5 Priceless Missing Treasures (That Are Waiting To Be Found)
Have you ever wished you could just grab a satchel, a leather jacket, and a plucky friend who will inevitably hinder your search for lost treasure? Have you always secretly yearned to muck about with jewel-encrusted skeletons inside a pirate ship hidden in a cave guarded by ancient booby traps? Well, luckily for you, Cracked has complied a list of missing treasures that everyone from Nathan Drake to Benjamin Gates has so far failed to locate. So study up and get to work.
A Soldier Strolled Off With A Priceless Sword That Hasn't Been Seen Since
As people who display swords they bought at the mall are more than happy to tell you, Japan is known for its katanas. And no swordsmith is more revered than Masamune, whose 13th- and 14th-century creations are national treasures, and whose name continues to live on whenever a video game needs a mystical weapon.
Much of Masamune's personal life is shrouded in mystery and legend, and his swords have lived equally impressive lives. The Honjo Masamune is said to have been won by a 16th-century general after he survived it splitting his helmet in half, and from there it was sold a few times before ending up a treasure of the powerful Tokugawa family. They kept it as a symbol of their prestige and power for 250 years, until World War II ended and they turned it and their other cool swords in to a police station to comply with occupational law. And then one of the most treasured artifacts in Japanese history straight up vanished.
In January 1946, a man who identified himself as Sgt. Coldy Bimore (likely a garbled phonetic spelling) claimed the sword on behalf of the U.S. military, and it's not been seen since. While sleuths have tracked down a Cole D.B. Moore as the probable culprit, the man's family doesn't have the sword, and no one has any idea who he might have given it to.
The most common theory is that someone in the military, not realizing that the Honjo Masamune was far more valuable than all the other cutlery being turned in, took it home as a trophy, and god only knows what happened to it from there. A priceless relic is likely sitting in some Midwest basement or pawnshop, if it hasn't been snatched up by a Soul Calibur cosplayer. So if you or anyone you know has a sword hanging in their bedroom because they hate having sex, give it a close look to see if you can solve a mystery that was literally lost in translation.
Ivan The Great Constructed A Golden Library, And Then Ivan The Terrible Lost It
Ivan the Great ruled Russia for more than 40 years, during which he greatly expanded its territory through his policy of waging war on absolutely everyone. Russia didn't exactly become a cultural powerhouse under his reign, as people were too busy trying not to die to indulge in intellectual pursuits. But Ivan did go out of his way to grab and hoard the culture of other lands by sacking the libraries of his European conquests, and so he built up a mighty collection before his death in 1505.
Much of this collection likely originated in the fabulous Library of Constantinople, which was destroyed during the Fourth Crusade. It's also said that he received scrolls rescued from the Library of Alexandria as part of his wife's dowry, and references to "Livy's history" indicate that he might have had the lost books of the Roman historian Livy, which could massively augment the knowledge we have of Ancient Rome. Or, if you don't care all that much about history, know that Ivan bound around 800 of these works in gold, and gold is shiny.
Ivan's grandson, Ivan "the terrible" IV, became grand prince in 1533, when he was just a toddler. And under his adult reign, the library vanished. One account says he wanted to hide the golden library from Russia's enemies, while another says he buried it deep to protect it in case of a fire. Whatever his reasoning, he died without ever recording where he'd put it all, and explorers have spent centuries since trying to find it.
It's likely located in the system of tunnels beneath the Kremlin, which sounds like it narrows the search down pretty far. But those tunnels go back 700 years, and navigating them today means a whole lot of excavation. 1925's attempt to dig through them produced no results, while a promising 1933 effort was hushed up by a paranoid Stalin, who feared attackers using the tunnels. Archaeologists have expanded their search to various villages Ivan might have used as a hiding place, but the Kremlin remains everyone's best guess. So if you ever visit Moscow, we suggest visiting the Kremlin with a pickax and some dynamite. If any guards object, just yell "I am a scholar!" while waving your arms wildly.
There's A Hidden Golden Owl That's Tormented Puzzle Fans For 25 Years
Burying a treasure and leaving a series of obtuse clues reads like the setup for an adventure novel, which is exactly what Max Valentin was going for. The pseudonym of a puzzle designer, Valentin commissioned a 33-pound silver and gold owl statue worth about 150,000 Euros, as well as a bronze replica that's buried somewhere in France. He also commissioned 11 paintings which, when accompanied by his text, form the riddles of his book On The Trail Of The Golden Owl. It was published in 1993, and Valentin anticipated that it would take no more than a year or two for someone to solve the riddles and be led to the replica, which entitles one to possession of the real deal. It has not yet been found.
Valentin seems to have forgotten that Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code are mere works of fiction. Even the "final zone," a narrowed search location, has yet to be identified, and that's not for a lack of trying. Thousands of enthusiasts have tried to solve the puzzle, and they've built an online community to brainstorm and try to put an end to this prolonged brainteaser. Valentin himself used to help out by answering some of their questions.
