20 Fateful Times People Happened Across Random Things That Turned Out To Be Worth A Fortune
You know that awesome feeling when you find a dollar in the pocket of your old coat? Well, this is just that, except the finds that you're about to read about are worth a little bit more than a dollar. From people who found trash on the side of the road that wound up being worth thousands, to inherited goods that were way more valuable than originally thought, these 20 stories are all about luck.
It really makes you think whether you should go thrift shopping or even dumpster diving because apparently, you never know what treasure is hiding there (check out our posts about fascinating finds in thrift stores to get the idea.) But before you do that, scroll down below to read about these 20 lucky people whose old items (found, bought, or inherited) turned out to be worth a fortune. In addition to this, drop us a comment about whether you ever came across something highly valuable in places you didn't expect to!
Hand-Me-Down Navajo Blanket—worth $1.5M
Back in 2007, one Californian man was barely getting by on disability checks after losing his leg in a car accident. "I had kids to take care of, no money. Nothing saved up or nothing like that," Loren Krytzer looked back on that time. Around the same time, he inherited an old blanket after his grandmother died, which nobody in his family wanted. "I don’t want that, that dirty old thing," he recalled his sister saying. One night, in 2011, Loren was watching an episode of Antiques Roadshow in which one man was shocked to find out that his First Phase Navajo blanket was actually worth around half a million dollars. The appraiser then explained that such textiles were super expensive even in their own era. "I paused it and I went and got the blanket and I’m sitting there holding it. … I’m lining up the lines on the TV with the blanket, seeing if they match," Loren recalls. And he realized that they were nearly identical. Soon enough, Loren Krytzer walked into the California auction room unemployed, broke, and depressed, to walk out a millionaire—the old Navajo blanket from the 1800s that nobody in his family wanted turned out to be worth $1.5 million.
A diamond ring—worth $607K
Debra Goddard, a woman from West London, bought a glass ring at a boot sale back in 1986 for merely $13. For 33 years, she believed it to be pretty much worthless, until she had to sell a lot of her belongings when her mother lost all her money due to a relative's fraud. It was then when Debra found out that the ring had a 26.27-carat diamond. "When I went to the jeweler, he nearly fainted and said, 'Do you know what this is? It's a diamond.' I sat up all night looking at it, wondering what to do," Debra told the media. The woman brought the ring to an auction and earned a whopping $607,900. Debra revealed that she spent most of her money on her mother, as she believed "it's karma for the bad things that happened and my mum being robbed of everything." She revealed that she's taken her mom to "holidays in Barbados, see Tom Jones, Celine Dion in Vegas and bought a fur coat."
Declaration Of Independence—worth $2.42m
In 1776, 500 copies of the Declaration of Independence were printed and only 23 copies were known to still exist before 1989. That same year, one man in Philadelphia bought an old painting at a flea market for $4 because he liked its frame. After it broke, the man discovered a document that appeared to be a copy of the Declaration of Independence tucked away between the canvas and its backing. Later on, the document was sold for $2.42 million at an auction.
Faberge Egg—worth $20M
One scrap metal entrepreneur bought a golden egg for about $14,000, hoping he could make some profit when reselling the piece due to its precious metal content. Turns out, the scrap metal dealer found one of the eight missing Faberge imperial eggs at a flea market in the American Midwest.
The dealer began to suspect he had something truly rare after reading an article online about an imperial Faberge Easter egg made for Russian royalty. He contacted Kieran McCarthy of Wartski, who specializes in Russian artifacts, who confirmed that the egg was in fact genuine and negotiated its sale to a collector.
Both the buyer and seller of the Faberge Easter egg wanted to remain anonymous, and the price of the rare piece was also not disclosed. However, experts guess that the egg is worth somewhere up to $20 million.
A giant pearl—worth $100M
When one fisherman's anchor got stuck on what he thought was a rock during a storm, he took it with him as a good luck charm. The man found it back in 2006 in Palawan Island, Philippines and kept the 2-foot-long rock for 10 years at his house before it caught on fire and had to be cleared out. In 2016, he took the rock to a local tourism office in Puerto Princesca, where it was verified that the rock was actually a giant clam. Measuring at 1 foot wide and 2.2 feet long, the 34 kg giant pearl was said to be worth $100 million.
“Christ Mocked”— worth up to $6.6M
One elderly woman in Compiègne, France was about to sell her house, so she invited an auctioneer to assess the value of her belongings. The expert Philomène Wolf had a week to determine whether anything was worth saving before going into the dumpster. The auctioneer quickly noticed a small painting hanging above the hot plate in the kitchen. As it later turned out, the painting dates back to the 13th century and is a work of an Italian artist, Cimabue. Known as "Christ Mocked," the masterpiece comes from a series of only 11 paintings depicting Jesus' crucifixion. The house owner said that she'd had it so long she could not remember when or where she got the painting. "Christ Mocked," which the French woman believed to be just an "old religious icon from Russia," turned out to be worth somewhere from $4 million to $6.6 million.
