Everyone loves a rags to riches story, but for some unsuspecting people, proverbial “rags” actually ended up being worth millions – and they almost didn’t realise it.
From the farmer using a $US100,000 meteor as a doorstop, to the guy who unknowingly bought an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, these people can testify that one man’s trash is truly another’s treasure.
A man discovered his doorstop was actually a meteorite worth $US100,000.
A Michigan man discovered that the 22-pound rock he used as a doorstop for over 30 years was actually a meteorite. According to CNN, the man brought the rock to Central Michigan University to be examined by geology professor, Mona Sirbescu.
“It’s the most valuable specimen I have ever held in my life,” Sirbescu told CNN.
The man, who has chosen to remain unnamed, said he obtained the rock in 1998 after purchasing a farm. The previous owner told him that the rock was a meteorite from sometime in the 1930s, and gave it to him along with the property.
Weighing in at 22 pounds, and made of 88.5% iron and 11.5% nickel, the rock is estimated to be worth $US100,000.
This woman didn’t realise that the plate she had hanging over her oven was designed by Picasso.
A Rhode Island woman bought a ceramic plate in 1970, paying less than $US100 for the handsome dishware. She decided to hang it on her wall above the stove, where it collected a healthy layer of grease over the years.
Luckily not even the slick sheen of oven grime could conceal the plate’s true origins – in 2014, the woman went to have the plate appraised on the television program “Antiques Roadshow,” and discovered she was the owner of a 1955 Picasso-designed Madoura plate worth $US10,000.
One man became a millionaire after accidentally purchasing an original copy of the Declaration of Independence at a flea market.
When a financial analyst bought an old painting at a flea market for $US4 in 1989, he had no idea that an old copy of the Declaration of Independence was nestled behind a tear in the canvas: he had stumbled upon one of 500 official copies from the first printing in 1776.
Auction house Sotheby’s sold it in 1991 for $US2.42 million – an unprecedented figure.
“It was far and away the highest price for historical Americana ever,” David Redden, the auctioneer, and senior vice president at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, said at the time.
A duo found a treasure trove of classic cars in a 100-year-old barn.
Nine times out of 10, the most interesting thing you’ll find in an old barn is a pile of hay – but when these two “motorcar specialists” stumbled upon a 100-year-old barn in rural France, they became the exception to the rule.
Serendipitous doesn’t even begin to cover it: the barn was full of $US18 million worth of classic cars that a man named Roger Baillon had stored away for safekeeping – and then promptly forgot about.
“This sort of thing doesn’t happen often enough,” Matthieu Lamoure, managing director of Artcurial Motorcars, said in a press release about the event.
A superstitious fisherman discovered he was accidentally hoarding world’s largest natural pearl under his bed.
According to a report in the local Palawan News, a man in the Philippines was out fishing when his anchor caught on something.
Upon swimming down to dislodge it, he found a giant clam harboring an enormous pearl. The man decided to keep the pearl – which measures in at 1-foot wide, 2.2-feet long, and weighs an astonishing 75 pounds – as a good luck token, which he later entrusted to his aunt after a fire destroyed his home.
If authenticated, the pearl – said to be the biggest natural clam pearl in the world – could be worth $US100 million.
NASA accidentally auctioned off a priceless Apollo 11 artifact to a woman named Nancy from Chicago — and they only got $US995.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made history when they became the first people to step foot on the moon in 1969. During their time there they collected various samples in a bag – which NASA accidentally auctioned off to a suburban Chicago woman named Nancy Carlson for a mere $US995 in 2016.
Despite NASA’s attempts to reclaim the priceless artifact from the Apollo 11 mission, Carlson successfully sold the bag of moon dust for $US1.8 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York City in 2017.
A girl mistakenly thought her $US7 frame was more valuable than the Renoir painting inside of it.
When a Shenandoah Valley resident (who goes by “Renoir Girl“) found an old painting in a $US6.90 box of trinkets at a flea market, she took it home and repurposed the ornate gold frame, storing the actual painting in her attic.
Years later, after decluttering her house, Renoir Girl’s mother persuaded her to book an evaluation appointment for the discarded painting an auction house. That was lucky, because the painting was confirmed to be a circa 1879 original by famous French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, valued between $US75,000-$US100,000.
