#3. Thrift Store Declaration of Independence
So you're rumbling through a thrift store when you spot a cheap-ass-looking copy of the Declaration of Independence. What do you do? If your answer is, "What the hell? How is that even a question? Of course I will leave that shit where it lies," then good for you! You just saved $2.48. If you say, "Of course I'll buy the shit of that shit. Shiiiit," then congratulations! You're Michael Sparks, and you've just earned yourself $477,000.
Just a few tea mop-ups and it'll be as good as old.
It turns out an actual, official copy of the Declaration of Independence that was commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1820 was found slumming in the thrift store circuit. But surely this is just a one-off fluke? It's not as if there are dozens of copies of the Declaration just hanging around, waiting to be found, right?
Think again: 201 of those 1820 Decs were printed, and only 31 have been found so far. And if you want to up the ante a bit, there's always the Dunlap broadside, which was a version of the Declaration that was printed even earlier. Again, some 200 copies were produced -- and a mere 26 have been found. It's not even that they've all succumbed to time, as the latest emerged as recently as 2008.
"Well, we're out of rolling papers. But I found this weird old thing in my grandpa's garage."
So, barring fire, moisture, paper-eating dogs and overzealous neat freaks, there should be well over three hundred copies of the Declaration still out there, waiting for someone to find them anytime now. And just in case you didn't realize it, when we say "out there" we mean at some garage sale or flea market, waiting for you to find one and, like with Mr. Sparks, find all of your money problems suddenly and spectacularly solved.
Just be glad you're not Mr. Sparks' document's previous owner, Stan Caffy, the pipe fitter who hung his genuine Declaration of Independence in his garage as a decorative poster for 10 years before finally donating it to a thrift store (especially because it'd mean you have really bad taste in posters).
"No worries. I think my authentic 'Garfield smokin' a doobie' poster will make up for it."
#2. The World's Luckiest Cafeteria Chef
Imagine you're a chef looking for a new job. You're no newbie in the business, and in fact you command a pretty decent salary -- it's just that you feel like doing something different. Out of your employment options, one company sticks out in particular. They're not offering you anything spectacular -- in fact, the salary would be roughly half of what you're currently getting -- but there's health benefits, and the owners seem like a pretty decent bunch. They're a fledgling software company, and they want you to come cook in their cafeteria.
"No, don't worry about OSHA certification. We're a wacky company with scooters that plays against the rules."
Adorably, the new company even offers you a bunch of stock options you can cash in should they ever hit it big. It all seems pretty cute, so you accept their offer. Startups are always happy to throw around stock options as an incentive (it's risk-free, because the options are worth nothing, and will continue to be worth nothing unless the company takes off). So, you run the company's cafeteria for several years, no big deal.
Less than 10 years later, you cash in your stock options and leave a cool $26 million richer.
Because the company in question was a little operation called "Google."
You should Bing it.
The above scenario played out in full for Charlie Ayers, Google Employee number 53. He was among the many millionaires generated by the company's meteoric rise, thanks to the generous stock options they threw around like Monopoly money back before the company was on anyone's radar. Charlie was one among the many to take the bait in 1998, and capitalized heavily despite technically having precisely nothing at all to do with the actual work that made Google Google.
For example, he has never once set fire to a puppy for ad revenue.
However, a warning to those of you who are planning to attempt this: The strategy is starting to get noticed by the companies as something that can potentially bite them in the ass big time, and some are trying to bail out of the whole "potential millions in stock options" thing they promised their employees in exchange for petty wages back in the day. Perhaps the most extreme example of this is the FarmVille juggernaut Zynga, who have actually started to arbitrarily demand that the employees they deem unworthy (i.e., low level) give back their stock options on pain of getting fired.
"You make a compelling offer. May I counter with 'Fuck you, yacht time'?"
You know, in case you needed another reason to hate FarmVille.
#1. The Serial Lottery Winner
If good fortune were a finite resource, the amount Joan Ginther has been hogging would be responsible for the misfortunes of the entire Third World. This Texas math professor made her reputation as a goddamn human cloverleaf by winning the Texas lottery in 1993, winning a cool $5.4 million.
Then she did it again in 2006, this time winning $2 million.
Then in 2008, she buys yet another lottery ticket because what the hell, she can afford it. And she wins again, for $3 million this time.
"I only do this to see what the poor people do with their meager disposable income. It's a hoot."
Seriously, now. What the hell are the odds of somebody winning three tim --
In 2010, she won again? And for the biggest jackpot yet -- $10 million?
OK, there's a lot of ways to describe that kind of luck. "Uncanny," perhaps. "Unbelievable," sure. "Unfair," definitely. She's got to be cheating somehow. We mean, she's a math professor, right? Surely, she's devised some sort of ingenious counting system that enables her to score a jackpot whenever she feels strapped for cash. Hell, two of the tickets have even been bought at the same store! Shenanigans, we tell you!
Or X-ray vision.
But here's the thing: Three of her victories have come from scratch tickets, which, according to experts, are impossible to cheat with, short of actually stealing a bunch and physically scratching them all. But whether Ginther is merely a compulsive gambler who plays with vast amounts of money, or has figured out some sort of secret code to cheating the system, or is the embodiment of Fortuna, the goddess of luck, the fact remains that she's beaten unbeatable odds four times in 17 years.
That phrase usually coincides with surviving cancer, but right now all we feel is bile and rage.
What adds to the annoyance of the cynics is that she flat out doesn't care what anyone else thinks about her almighty capacity for luck. In fact, she purposefully remains a complete mystery and refuses to discuss her system (if she even has one). But neither would you, if you had made a deal with Satan.
For more ludicrous ways for you to make bank, check out The 6 Most Horrifying Ways Anyone Ever Got Rich and 5 Ways to Get Rich (Without a Single Discernible Skill).