Edmore meteorite—worth $100K
For years, one man in Edmore, Michigan used this 22.5-pound hunk of iron as a doorstop on his farm. When he bought the farm back in the late '80s, the previous owner told him that the iron chunk was in fact a meteorite from the '30s. Only 30 years later did the farmer contact a geology professor from Central Michigan University to take a look at the rock, which was later confirmed to be an actual meteorite. The professor, Mona Sirbescu, later told USA Today: "The story goes that it was collected immediately after they witnessed the big boom and the actual meteorite was dug out from a crater." She told the media that the story was passed down orally, with no eyewitnesses to verify it. Now, the meteorite that was named "Edmore" is known to be the sixth-largest to be found in Michigan and is worth $100K.
John Constable painting—worth $400K
Bought at an auction and kept in a cupboard for years, this small painting turned out to be worth almost half a million dollars. The postcard-sized painting was bought for merely 30 pounds (around $38) in the British city of Canterbury in the early 2000s. It depicts a 19th-century landscape, and has a faint signature on its back. The signature was what prompted its owner to show the painting to an antiques dealer and forgeries expert. "Our investigation confirms this thing has passed through a number of hands over the years and it’s never been sold—it’s a fresh-to-the-market, sweet little item," the expert Curtis Dowling told Reuters. As it turned out, the landscape was painted by the 19th-century artist John Constable and is worth around $400,000.
Picasso plate—worth up to $15K
In the 1970s, a woman who was a keen plate collector bought a plate in Rhode Island for under $100. The plate looked pretty, so she hung it on the wall of her kitchen. For years, it has been sitting above the stove, as "all of [the] kids loved the smiley face." Around 2010, the woman went into a gallery and saw a plate that looked similar to the one above her stove. She told someone in the gallery that she had something nearly identical in her kitchen. The woman recalled on a TV show: "The guy sort of gasped and said, 'Over your stove?' And I said, 'Yeah, I have a plate collection.' He said, 'Do you know what you have?'" Apparently, she did not. What she did have was, in fact, a genuine work of Picasso from 1955. When she went to Antiques Roadshow, she learned that the plate could be worth somewhere from $10,000 to $15,000. "That's fabulous," the woman then said. See, it does pay off to collect things!
Apple I Computer—worth $200K
Back in 2015, a woman dropped off an old Apple computer at a recycling center in Silicon Valley. She found it inside boxes of electronics that she had cleaned out of her garage after her husband passed away. Victor Gichun, the vice president of the Clean Bay Area, said that the mystery woman didn't want a tax receipt and didn't leave any contact information. It wasn't until a few weeks later that the workers of the recycling center opened the boxes only to discover an Apple I computer inside.
As the media then reported, it was one of only about 200 first-generation desktop computers assembled by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ron Wayne in 1976. The recycling firm sold the computer for $200,000 to a private collector. The company gives 50 percent of items sold back to the original owner and wanted to do the same this time, but the woman who dropped off the valuable item was impossible to trace.
A possible photo of Billy the Kid—worth $5M
Back in 2015, an unsuspecting man bought a photo in an antique shop in Freemont, CA for $2. As it later turned out, the picture featured the notorious Billy the Kid and members of the Lincoln County gang playing croquet together. Being only the second confirmed photo of the infamous thief of the 19th century, the 1878 photo was valued upwards of $5 million. "Billy the Kid is incredibly famous," David McCarthy, a senior numismatist at Kagin's (a company that specializes in Western Americana and rare coins) told ABC News. "[But] he wasn't shooting people all the time. He had friends he cared about. He had women he chased. It (the photograph) opens up the idea about the humanity of a character like Billy the Kid."
Diamond and ruby ring—worth $400K
One woman inherited jewels from her great aunt, who was a wife of a congressman back in the 1920s. As they were examined on the TV show Antiques Roadshow back in 1998, the experts realized that she had a dual-diamond pendant that was worth $12,000, and a diamond and ruby ring worth $80,000. Moreover, a diamond bracelet with rubies was worth a whopping $165,000. In 2013, experts from the show told the media that the value of the items has increased since the first time the episode aired in 1998. By today's values, the pieces are worth somewhere around $400,000.
Cherokee Satchel from 1800s—worth $145K
In 2010, a woman from San Diego went to Antiques Roadshow. She brought in a satchel her great-grandfather, who was a lieutenant in the Army, had received from the Cherokee in 1846. The bag was a thank-you gift from a Cherokee warrior, who wanted to thank the said great-grandfather for being kind to his people. The woman had a letter from her great-grandfather to prove it, while the satchel itself was authenticated by an expert in tribal arts. "The bag itself probably dates to the 1820s. I think this bag, in its present condition, if it did not have this very important document that tracks its history across the country, would be about $25,000," then said the appraiser Ted Trotta. With the document and restauration (that would cost up to $8000), the piece would be worth somewhere closer to $100,000. However, in 2013, the restored value of the bag went up to $145,000!
