Look at all the useless crap around you. You need to prioritize your life and get rid of some of it. But before you have that garage sale, consider this: Sometimes the hoarders are right, and some random piece of garbage that's currently festering in your attic may turn out to be worth a fortune. It's happened before ...
Art historian Gergely Barki sat down with his infant daughter to watch the film Stuart Little. While everyone else was laughing at the antics of Stuart -- "Look at him, acting like people! He's a mouse! Truly, this is the definition of comedy!" -- Barki was thinking that the painting hanging on the wall looked awfully familiar.
He was right. The painting that appears in the background of this scene is none other than famous Hungarian artist Robert Bereny's Sleeping Lady With Black Vase, a notoriously lost painting that had been missing since the second World War.
After many attempts to contact the filmmakers, Barki finally got a hold of one of the film's set designers, who explained that she had owned the painting for some time after snapping it up at a Pasadena antique shop. While designing the set for Stuart Little, she decided her presumably worthless painting would be perfect for the Little family's lounge and used it to furnish the room. After the significance of the work was discovered, the painting was sold for 110,000 euros.
So the next time somebody gives you guff for burning an entire day watching Netflix, explain that combing through obscure children's movies for ancient treasures hidden in the set design is a totally valid career path now.
In 2013, an auctioneer was invited to appraise an estate sale. Nothing unusual there: Combing through a person's stuff and putting a sad dollar figure on their life is all just part of the crushing reality of an auctioneer. That's why they speak so fast: so you can't hear the despair in their voice. But this particular appraisal took a strange twist when the daughter of the deceased offered the auctioneer a drink from her dad's mini-bar. That mini-bar was an antique Japanese chest dating back to 1640, which sold at auction for 6.3 million pounds. No, its last owner wasn't an eccentric billionaire with no regard for history -- he had no idea what the chest actually was.
The long-missing antique passed through the hands of multiple prominent historical figures in its 375-year history, such as Cardinal Jules Mazarin (Cardinal Richelieu's sidekick in the Three Musketeers stories) and British poet William Beckford, before ultimately disappearing in 1941. Fast-forward to 1970, where a Polish doctor in London sold it to its last owner -- a guy who just needed something to put his TV on -- for a mere 100 pounds.
Meanwhile, the Victoria And Albert Museum, less than a mile away, had been sending agents out on Indiana Jones-style adventures around the world in an effort to track down the piece for decades, never realizing that some guy just down the road was using the thing to store hooch and watch Benny Hill.
An old British farmer was out plowing his field when he stumbled over a giant piece of metal. Not one to waste a giant hunk o' stuff, he repurposed it as a doorstop, and that's what it remained for a decade -- until he presumably found another piece of crap that was better at keeping doors open, so he went to throw it out.
Luckily, a friend talked him into finding out just what the hell it was before relegating it to the dump. That's when experts came to the monocle-popping discovery that his doorstop was a Bronze Age ceremonial dagger that had been buried in his field for around 3,500 years.
The four-pound dagger is one of only six known objects of its kind. It was likely bent up and buried to keep it from being used to summon some sort of ancient demon, or possibly just because an ancient religious dude needed a shovel.
In 1985, Commodore reached out to Andy Warhol to help launch their groundbreaking Amiga personal computer by showing off what their graphics technology could achieve. Commodore asked Andy Warhol to use their software to create his own spin on a portrait of Debbie Harry.
Warhol's personal Amiga and its associated disks were then stored in the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh ... where everybody immediately forgot about them for decades, until the technology was eventually so old that reading the disks was impossible.
Warhol fan Cory Arcangel -- who's either using a pseudonym or is the alter-ego of an X-Man -- enlisted the help of an elite team of professional nerds to recover the contents of the disks. After three years of work reverse-engineering the format, they were able to recover the files and discovered 28 entirely new, signed digital paintings by Andy Warhol. Paintings like these:
They did their absolute best not to look disappointed.
In January 2015, a thief crept into a New Orleans studio and stole a quarter-million-dollar painting by famed artist George Rodrigue. The next day, Elliot Newkirk, the bassist for the punk band Studio Fire Empire, noticed that very same painting ... propped up against a wall outside the venue of a gig they had just played.
We're not big-time gallery owners, so we can't speak to the artistic merits of a painting that looks like Daryl Hannah going to prom with Huckleberry Hound, but the thing is worth $250,000, so it must be good.
Nobody knows why the thief would go to so much trouble just to ditch a quarter of a million dollars by a dumpster. And nobody knows why a punk rock bassist can instantly recognize semi-obscure fine art on sight. Nobody, that is, except for our Thomas Crown-Sex Pistols mashup fan fiction.
You can find all sorts of treasures hiding inside a sofa bed, but most of the time they're of the "loose change, missing weed, and forgotten slices of pizza" variety. But in 2007, one Berlin college student found something a little different crammed into her mattress: an early 17th-century Baroque masterpiece.
After buying the secondhand sofa at a flea market for 150 euros (about $215), she used it for its intended purpose (i.e. binge-watching Breaking Bad and passing out when you're too drunk to find the real bed). But eventually she went sofa-spelunking, probably bravely investigating the Legend Of The Lost Dime-Bag, and stumbled upon the oil painting hidden inside.
The painting, titled Preparations For The Flight To Egypt, is credited to an anonymous artist. But experts believe that the painter was a student of the famous 16th-century Italian artist Carlo Saraceni.
Art historians are completely stumped as to how a piece of forgotten Renaissance artwork wound up crammed inside a thrift-store sofa bed. Our best guess is that Saraceni had the painting in his pocket when he sat down on the couch to watch old Star Trek reruns, but then fell into a Hot Pocket coma, and nature took its course (we're told there may be some chronological issues with that theory). The only thing we know for sure is that the painting was eventually auctioned for 19,200 euros, or $27,660 -- $23,000 of which was immediately lost in the couch cushions.
For more reasons to start hoarding, check out 5 Pieces of Junk That Turned Out To Be Invaluable Artifacts and 5 Horrifying Things Only Garbagemen Know About Your Town.
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