Everyone dreams of becoming rich, or at least living without debt. And every day, we hear rags-to-riches stories where people go to take their dogs for a walk or were playing around with a metal detector when they came across something that was worth millions. We love to hear stories like that and wonder to ourselves, will this ever happen to me? While there are such people who managed to become millionaires overnight by finding something unique, there also exists people who have been in possession of something valuable for years. These people thought that some of their findings were just ‘junk’ and left it under their beds for years. Thankfully, they were able to learn of its true value before it was thrown away or given to someone else. Here, we are listing some amazing stories of people who thought they found junk items but were actually worth a fortune.
1. Woman buys a costume ring at a garage sale for $13 and wore it every day for nearly 30 years without knowing that it was a 26-carat diamond that was actually worth $847,667.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That came true for a woman in London when she purchased what looked like a display ring. The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, discovered the ring at a garage sale during the 1980’s and decided to buy it for a mere $13. She then wore it every day for 30 years without knowing how valuable it really was. In 2017, while visiting a jeweler to repair a piece of her jewelry, an employee commented on how big her diamond ring was. Curious to see if it was actually worth anything, she decided to have the employee take a look at it.
After taking a closer look, the store clerk informed her that it was worth at least $250,000. What the woman didn’t know was the fact that she had been wearing a 26-carat diamond ring for the past 27 years without knowing its value. The diamond ring was originally priced at over $400,000, but at the Sotheby’s Fine Jewels auction in London, it was sold for $847,667. (source)
2. A Michigan man found a huge piece of rock after buying a farm. After falling in love with the patterns on the rock, he decided to use it as a door stop for more than 20 years before learning that it was a rare piece of meteorite estimated to be worth $100,000.
The Michigan man who wishes to remain anonymous discovered the rock in 1998 after purchasing a farm. The rock had some unique patterns that he fell in love with. Not wanting to discard it, he decided to use it as a door stop. When reading about meteorites found in Michigan, he noticed that the specimens in the photos resembled the door stop he had been walking past for more than 20 years. Eager to see if it is in fact a meteorite, the man took it to Central Michigan University to be examined by geology professor Mona Sirbescu.
Prof. Sirbescu confirmed that it was in fact a meteorite that was made of of 88.5% iron and 11.5% nickel. The space rock turned out to be rare and weighed 22 pounds, making it the sixth-largest recorded find in Michigan. According to CMU, the piece of space rock is estimated to be worth at least $100,000. (source)
3. An art collector purchased an old painting for $4 at a Pennsylvania flea market and held it for two years before realizing that it contained the original copy of the Declaration of Independence. It sold for $2.42 million in 1991.
The New York Times reports that the man, who wishes to remain anonymous , purchased a painting for $4 at a Pennsylvania flea market. He was only interested in the frame and not the picture. After taking it home and removing the picture, he noticed that there was a Declaration of Independence safely tucked behind. It was in fact the “fresh copy” of the Declaration of Independence; one of 500 official copies from the first printing in 1776.
However, the man wasn’t aware of its value at the time. After safely putting it away, he forgot about it for two long years before finally showing it to a friend, who urged him to take it to a printing specialist. When the print was taken to Selby Kiffer, an Americana printing specialist at Sotheby’s, its true identity was discovered. Auction house Sotheby’s sold it in 1991 for $2.42 million; the highest price for historical Americana ever at the time. (source)
4. A superstitious fisherman was out fishing when the boat’s anchor became lodged in something. After swimming to the bottom, he discovered a giant clam harboring a 75 pound pearl. He took it as a good luck charm and kept it under his bed for 10 years before finding out that it could be worth $100 million.
According to a report in the local Palawan News, a man from Puerto Princesa, on Palawan Island, was out fishing in 2006 when his boat’s anchor became lodged in something. After swimming to the bottom, he discovered a giant clam harboring a 1 foot wide and 2.2 feet long pearl that weighs an astonishing 75 pounds. However, the man did not wish to sell it or share it with others. He simply kept it under his bed as a good luck charm for nearly a decade.
Things changed in 2016 when his house caught on fire, destroying it completely. After rummaging through the rubble, he found the pearl and entrusted it to his aunt who was working as a tourism officer. She convinced him to have it checked, which lead to the revelation that it could in fact be the world’s largest pearl to have ever been discovered. Once verified, the pearl could very well be worth over $100 million. (source)
5. A woman named Nancy from Chicago purchased a bag of moon dust for $995. Although she didn’t feel like it was authentic, it was later confirmed to be a real sample from the Apollo 11 moon landing and was sold at an auction for $1.8 million.
During the first manned mission to the moon in 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong and crew brought back samples including moon rocks and dust. However, some of the samples and items from NASA were stolen and sold to an unknown buyer. The FBI was hot on the track and finally apprehended the culprit. After the man was arrested, the stolen goods and other items were taken to a Federal safe where they were to be sorted and stored. During the transfer, a mismatch occurred and one of the bags containing lunar dust ended up in the Federal website for sale.