Topaz ring with diamonds—worth £4K
Back in 2011, Thea Jourdan went to a secondhand shop and bought herself a brooch. "I had bought it from a junk shop for £20, so I knew it was just flashy old tat," she told the Daily Mail. Oh, how wrong she was. As it later turned out, the stone on the brooch was a topaz weighing 20 carats. And it was surrounded by 27 diamonds. Its color—a rare fiery pink known as Imperial—was once exclusively reserved for Russian royalty. The appraiser informed Thea that the actual worth of the brooch was close to £4,000. "As my discovery proves, you never know when you might stumble across a valuable gem," Thea then told the media. Who are we to disagree?
Hand-me-down baseball cards—worth $1M
Five years ago, a woman brought in a set of old baseball memorabilia she had found in a desk drawer to Antiques Roadshow. The woman said she had inherited the collection from her great-great-grandmother who owned a boarding house in Boston in the mid-19th century. The collection comprised cards for Boston Red Stockings players and a letter signed and addressed to the said great-great-grandmother. "To see them all in one group like that," the executive producer of the show then said. "None of the experts associated with Roadshow have ever seen them all in one place that way." When the big moment of the show came when the appraisers announced the worth of the collection, the woman was overwhelmed with emotion. $1 million! That's how much the baseball memorabilia was actually worth. The woman was understandably ecstatic, as she had assumed it would be worth no more than $5-10 thousand.
Jaeger-LeCoultre watch—worth $35K
One Arizona resident was visiting a Phoenix Goodwill back in 2015 in search of a used push golf cart. There, he came across a variety of old watches. One of them attracted his attention—he noticed a $5.99 watch with a dial that read "LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm." Coincidentally, the man was a watch collector who had a particular interest in vintage watches. He realized that the watch might be worth way more than $5.99, but wasn't sure about its exact value. Therefore, he decided to take it to an authorized retailer in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was there that the man discovered that the timepiece was a rare 1959 LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm, one of the first watches ever to feature an alarm used by divers. Quickly enough, after sharing his find on a "Vintage Watches" Facebook page, the man was overwhelmed by emails from collectors from all around the world, eager to buy the LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm. Eventually, he sold it for $35,000. Not a bad profit from something that you got for merely $5.99, right?
Giuseppe Pedrazzini violin—worth $50K
"Holy smokes, that was a pretty good day!" We'd surely say the same if we discovered a violin among some trash by the side of the road in San Antonio, Texas, which would later turn out to be a 1922 Giuseppe Pedrazzini violin. This was precisely what happened to one Texan. He first took the instrument to a dealer in San Antonio to authenticate it and assess its value. "My wife has a violin that belonged to her grandfather and we thought that we could use it for parts to repair it," the finder explained. Initially, he was offered $1000 for the violin. But when Peter Shaw of Houston dealers Amati Violin Shop appraised the violin for an episode of the PBS show Antiques Roadshow, the numbers were a tad different. As he explained, once cleaned and restored, the instrument could be worth as much as $50,000.
Andy Warhol sketch—worth $2M
One businessman from England was rummaging through a garage sale in Las Vegas when he came across some $5 sketches. One of them was a depiction of the singer Rudy Vallee, who was famous back in the 1930s. Andy Fields, the businessman, purchased the sketches from a man who claimed they were his aunt's, who used to watch over Andy Warhol as a child. Carrying on with his business, the man didn't think much about it until he reframed the picture. On the back of it, he found a signature—as you guessed it, it was none other than that of the famous Andy Warhol. The sketch shows pre-Pop Art Warhol's style, and could possibly have been made when the artist was merely 10-11 years old. A valuer told Andy Fields the sketch could be worth somewhere around $2 million, but the businessman didn't want to sell it just yet.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting—worth £50K
A woman bought a small painting in a flea market in West Virginia back in late 2009 because she liked its frame. Along with a box of trinkets, she paid $7 for it. Marcia Fuqua, the buyer, was unaware that the oil painting was valuable and stored it in a garbage bag for two and a half years. It was only when her mother, who's an art teacher and painter, urged her in 2012 to get the painting appraised. Marcia took the painting to an auction house, where it was verified that it was an authentic Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Painted in 1879 in the impressionist style and named "Paysage Bords de Seine" ("Landscape on the Banks of the Seine"), the painting turned out to be worth somewhere between $75,000 to $100,000. However, after media reported the story, Baltimore Museum of Art came forward saying that the painting was stolen from them. The Federal Bureau of Investigation then took custody of it. As it later turned out, it was stolen from the museum in November 1951, and no one is sure how it got to West Virginia. The court ruled that Marcia Fuqua had no ownership rights of the painting, given that a property title cannot be transferred if it resulted from a theft.
Load of brass—worth £2M
The unknowingly valuable hoard of brass doorknobs and other goods had been stored in a basement for 40 years before one English carpenter went to buy them. Brian Cairns thought the ornate items would be worth £60,000 in scrap. When, upon closer inspection, Brian realized that the brass goods might be vintage, he sent them for experts to evaluate. The haul that included thousands of brass doorknobs and knockers, handles, light switches, ornate wall brackets, chandeliers and bowler hat stands, have been identified as an Italian vintage made by Valli and Columbo. All dating back at least 65 years, they have been valued at a whopping £2M. "These are items that you would never have thought you would have the chance to buy. I think I was just lucky," Brian told the media back in 2015.