5 Stunning Historical Finds At Secondhand Stores
The prophet Macklemore once told us about the benefit of thrift shops, and the rest of us have been spelunking in our discounted bins ever since. Also, it's the only way we can afford both clothes and food on the same paycheck. So maybe it's that more than the song. The point is, beyond life's necessities, there's another secret layer of stuff that was plucked from history and ended up on a Goodwill shelf, for some reason. Stuff like ...
Multiple Astronaut Suits
Most "Insanely valuable thing turns up in a thrift shop" stories are just cases in which some donor didn't know they had. (Could you identify a Jackson Pollock painting if you spotted one in a random garage?) That does not explain how actual used space suits keep turning up in such settings.
The real flight suit of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, for example, ended up in a random thrift shop in Toronto. Hadfield, you may recall, is famous for being one of the few humans ever to go to space, for singing David Bowie tunes and playing his guitar while he was up there, and for his amazing mustache, which represents the hopes and dreams of all of Canada.
Dr. Julielynn Wong found the suit on a shopping trip, and like any normal human, she immediately decided she wanted to be an astronaut. She snagged it for $40 Canadian (that's $3 American, plus a reasonably well-made sandwich), and then, seeing the name tag, she sent Hadfield a message on Facebook asking about it. He confirmed that it was indeed his old flight suit. So did Hadfield just donate it himself? Did his mom clean out his closet? Was it donated by burglars? Nobody knows! After Hadfield confirmed that the suit was his, he added that it was a mystery to him how it ended up in the store.
Further south, a group of college kids found six NASA suits at their local Salvation Army for about 20 cents each. That's "We're just trying to save on our trash bill" money. It then turned out that some of these suits had been to space, and they wound up going for thousands of dollars apiece at auction. Again, how did they wind up at the Salvation Army? Again, nobody seems to know. So astronauts are just like us; they put shit in the dryer and never see it again.
Eva Braun's Underwear
World War II memorabilia is a huge industry, due to enormous demand from history buffs and people who like Nazi stuff for reasons that are surely just academic. You can decide for yourself which of those would be more interested in owning some underwear Hitler's girlfriend wore.
A secondhand shop in Ohio was proudly displaying a pair of monogrammed silk panties alleged to belong to Hitler's better half (which was still a pretty shitty half, if we're being honest), Eva Braun. Monogrammed underwear was once all the rage, and one has to wonder why. How were people stumbling upon your underwear with such frequency back in the day that you needed your name in them?
But of course, the even better question was how in the hell the panties got from Braun's gitch drawer to the shelf of an antique shop selling them for $7,500. They were bought from a retired Air Force major named Charles Snyder, who served in both Korea and Vietnam and runs his own war collectible stores. He's also written a book called Treasure Troves Of The Third Reich, and certified that these Nazi panties were 100 percent authentic.
Snyder's story is that First Lieutenant D.C. Watts ransacked Hitler's official residence in 1945 and shipped an entire trunk of shit back to the U.S. It sat in storage for years until Snyder met Watts and bought the whole lot for $3 million. Is this story in any way verifiable beyond the word of a guy who bought old underwear from a guy who bought old underwear from a guy? What else do you want, the world's grossest DNA test?
The Tenner Diamond (Worth $850,000)
The UK is full of charming little differences from North American culture, and one of the best is surely the car boot sale. This is what happens when a bunch of people park their cars together in a lot, open the trunks, and sell stuff that's apparently not moonshine or crystal meth. It's like a tiny, car-based flea market. At one of these sales in the '80s, a lady picked up one of the most obnoxious and ostentatious rings ever with a giant diamond on it for $10.
You don't need an expert to tell you that a giant diamond ring that costs $10 is a fake diamond ring. But she liked it, so why not? Thus the origin of the name "the Tenner Diamond." She bought it for a tenner. Oh, you Brits. Delightful.
Fast-forward a few decades, and yeah, that wasn't a fake ring. That big, silly-ass diamond is a fully real 26.27-carat monster that literally has no history. It's huge and was clearly cut by some expert jeweler years in the past, but it has no story. No record exists of the diamond, where it came from, or who owned it. And that means it's entirely possible that someone in the last century had so many giant diamonds laying about that they couldn't be arsed to notice when one that ended up being sold for $850,000 at auction went missing.
A Whole Bunch Of Top Secret Files
This one is, in many ways, much weirder than the diamond. After all, you can certainly buy jewelry at thrift shops, but you would do a double take if you saw them on a shelf next to top secret government documents. Because for real, don't sell those at a thrift shop. Or anywhere, really. And yet here we are
Two locked filing cabinets made their way to a secondhand store in Canberra, Australia, where they were purchased, brought home, and cracked open by an excited new owner, who was probably hoping for a big bag of money with a dollar sign on it, or at least some vintage porno. Instead the buyer found thousands of documents that were labeled with fun headings like "Sensitive" and "Australian-Eyes-Only" (which was the best song Crowded House ever recorded and/or the worst James Bond movie ever).
There was a solid decade worth of top secret government files in the cabinet, which we can only hope included plans to weaponize kangaroos. In a fun twist, it was revealed that some of the documents detailed how other top-secret documents had previously been lost. It's like an Aussie Moebius strip of classified bumblefuckery. Other less hilarious and more terrifying documents detailed plans for missile upgrades, counterterrorism, and defense. Haha, oops!
How did all this end up at a secondhand store, though? The store itself was known for selling old government furniture. Any time City Hall wants new chairs, they have to ditch the old ones, after all, and this place buys and sells all that old crap. It just seems like this time, someone forgot to check the cushions for loose change before putting the couch on the curb, as it were. The Australian government probably took a moment to shit a kitten when the news broke, then pledged to launch an immediate investigation into how it happened -- which is political speak for saying you have no idea what's going on, but you'll ask around.
Incredibly Rare Photos Of Billy The Kid Worth Millions
Billy the Kid was not into selfies. There is one super real confirmed photo of him, which sold for $2.3 million back in 2011 to one of the Koch brothers. If you've seen a photo of Billy the Kid, it's probably that one:
Which is to say, finding another photo of one of history's most famous outlaws would be a big deal. Sure enough, in 2015, a man bought $2 worth of photos in a box at a flea market and found an old-timey photo of a bunch of dudes playing croquet. The story of how that was discovered to be a pic of Billy the Kid and the Regulators is a long and weird one, and some people refuse to believe it's true. But the photo does have an impressive bit of evidence to support its legitimacy -- not the least of which is the word of a guy who works for the FBI and is an expert in facial recognition software, who confirmed the identity of the Kid and several others.
According to the people who have appraised it as a $5 million snapshot, the great-great-grandnephew of Charlie Bowdre had the photo in storage. Bowdre was one of the Regulators (played by Casey Siemaszko in the Emilio Estevez opus Young Guns back in 1988). The photo is supposedly showing a party that took place at or around the time of Bowdre's wedding, when everyone turned in their pistols for croquet mallets for a day.
But wait, there's more! Two years later, another flea market photo may show not just Billy the Kid, but Pat Garrett as well. That's significant, because Garret is the man who killed Billy the Kid. What a dramatic plot twist worthy of Riverdale! Various experts have also looked at the Garrett photo and believe it could be the real deal as well, but no one slapped a price tag on it just yet, other than the odd person tossing the word "millions" around. Let this serve as a lesson to you to buy every old photo you see from now on. Underwear, too. Buy it all.