction run by American Auctioneers, the company featured in Storage Wars. The cameras were not rolling when he opened a dusty plastic container that was part of his haul.
Inside the plastic tub he discovered gold and silver bars, and many rare coins. The total value of his haul? About $500,000.
3. Money Poured Out of the Wall
A story in the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, details yet another tale of treasure in a wall.
Jeff Bidelman, who owns a collectibles store, went to appraise furniture in a house that had been empty for decades. The previous owner’s daughter shared rumors of coins being thrown into a wall, so when he saw a hole, he broke it open.
Coins poured out. They had been piling up there for years, and has dates ranging from 1826 through 1964. He also found a pile of old coins in another room.
The estimated value of the treasure is $100,000 to $200,000.
4. The Lost Hammer Worth Millions
What do you do when you get a metal detector as a retirement gift? If you’re Eric Lawes, of Suffolk, England, you use it to search for a lost hammer.
That’s according to a 2018 report on Smithsonian.com. It isn’t noted whether Lawes ever found that hammer, but he did find the largest cache of Roman treasure discovered in Great Britain.
It included “15,234 Roman coins, dozens of silver spoons and 200 gold objects.”
Lawes generously left the treasure intact and called the police and a local archaeological society, so the objects could be excavated properly. The British government generously gave him 1.75 million pounds ($2.38 million at the current exchange rate) as a reward.
5. Hidden Boxes of Cash — In the Wall!
Okay, by now you’re probably ready to tear open those walls. But be careful, both of the wiring and the people with who you share your discoveries.
For example, Fox News says that when Bob Kitts found metal boxes full of cash in a bathroom wall, he wanted to keep some of it. He was a contractor, working for Amanda Reece, the owner of the home.
Besides their dispute, there was also a lawsuit filed by 21 descendants of a previous owner of the home, who presumably stashed the cash. It isn’t clear how everything was settled, but Reece says $60,000 of the money was stolen, and another report says she has since declared bankruptcy.
How much was in those metal boxes? The total was around $182,000 of currency by face value, but because many of the old depression-era bills were old and rare, the cache may have been worth as much as $500,000.
6. The $2 Million Rummage Sale Treasure
Have you ever wondered about some old item you saw at a rummage sale? Maybe it was worth something, or maybe it wasn’t. So you walked away and saved a dollar.
Or three dollars. That’s what a New York family paid for an old Chinese bowl at a rummage sale, according to NBC News.
It turns out it was from the Northern Song Dynasty in China, and was made 1,000 years earlier. The family had it auctioned off by Sotheby’s.
The final bid was $2.2 million!
7. The $2 Million Thrift Store Treasure
No rummage sales near you at the moment? Try treasure hunting at thrift stores! That’s where 74-year-old Texan Teri Horton found a Jackson Pollock painting… maybe.
According to a CBS News “60 Minutes” report, Horton says she bought the “ugly” painting for $5 at a thrift store — as a joke. She told Anderson Cooper, “We were going to get the darts and throw at it, but we never got around to it.”
When she tried to sell it at a yard sale an art teacher mentioned that it looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. Her reply was, “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?,” which eventually became the name of a documentary about the adventure that followed.
Horton investigated further and spent years trying to get the painting certified as an authentic Jackson Pollock. The evidence suggested that it might be real, and, if so, could be worth as much as $50 million.
But apparently there was not enough evidence to convince the art community in general. Still, one collector did offer Horton $2 million for the painting. She said no, adding, “Be fair with me and I’ll sell it.”
8. A Bluetooth Treasure
History.com reports that, “a 13-year-old boy in Germany has discovered a thousand-year-old hoard of coins and jewelry.” The boy, Luca Malaschnitschenko, found the cache with a simple metal detector while working with an amateur archaeologist on the Island of Rügen, in the Baltic Sea.
The two notified Germany’s official archaeological office, and a dig was started in April of this year, with the help of Malaschnitschenko. So far they’ve uncovered 600 ancient coins, along with many pieces of jewelry.
It appears that the treasure belonged to Danish king Harald Bluetooth, a viking known for introducing Christianity to Denmark. PC World says today’s Bluetooth technology is named after the viking king, and the trademarked symbol is made up of two runes that spell out “HB.”
There is no word yet on the value of this treasure.
9. Flea Market Declaration of Independence
Back in 1991 The New York Times reported that a man in Pennsylvania a man bought one of the original 24 copies of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
At a flea market.
The man, who chose to remain anonymous, thought he was just buying a painting, in order to reuse the frame. But later, behind the canvas, he found the Declaration of Independence.
At the time the document was estimated to be worth $800,000. The New York Times later reported that it was auctioned off for a final bid of $2.4 million.
10. Van Gogh in the Attic
A few years back, NPR reported that a Van Gogh painting, which had disappeared for more than 100 years, was rediscovered in Norway… in an attic.
The painting, titled “Sunset at Montmajour,” was created in 1888, but, because it was not signed by the artist, it was declared a fake in 1908. The owner at the time put it away in the attic and forgot about it.
Recently rediscovered in the attic and purchased by a collector, it has now been proven to be an original Van Gogh.
The lesson: You might want to be careful about throwing away anything you find in your attic or basement. At least one report suggests Sunset at Montmajour could be worth as much as $50 million!
11. Treasure in the Couch
NBC News reports that a student (not identified) in Berlin, Germany, found a painting in a second hand couch he bought at a flea market for $215. The piece is titled “Preparation to Escape to Egypt,” but the artist is not known.
What is known is that painting was done between 1605 and 1620. The age, and the fact that the artist was assumed to be “close to Venetian painter Carlo Saraceni,” apparently make the piece valuable.
Hmm… Maybe, if you’re not sure about a used couch or chair you’re considering buying, you should check under the cushions to see if there are any “extras.”
At auction the painting brought a high bid of $27,630.
12. A Jewelry-Wearing Skeleton
If you’ve ever considered buying a good metal detector, now may be the time. The technology has been improving, and basic units start at under $100. And then there are stories like this to motivate you…
The Telegraph reports that Thomas Lucking, a student metal detectorist, recently found, in Norfolk, England, a “female skeleton wearing a pendant of gold imported from Sri Lanka and coins bearing the marks of a continental king…” The discovery may change history books and prompt “a fundamental reassessment of the seats of power in Anglo Saxon England.”
It also might change Lucking’s future. He will be awarded 145,000 pounds for the discovery, which at current exchange rates is about $198,000.
Now that’s what I call “lucking” out.
Is Your Story Next?
If any of the stories here have inspired you, why not start looking for those hidden treasures? And if you want to start cheap (that is what this website is about after all), you can forget the expensive equipment and even go treasure hunting without leaving home.
If you’ve ever found a hidden treasure, please share your story with us below, and keep on frugaling!