For most of us, stumbling across a dollar or a half-eaten corn dog on the street would be a huge freaking deal. The people on this list farted their way into fortunes that even the yarn-spinnin'est hobo on the rails would find implausible.
When a Scottsdale, Arizona man was selling his house to move into a retirement home, he contacted an appraiser to assess the value of his most prized possession: a signed LA Lakers poster sitting in his garage. When the appraiser came to look at the poster, he estimated its worth at around $300, but he found also something considerably more interesting in the garage: a painting that looked an awful lot like a Jackson Pollock.
Even though the style seemed unmistakable -- Pollock is neck-and-neck with Monet in the famed "easy to point out from a distance to feel smart at a museum" art movement -- the likelihood of an authentic Pollock making its way to the Southwestern U.S. without anyone knowing seemed like a stupid plot twist for real life. The appraiser, Josh Levine, spent 18 months and tens of thousands of dollars investigating the painting's history.
Levine discovered that the owner had a half-sister named Jenifer Gordon Cosgriff, who'd been a New York socialite earlier in the century. After some digging, he managed to link Gordon Cosgriff to a specific showing where she could've reasonably acquired the painting. When Gordon Cosgriff had died, the Arizona man had collected her belongings and stored them in his garage for decades. Levine then had forensics experts analyze the physical painting itself, and they confirmed that it was likely one of Pollock's missing "gouaches" from 1945-1949, a specific style of painting that combined water with a binding agent.
Success!!! Looks like this cold case had been returned to room temperature. (That's the closing line of every Cold Case episode.)
Levine still plans to auction the painting, and estimates its worth at between $10 million and $15 million, which is decent compensation for the embarrassment of having a seven-figure painting in your garage for a quarter of a century without knowing it.
And there was an even more unbelievable twist: That Lakers poster? Genuine Da Vinci. Unreal.
Ah, digging through the garbage: a classic get-rich-quick scheme!
At least, it was for one cleaner at South Korea's Incheon International Airport, who discovered seven gold bars buried inside a very, very heavy trashcan -- maybe the only time in history a trashcan being suspiciously heavy has ever been a good thing.
Security footage showed two other men discarding the gold -- worth about $325,000 -- in the trash, likely because they feared customs. The bars will become the lawful property of the service worker if no rightful owner steps forward to claim them, as long as they're not connected to any criminal activity. Which we're sure they're not. People chuck stuff in the trash all the time before flights -- bottles of water, piles of gold bars worth six figures, giant million-dollar novelty checks made out to them, you name it. It's extremely likely nothing shady happened here.
A garage in North Carolina was opened for the first time in 26 years, revealing an absolute treasure trove of barely used classic cars worth upwards of $4 million. The contents included an extremely rare 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB with only 13,000 miles on it, a 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 with only 19,001 miles, a 1976 Triumph TR6 with 9,000 miles, a propane-powered 1978 Morgan Plus 8 with a mere 3,000 miles, and a BMW 325ix from the mid '80s.
So if this wasn't a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie where they uncover some long-abandoned storeroom and say a bunch of winking stuff about the present day ("Bee Emm Doubleyou? Was this some sort of ... mechanized demon horse?"), then why the hell were millions of dollars' worth of cars sitting untouched in a single garage?
Apparently, the owner of the cars parked them in that garage after his mechanic died in a motorcycle accident, then never hired a replacement. The cars sat there indefinitely, until the city condemned the garage and forced the owner to relocate its contents, and the owner was like, "Oh yeeeeah, this million-dollar 1960s Ferrari I own! Been lookin' for this." Really no different from reaching down through couch cushions and finding a remote for an old TV. Just hadn't gotten around to it for a couple decades.
A French woman boarded a train with a shoebox wrapped in a newspaper, then hopped on the metro, walked through the doors of Sotheby's, and asked for an auctioneer to come check out a piece she'd found in her attic, just sitting inside that shoebox. Inside was a stunningly ornate Chinese vase that Sotheby's Asian arts expert traced to the Qing Dynasty of the 18th century.
The vase was decorated with depictions of deer, birds, and other animals in a forest, gold embroidery around the neck, and the mark of the Qianlong Emperor, who ruled China from 1736 to 1796. It ended up selling to an unnamed bidder for an astounding 16.2 million euros (about $19 million), which was more than 20 times the estimated price. An astounding value for sure, but also, way to estimate, Sotheby's Asian arts experts. Off by $18 million? Uhh, estimate vases much???
The vase fetched the highest price ever for a single item sold by Sotheby's in France, and also TROUNCED the previous record for "Item Found In Attic Shoebox", previously held by a dented Peanuts Christmas bulb.
In February of 2016, Robert Warren, the director of Iowa's historic Hoyt Sherman Place, went rummaging through the building's storage spaces in search of some Civil-War-era flags to celebrate President's Day. Instead he found something a little more ... naked-god-having.
Warren found a painting stashed in a storeroom under the building's second-story balcony, and noticed it had an auction tag from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art attached, identifying it as a painting of "Fedorico Baroccio." This turned out to be a misspelling of early Baroque painter Federico Barocci's name, but art scholars found its true origins to be far more interesting. It was actually painted by Otto van Veen, an extremely prominent Dutch artist (and the mentor of Peter Paul Rubens), whose works currently hang in the Louvre, the National Portrait Gallery, and all the other greatest hits of buildings in which art hangs.
The painting is called "Apollo And Venus," and was made sometime between 1595 and 1600. It was loaned to the Met by a private collector named Bartholomew Collins, who then took it with him when he moved to Des Moines, and he later bequeathed it to the Des Moines Women's Club after his death. They don't know why it was stashed underneath the Hoyt Sherman Place (which is now used as a theater), but theorized it either needed some repairs or was too risque to hang publicly in the Women's Club, what with its sexy Venus ass and Cupid full-frontal and all.
The painting, which was easily worth in the millions, was eventually restored and displayed at the theater, and THE HOYT SHERMAN PLACE WAS SAVED!!!!! Hooray! Oh wait, it was never in danger of closing down? Well, cool. Anyway, it's hanging there now.
Construction workers in the UK were digging underneath a modern-day outdoor clothing store and kept coming across wads of muddy, decaying banknotes that dated back to the early half of the 20th century. Altogether, the wartime notes added up to 1.5 million pounds (over $2 million) with inflation factored in. Sussex police took the moldy notes into their possession for "safekeeping," adding "And by 'safekeeping' we definitely don't mean power-washing the bills so they're suitable for gentlemen's clubs."
So how'd it get there? From 1936 to 1973, the spot belonged to Bradleys Gown, a furrier and couturier dating back to the 1860s. Authorities contacted Howard Bradley, the store's last surviving heir to the family business, with that classic "Yo, we found a bunch of filthy money blobs under your grandpa's old fur store" phone call we all expect to receive one day.
Bradley didn't have any direct explanation for the stashed cash, but did note that his father and uncle both enlisted in the very early days of the war effort, and that his family did have some Jewish lineage, so they would've been acutely aware of the global political situation and probably took some financial "precautions" in case anything happened to London that would've forced them to flee.
Jeez, why don't people just put stuff in safes?
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