#4. A Cell Phone With Famous Contacts
In Provo, Utah, in 2010, a man went into an electronics store and found a used early model Blackberry on sale for 50 cents. Wanting to stay exactly 10 years behind current technology, he bought the device, only to find that neither the store nor the Blackberry's previous owner had erased any of the numbers on it. As the man looked at the contact names closer, he began to recognize a few. Like NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, former NBA star Patrick Ewing, MLB commissioner Bud Selig, NBA commissioner David Stern, Tom Brokaw, Bob Costas and a slew of millionaires. It had belonged to either some high-ranking figure in the sports industry or a crazed billionaire planning a Star Trek-style menagerie of celebrity warriors.
"Hey, Patrick? Are you available to fight in a cage against Wayne Gretzky?"
While anyone else might have used a celebrity sound board and vague threats of paternity lawsuits to organize one of the greatest athletic events ever held in a Provo backyard, the man was from Utah, where everyone is cursed with good-natured honesty.
The Provo man simply tracked down the phone's original owner, who turned out to be Salt Lake City sports magnate Dave Checketts, former president of the Utah Jazz and New York Rangers and owner of the MLS team Real Salt Lake, and gave it back to him. Checketts, who had lost the Blackberry full of names and confidential emails, was happy to have it back. The Provo man didn't do anything to the Blackberry, but did say he was tempted to call Bob Costas or Marv Albert on their home phones. The two blandest white guys on the list wouldn't have been our choice, but hey, we're not from Utah.
Bob Costas, the oat bran of human beings.
#3. The Rosetta Stone
During the Napoleonic Wars in 1799, French troops in Rashid, Egypt, were quickly digging up earth to rebuild a fort that had been bombarded by the British. Their fervent digging was producing quite a bit of rock debris, which was steadily being tossed aside to hasten the work. An officer named Pierre-Francois Bouchard, who apparently found bombardings boring, started checking out some of the stones. That's when he noticed that one of them had writing on it. "Alright, who's the wise guy?" we like to imagine him asking the troops who were busily digging for their lives, and not giving a shit about the stones getting in the way of their lifesaving shelter. That's when he looked a little closer and noticed that the rocks were covered in three different types of writing, including ancient Egyptian.
Bouchard figured the stone might be something important, so he notified his superiors, who in turn got Napoleon's personal science team in the area, presumably after telling Bouchard to get his lazy ass back to the bombardment shelter.
"This looks like a job for slightly fewer cannons."
As it turns out, the stone was a decree issued by King Ptolemy V transcribed in three different languages. Until that point, historians had no idea how to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs, but the Rosetta Stone (as it would come to be known) had them translated into two languages, one of which was ancient Greek. Ancient Greek was then, and still is today, widely understood by the academic community, so the Rosetta Stone became the key to cracking a language that most people assumed would never be understood and thereby provided us with pretty much everything we now know about ancient Egyptian civilization.
#2. Ansel Adams Photographs
In 2000, an art teacher in California named Rick Norsigian was at a garage sale looking for barbershop chairs when he saw some old photo negatives. He immediately recognized the location as Yosemite, California, having grown up in and around the national park, and decided it might be fun to have some pictures of his old stomping ground. Not barbershop-chair fun, but hey, not every garage sale is a winner.
He bought the two boxes of negatives for $45 dollars, after bargaining them down from $70. Feeling pretty good about the $25 he'd saved, Norsigian brought the boxes home and promptly forgot about them for the next decade.
"Goddamnit, not a barbershop chair in sight."
In 2010, Norsigian was rummaging through his basement when he found the boxes under a pool table. This time, he took a closer look, and noticed that they closely resembled the work of famed photographer Ansel Adams. Adams is widely considered the "father of American photography" by experts, and "the guy who took those pictures on what's her name's wall" by anyone who had sex with that one blonde girl freshman year of college.
She kept her webcam on the whole time.
After some independent snooping, Rick decided the photos might be worth something and moved them from the secure location under his pool table in the basement to a vault. Next, he assembled a team of experts who used handwriting samples to confirm they were Adams' work, and who valued the pictures at over $200 million. Norsigian says he hasn't yet heard from the garage sale owner who sold him the prints for $45. If he does, Norsigian will probably have to admit that he might have been overstating things when he claimed the initial $70 asking price was highway robbery.
"I have a rule: Never pay more than 1/444,444 of the market price."
#1. King Tut's Tomb
The discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter is one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century and certainly the most famous, as it was the first tomb that had been left pretty much untouched since the time it was sealed. Locked safely inside were scores of artifacts, gold, artwork and even garlands of flowers that disintegrated when touched after lying undisturbed for thousands of years.
Via Wiki Commons
Because the first rule of archeology is break the shit out of everything. Set it on fire if possible.
But all this would have remained a secret if it weren't for the bold ingenuity of Howard Carter, right? Well no, actually. Carter didn't exactly pinpoint the location and miraculously discover it. In fact, he didn't really discover it at all. In 1922, Carter was convinced there was an unknown tomb somewhere in the Valley of Kings in Egypt, but he had no idea where to even start looking. Other archaeologists of the time flat out told him there were no more tombs left to uncover, but Carter went out anyway because those guys could kiss his ass.
"It's out here somewhere, goddamnit."
After weeks of finding nothing but sand and crushing self-doubt, Carter was growing weary. One day, in the middle of digging up a spot where this time there was totally going to be a tomb, you guys, he sent a local boy to get him water. The boy got Carter his water and then started wandering around close by, randomly poking the sand with a stick. In an almost vaudevillian stroke of fate, the stick hit a stone that, when uncovered, revealed a step. The boy rushed to Carter, who heroically took all the credit and moved his digging efforts over to where he knew the ruins were all along.
Via Wiki Commons
"Why are you assholes in the frame? Get out there and 'discover' me a sandwich."
After weeks of removing sand and rock, Carter's team uncovered King Tut's burial chamber, finding innumerable treasures and artifacts, including King Tut himself. The discovery made headlines around the world, and Carter became famous overnight for taking advantage of a poor modern Egyptian boy to plunder the grave of a rich ancient Egyptian boy, because that's what white people do.
For more ridiculous finds, check out 5 Pieces of Junk That Turned Out to be Invaluable Artifacts. Or check out what would've happened if other important items had been trashed.