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My recent article on treasure hunting covered metal detecting, panning for gold, prospecting for valuables in old buildings, hotel rooms, and thrift stores, along with five other strategies.
But that’s far from being a comprehensive list, and “treasure” takes many forms. In fact, some of my previous articles on ways to make money essentially describe a treasure hunt.
For example, consider the recent piece on dumpster diving and garbage picking. That activity involves searching for things of value, with an unpredictable but potentially profitable outcome — which is basically the definition of treasure hunting.
There are even many ways and places to search for treasure without ever leaving home, which is what this article covers. Here are ten examples.
1. Look Inside Your Walls
You never know what you might find inside the walls of a house — especially an old house. For example, I’ve found tools in walls when remodeling. They were probably left behind by the original construction workers.
I’ve also hidden cash inside walls, and without telling anyone, which begs the question, “What if I had died before removing the money?” Now you can understand one way treasures get lost in the first place.
What else can you find in there?
Blair Pitre, from Lacombe, Alberta, found movie posters in his walls. They had been stuffed inside to serve as insulation and were discovered during Pitre’s renovations. He auctioned them off and made almost $50,000.
In Johnstown, Pennsylvania a hole in a wall led to a discovery worth $200,000. The owner of a collectibles store was appraising furniture in a house that had been empty for years, and when he saw the hole he tapped the wall.
It sounded like something was in there so he broke it open and a pile of coins spilled out. The dates on them went back as far as 1793.
To search your walls without tearing them apart remove electrical outlet plates (turn the power off first). A flashlight, perhaps in combination with a dental mirror bought at a dollar store, might reveal something hidden in there.
You can sometimes peer into the spaces between walls through openings in the laundry area. Or try looking down into them from the attic, through holes cut for power lines. And speaking of attics…
2. Search That Attic
It’s an obvious one, but have you thoroughly searched your attic for any treasures left behind by previous occupants? I once found collectible magazines and a jar full of old pennies in the attic of a house my parents bought, but the discoveries can be much more valuable than that.
For example, in 2013 a Vincent Van Gogh painting was discovered in an attic.
If there is incomplete flooring in your attic, search for things tucked under the edge of the boards. If there is no floor, carefully look under the insulation using gloves and a mask. But be careful or you might fall through the ceiling.
3. Check Under the Carpet
When I pulled up the carpet in that old house my parents bought I discovered newspapers. They had been used as padding. Sadly I just threw them all away, only later realizing that they may have been old enough to be collectibles.
Newspapers are not the only thing you could find under old carpet. Money is sometimes hidden under loose corners.
Then there is the family that found a floor safe under the ratty carpeting in a closet. Among the treasures in it were silver bars, jewelry, and old coins.
4. Pop Up Those Floorboards
Okay, don’t go tearing apart your floor, but if you find a loose floorboard or two, why not take a peek underneath?
In Edinburgh, Scotland a developer found classic British Rail posters under the floorboards of a house he bought. They sold for £18,000, or about $23,000.
5. Search That Garage
I’m still waiting for my big treasure discovery, but I did find rolls of copper wire in the garage attic of a house we briefly owned. I sold them to a scrap metal buyer for a few dollars.
What else could you discover in the garage? In Carson City, Nevada, city officials were cleaning up a house left behind by a deceased recluse, and they found $7 million in gold coins and bullion in the garage. The man had just $200 in his bank account!
Check the garage rafters or attic, as well as the walls if there is a way to look inside them. Also look behind the water heater, on shelves, and anywhere else somebody might have stashed cash or valuables.
6. Look in The Ceiling
I have yet another personal story, this time from childhood, which will explain why you might find treasures in a ceiling. It all started when we discovered a hole in the kitchen floor about 40 years ago.It was just large enough for coins to fit through.
My brothers and I thought it was fun to throw pennies into the hole from across the kitchen. We had no way to recover them, so it’s possible they’re still there today, piled up on the ceiling tiles of the lower level of the house. By now some of those pennies are probably old enough to have numismatic value.
What else? A contractor in Queensbury, New York found $15,000 cash in the ceiling of a house he was remodeling, and gave it to the owners.
Sometimes you can check the ceiling from above, in the attic. Of course if it’s a drop-ceiling you can lift the tiles and take a peek here and there.
7. Go Prospecting in Your Wallet
Did you know some dollar bills can be sold for hundreds of dollars? Other denominations can also be worth more than face value. That makes looking through the bills in your wallet a treasure hunt.
It’s all about finding bills with interesting serial numbers, like 12121212, or 00000010. Collectors value these oddities, and there is even a website where you can sell any cool bills you find. It is (of course) CoolSerialNumbers.com.
Go ahead, pull out that wallet and take a look.
8. Look in the Closet
That floor safe full of silver and other valuables, mentioned above, was under the carpet in a closet. But there are other places to look for treasure in a closet.
Start with the obvious, like any old boxes on the floor. Get a chair or ladder and check on top of the highest shelves.
But don’t stop there. Look for evidence of alterations in the floor, ceiling and walls. I once cut a hole in the wall above a closet door. I stashed money there and installed a false-wall covering consisting of a perfectly-cut and painted piece of plywood.
What else could you find in a closet? In Virginia, Michael Rorrer found 345 comic books in a closet when he was cleaning out the house of a deceased aunt. These classic collectibles, which included Action Comics No. 1, the issue with the first appearance of Superman, sold for a total of $3.5 million.
9. Search the Basement
Basements are probably better than attics for treasure hunting. I say that not just because of the 150-year-old photo of Abraham Lincoln discovered in a basement (valued at between $75,000 and $100,000), or the Rembrandt painting found in New Jersey basement (which sold at auction for $870,000).
You see, there can be exciting finds anywhere people store stuff and forget about it. But sometimes treasure is purposely hidden, and basements have so many hiding places.
For example, in that previous article on treasure hunting I wrote about the chest I discovered which contained old Vietnamese coins and currency. It was located in a crawl space that could only be accessed through the basement.
Oh, and I was in that basement crawl space to bury 100 ounces of silver, which I left there for years before selling it all.
Check any basement-accessed crawl spaces for treasure, and perhaps bring a metal detector. But be very careful about digging into and damaging pipes or wiring.
Where else can you look?
I used to hide things on top of ductwork that ran along the ceiling of the basement, because I was the only one in the house tall enough to easily reach there. I’m sure other people have done the same.
Other places to look include behind the furnace or water heater and on top of cement-block walls (between the floor joists or even inside open blocks).
Of course, if things have been stored down there for many years, dig into those old boxes and suitcases and anything else that might contain valuable collectibles like Rembrandt Paintings or signed photos of past presidents.
10. Pick Through That Shed
If you have any storage sheds on your property, go through them carefully. Past occupants may have left you some surprises.
For example, when we bought a house in Colorado that was built in 1897, it came with a brick storage building in the back yard. In the eaves and on top of the brick walls inside, there were tools and other old items. There was nothing of great value (I’m still waiting for that big score), but it made for an interesting treasure hunt in any case.
There also was an antique oil stove. It may have been valuable, but I’ll never know, because I left it there for the next owner of the home.
What else can you find? A lost painting by British artist Alfred Munnings, worth $13,000 to $19,000, was found in a shed.
Look beyond the things stored openly. Sometimes people hide things in sheds, so poke around in the rafters, and if the floor is made of cement tiles look for loose or sunken ones. Something might be buried underneath.
If you’ve ever gone on a treasure hunt around your home,tell us what you found.