In 2015, Nancy Lee Carlson was browsing the internet, looking for rare items to purchase when she stumbled upon a bag, labeled “lunar sample return,” on an online federal auction site. Nancy was quick to purchase it and once the item arrived at her home, she wanted to make sure that her purchase was in fact authentic. So, Nancy sent the sample to NASA, in order to have a test performed. After conducting tests, NASA recognized the sample to be from the first moon landing and confiscated it, claiming that it rightfully belonged to them. Nancy however, wasn’t going down without a fight.
Nancy filed a federal lawsuit to get it back while NASA claimed it rightfully belonged to them in the first place. When the case went to trial, the judge argued that he did not have the authority to reverse a sale that had already taken place and ordered NASA to return the moon dust. NASA, although hesitant, returned the sample, which was put up for auction and sold for $1.8 million. (source)
6. A collector stumbled upon a picture of Billy the Kid playing a leisurely game of croquet. He spent $2 to purchase the photo and later found out it’s worth $5 million.
Billy the Kid, born Henry McCarty, was an American outlaw. In 2010, Western Americana enthusiast Randy Guijarro was going through old items in a junk shop when he came across what appeared to be a 4-by-5 inch photo. Although it looked like any other historical photo, Randy didn’t think much of it but decided to buy it anyway for a mere $2. However, a close examination of the photo revealed that it contained the legendary outlaw, Billy the Kid.
The photo was immediately sent to an authentication project by Western Americana and Rare Coin experts, Kagin’s, Inc., who confirmed that the picture was in fact authentic. After verification, the photo was valued at $5 million since it contained certified images of the bandit Billy the Kid. (source)
7. Maintenance worker clearing storage room in an abandoned mall discovered Michael Jordan’s old shoes with his original signature on it. The shoes are expected to sell for at least $20,000.
On Feb. 18, 2019, Larry Awe, a maintenance worker at Milwaukee’s Capitol Court Mall, was clearing out the storage unit before the mall was to be demolished. Before leaving the storage unit, he went through the trash to make sure that nothing of value was discarded. As it turned out, there was an original pair of Michael Jordan’s shoes that had his signature on them. Awe immediately knew that it did not belong in the trash and took it. One of the shoes containing the signature reads, “My Very Best”. The size 13 shoe used to be on display in the sports apparel store, Playmakers, years ago. Awe hopes to sell the shoes on Heritage Auction and many believe that it would go on sale for at least $20,000. (source)
8. An Indiana man used a 19th century painting to cover up a hole in his wall without realizing that it was actually worth $1.25 million.
During the 1990’s, an Indiana man decided to fix a hole in the wall through the easiest way possible. He walked into a resale shop and purchased a painting, which he then hung up in his wall. For years, the painting covered the hole and the man didn’t think much of it until he played the board game, Masterpiece.
During the game, he noticed that the art included was similar to the painting in his living room. So, the man decided to do some research and discovered that the painting was in fact called “Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth”, by 19th-century American painter Martin Johnson Heade. After the discovery, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston became aware of it and paid him $1.25 million to add it to their collection. (source)
9. In 1938, Roy Spencer, then 12, found an enormous black crystal and took it to his dad. His dad considered it to be worthless and used it as a doorstep for 9 years before it was revealed that it was the world’s largest star sapphire.
In 1938, Roy Spencer, 12, from Queensland, Australia, was playing in the backyard when he came across an unusual looking stone. Curious to see if it was in fact worth something, he took it to his father, who dismissed it as having no value. The stone was then used as a doorstep for nine long years in the Spencer family home. His father, Harry, was a miner of the central Queensland gem fields but did not realize that sapphires could also be present in the unique black color. The realization only came nine years later, when he learned that sapphires could come in all colors except for red.
Harry then went on to let the world know about the family’s find and the word reached far corners of the world. Armenian-born jeweler Harry Kazanjian learned of the find and traveled all the way from Los Angeles to Queensland and purchased the gem for $18,000 (about $185,000 in today’s value). He then carefully cut the oval cabochon to reveal a six-pointed star, which went on to sell for $1 million in 1949. Named “The Black Star of Queensland”, today, the gem is valued at close to $100 million. (source)
10. In 2012, Loren Krytzer was down on his luck when he discovered that an old, discarded blanket in his house was an one-of-a-kind heirloom worth $1.5 million.
In 2012, Loren Krytzer was going through a difficult time. A car accident cost him one of his legs, he was out of work and was relying on a monthly allowance of $200. One day, as he was flipping through channels, Krytzer came across “Antiques Roadshow”, that was hosting a story about a one-of-a-kind blanket that was valued at half a million dollars.
The bells immediately started ringing for Krytzer since he remembered seeing a similar one, tucked away in his closet. The very next day, Krytzer took the blanket to a California auction, who verified that it was indeed a match. The auction house also helped Krytzer sell the blanket for an amazing $1.5 million. The blanket was in fact a Navajo blanket from the 1800’s. (source)