Then Valentin died in 2009. The riddle solutions are held by his family, but he took the actual location of the cache to his grave. The prize is still up for grabs, because the artist who made the owl faced fan uproar when he tried to sell the damn thing and move on with his life. The issue even ended up in court, where the sale was blocked because technically the owl is the legal property of whoever solves the puzzle. And no, it's not all an elaborate scam, as Valentin ran many other games that were all solved in good time.
Most of the riddles have been at least partially deciphered, but several remain complete enigmas. You can get in on the challenge if you'd like. And if you do find the treasure, don't forget that we're the ones who told you about it.
A Pirate Committed The Crime Of His Century, And The Loot Was Never Recovered
In the late 1600s, Henry Every decided that regular sailing didn't live up to his expectations, so he led a mutiny to go full pirate. He murdered and pillaged his way across the Seven Seas in his fancily named flagship the Fancy, and when he had enough ships under his command, he decided to take on the era's final boss, the Ganj-i-Sawai.
Better known in the west as the Gunsway, the ship was sailing with an escort under the flag of the Mughal Empire, one of the greatest powers in South Asian history. To give you a sense of how much gold and silver it was transporting, the ship's name meant "Exceeding Treasure." So when Every learned about it through what we can only assume was a network of talking parrots, he decided it had to be his.
It wasn't an easy battle. The Ganj-i-Sawai's escort beat back the first ship that attacked it, killing its captain in the process, before the Fancy was able to seize it. As for the Ganj-i-Sawai itself, its 400 armed guards alone outnumbered Every's entire crew. But a lucky shot took out the ship's mast, while one of the Ganj-i-Sawai's cannons misfired and exploded, killings its gunners and confusing the defenders. Every and his crew boarded and seized a treasure worth around 325,000-600,000 British pounds then, which is nearly 90 million pounds today. They also spent a week raping their female captives while torturing and murdering many of the men, which is the kind of fun little detail that never makes it into the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies.
Every was now both the richest and most wanted pirate in the world. The attack was a huge blow to British-Indian relations, and the East India Trading Company was forced to reimburse the Mughal Emperor for the loss, rather than risk losing them as a trading partner. It only gave them even more incentive to capture and execute every pirate they could get their hands on. The story of the post-heist escape and split-up is therefore an adventure in itself, but long story short, Every's crew sailed halfway around the world, issued some bribes, lounged around on some islands, and eventually all went their separate ways with more money from one job than they would have made in a lifetime of honest sailing.
Some of the pirates were found and executed, but Every was never caught, or even reliably seen again after he left the Bahamas. Legends and rumors of his fate abound, but the general consensus is that he made it back to his native England and lived a low-key life. His fortune has never been recovered, so assuming it wasn't all frittered away on booze and prostitutes, you could make your own big score by tracking it down. Just go ahead and assume that sucker is cursed, though.
Faberge Eggs Worth Tens Of Millions Of Dollars Are Still Missing, And At Least One Is Likely In America
From the late 19th to the early 20th century, Peter Carl Faberge created 52 eggs for the Russian royal family, each set with precious gems and full of secret compartments . Then the Bolsheviks confiscated all of Faberge's masterpieces and squirreled them away in a secret vault under the Kremlin.
When Stalin took power, he was strapped for cash and not exactly the sentimental type. He sold off many of the Kremlin's treasures, but with the West barreling toward the Great Depression and Russia being, well, communist, few people could afford to buy fancy Easter eggs made of gold and covered in diamonds. Luckily for Stalin, Armand Hammer -- business magnate, communist sympathizer, walking paradox -- was crisscrossing the U.S., displaying Tsarist treasures at department stores for the benefit of the few Americans who could afford them. One, the Cherub Egg, appears to have been snapped up in this way.
While the other eggs' sales were well-documented, Hammer's records are long gone. For some crazy reason, he didn't want to be associated with funding the Soviet Union, and so he probably destroyed the records himself. Whatever the case, someone in America likely owns the Cherub Egg without knowing that Grandma's old knickknack is worth around $30 million. Five other eggs may still be out there, but they're even more lost than the Cherub. Likely smuggled out or looted during the chaos of the Revolution, the best guess is "They're probably in Russia, but maybe a couple are in England?" We don't even have photographs of some of them, just vague descriptions.
But that doesn't mean you can't get lucky. In 2012, a Midwestern scrap dealer bought a golden egg studded with diamonds and sapphires for $14,000 at an antique sale, on the assumption that he could flip it to a buyer interested in melting it down for raw materials. He figured he could make himself a profit of a few hundred bucks. But prospective buyers all thought his asking price was too steep, so the egg sat on his kitchen table for a couple of years until, during a night of intense Googling, he discovered that he was in possession of the Third Imperial Egg, worth $33 million. So ... get searching your local flea market?
Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for bits cut from this article and other stuff no one should see. Christian Markle willingly accepts any kind of treasure. Give him the details on Facebook. Michael Battaglino is a contributor to Cracked.com. Be sure to check out some of his other work if you enjoyed this article. Luke Nelson is just happy to be here.
For more, check out Why Pirates Were Nothing Like You Think - Hilarious Helmet History:
Follow us on Facebook. Because the real treasures are the friends we made along the way.