This man picked up a sketch by Andy Warhol at a garage sale.
When Andy Fields, a businessman from Tiverton, England, bought five sketches for $US5 at a garage sale in Las Vegas, he didn’t think much of them, despite the seller’s claim that the sketches belonged to his aunt who used to babysit Andy Warhol back in the day.
Shockingly, the tall tale turned out to be true – Fields discovered Warhol’s signature on the back of a sketch when he went to reframe the picture, which is valued at just over $US2 million.
A bargain-hunter thought the genuine Picasso painting he found was just a really good replica.
When 46-year-old Zach Bodish found a picture in a thrift store that had the word “Picasso” on it, he initially assumed the sketch was a particularly nice reproduction, and bought it for $US14.14.
The piece was never officially appraised, but Bodish was nevertheless able to sell it to a private buyer for $US7,000.
A man used an incredibly valuable painting to cover up a hole in his wall without even realising what he had in his possession.
The owner of a painting called “Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth” by 19th-century American painter Martin Johnson Heade originally bought it – along with some furniture – for “next to nothing,” and would have remained ignorant of the painting’s value had he not played a board game about art called “Masterpiece” that featured a similar print.
Before his discovery, Heade had hung the still life over a hole in his wall; in 1999, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston paid him $US1.25 million for it.
Another man stumbled upon a photo of Billy the Kid playing a leisurely game of croquet — and sold it for $US5 million.
Randy Guijarro of Freemont, California, had no idea that the $US2, 4×5 inch photo he bought at an antique shop in 2010 was worth $US5 million – until a California company confirmed that it was one of only two certified images of the notorious bandit Billy the Kid.
Kagin’s Inc., a firm specializing in Western Americana and rare coins, alleges that the photo depicts Bill and various members of the Lincoln County Regulators gang “playing a leisurely game of croquet alongside friends, family, and lovers in the late summer of 1878.”
And this man bought a 19th-century photograph on eBay for just $US13 without realising that it was actually an extremely rare portrait of infamous outlaw Jesse James.
Justin Whiting was browsing eBay in July 2017 when he came across a photo that he thought looked remarkably like Jesse James, a famous American outlaw, as well as a bank and train robber.
Whiting purchased the photo for around $US10, and brought it to 19th-century photo expert Will Dunniway, who confirmed that the photo genuinely depicts Jesse James at around age 14. The photo is estimated to be worth more than $US2 million.
A woman gifted her daughter a brooch that turned out to be a bona fide royal gem.
Thea Jordan bought a brooch at a local junk shop for $US27.56, and gifted it to her four-year-old daughter Imogen, who loved to play dress-up. Imogen donned the brooch countless times, pretending that she was a royal princess; little did Jordan and her daughter realise that the brooch was actually a piece of early 19th century jewellery, likely to have been part of a Russian Czarina’s tiara or royal necklace.
The 20-carat topaz stone was estimated to be worth around $US5,513.
This man was down on his luck — until it was revealed that his old blanket was a one-of-a-kind heirloom worth $US1.5 million.
Loren Krytzer was down on his luck in 2012; not only had he just lost a leg after a near-fatal car accident in 2017, he’d been relying on a monthly allowance of $US200. He then saw a blanket be valued at half a million dollars on “Antiques Roadshow,” and realised that he’s been holding on to a similar one in his closet for years. He brought it to a California auction room where it sold for $US1.5 million.
The blanket in question was actually a Navajo blanket from the 1800s, and had once been used by Krytzer’s grandmother to catch newborn kittens when they were delivered.
Fast-food lovers who held on to their old packets of the discontinued McDonald’s Szechuan sauce experienced an unexpected a windfall in 2017.
After the hype for the movie died down, the sauce disappeared into relative obscurity – at least until the first episode of season three of Adult Swim’s animated sci-fi sitcom, “Rick and Morty,” premiered in April 2017. The show touted the sauce, and to say the public’s interest was revived is a gross understatement; fans were stampeding and rioting for a taste.
A handful of savvy McDonald’s fans recognised the phenomenon as a lucrative business opportunity, and rummaged around their homes in the hopes of finding an old Szechuan sauce packet. Many took to eBay to sell their old sauce packets: one jug of the discontinued sauce even sold for a staggering $US15,000 on eBay.
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