10 Amazing Fortunes Found in People’s Attics
The attic remains a catch-all for the unwieldy items around the house, but fortunes like these are found in attics across the world.
We’ve all been guilty of avoiding that dusty, drafty attic or crawl space, leaving forgotten about possessions there for years. But could those old treasures be worth something after all this time? For these ten people, their buried cache turned out to be worth a small fortune.
Comic books found in an attic almost seems like a cliché, but when a comic book worth £1.5 million (nearly $2 million today) is found, that’s still remarkable. A copy of Action Comics No. 1 that came out in 1938 is considered the “Holy Grail” of comic books, and a couple found it in 2010 when they were preparing their home to be foreclosed on. The couple had taken out a second mortgage on the house to finance a business that never took off, according to a Daily Mail story. Check out these other rare books that could fetch massive amounts of money.
A pair of siblings came across a couple of surprises when they started cleaning out their deceased parents’ home in suburban London. They found a Chinese vase and later they got the surprise of a lifetime when it sold for $85 million, a record for any Chinese art at auction. The vase is believed to be from around 1740 during the Qing dynasty and its sale further signaled the growing Chinese art market.
Auctioneer Richard Bromell might have turned a shade of red back in 2015 when he initially valued a painting of Saint Peter, thought to be created by a follower of 16th century Renaissance artist El Greco, at just £300. The painting had been left in an attic the previous eight years by the seller, but once it hit the auction, bidding escalated before it sold for £120,000, perhaps because some believe it to actually be the work of El Greco. Unfortunately, not all attic discoveries are quite as exciting—check out these seriously creepy things found in people’s homes.
Leave it to a French ambassador to tell you a Vincent Van Gogh painting hanging in your home isn’t real. According to a family story, that’s what happened to Norwegian industrialist Christian Nicolai Mustad after he purchased Sunset at Montmajour back in 1908. When the French ambassador to Sweden said the work probably wasn’t a real Van Gogh, Mustad threw it in the attic and it wasn’t discovered again until his death in 1970. The painting’s authenticity languished until an investigation started in 2011 and the Van Gogh Museum declared the work authentic two years later. It was the first major discovery of a Van Gogh work since 1928.
Attic visit leads to a rare find
In 2014, another rare painting was discovered in an attic in Toulouse, France, coated in dust and stained by water. The homeowner contacted his friend, an auctioneer, according to CNN. After cleaning one of the faces in the painting, the auctioneer sent a photo to an art appraiser, Eric Turquin. Turns out, some experts think the painting is a lost masterpiece by Italian artist Caravaggio called Judith and Holofernes. They believe the work was painted in 1607. It depicts an Old Testament passage in which Judith seduces and then beheads the Assyrian general Holofernes to save her city, Bethulia.
The painting marked a darker period for Caravaggio. Accused of murder, the painter had fled Rome for Naples. The discovered painting is only one of 66 of Caravaggio’s works left in the world. Though some experts doubt its authenticity, Judith and Holofernes is expected to fetch about $171 million at auction. Watch out for these things you should never keep in your attic.
More art in the attic
Back in 2008, a painting by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, also known as Giambattista Tiepolo, was discovered in a French chateau and sold at auction in 2008 for £2.8 million, which was equal to about $4.2 million U.S. dollars at the time. According to an article in the Telegraph, the painting, Portrait of a Lady as Flora, had been hidden by the grandparents of the painting’s owner because of the nudity in the painting. The mid-18th century painting commissioned as part of a series for Empress Elizabeth of Russia had been in the family for more than 200 years.
Some would agree that money found in between couch cushions or while doing the laundry automatically falls under the “finders keepers losers weepers” clause, but what about money in the ceiling? When Josh Ferrin of Bountiful, Utah went poking around the garage of the new home he’d recently purchased, he came across a “hidey-hole” in the ceiling filled with boxes of rolled-up cash. After he and his family spent a few hours counting up the $45,000 worth of loot, he decided to return it all to the previous owners. “I’ve got two boys and we teach them to be honest and to do what is right and I knew this was a teachable moment that I would never get back again,” Ferrin told ABC News. Find out some more hidden treasures that could be hiding in your garage.
The case of the hidden drawer
Estate sales can be a lot of fun, especially if you love the thrill of hunting for valuable antiques, like Emil Knodell, who would frequent weekend sales. He was thrilled to nab an antique chest of drawers from the late 1800s that had a lot of character and history. But when he was trying to get the unwieldy piece into his truck, it sounded like a “slot machine,” Jeffrey Allen, of Premier Estate Sales Network, who was trying to help him, told the Houston Chronicle.
A hidden drawer that looked like it was a part of the furniture turned out to be full of bling, from Civil War medals to diamond rings. Hitting pay dirt like that might make some people find the nearest auction house, but Knodell was more excited to return the treasure to the family that owned the chest. “I bought the chest of drawers; I didn’t buy (the secret contents),” he told the newspaper. “The deceased man’s family needed to have the opportunity to decide what they wanted to do with the items.” Not as much of a fun find: These pests that could be hiding in your attic.
Gary Whyte of Mountainside, New Jersey was cleaning out his mother’s house after she died when he came across what looked like some old newspapers she’d stashed away. “I found a large envelope with two original newspapers. One was the New York Daily News with the day one story on JFK’s assassination,” says Whyte. “The other was a full New York Times 1912 newspaper with the ‘Sinking of the Titanic.’” That full New York Times newspaper was recently framed by the Liberty Science Center and placed in the Titanic Exhibit for seven months.
Items from the doomed ship have fascinated collectors for years. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes from the 1997 James Cameron movie Titanic (and there are many) features the band playing on as the doomed ship sinks. This is based on true survivor recollections of the disaster. The violin played by the bandmaster of the Titanic, Wallace Hartley, was rumored to have been found strapped to his body as he floated out to sea. But it wasn’t until 2006 that the sentimental and historical instrument was unearthed in an attic. Rigorous testing by Henry Aldridge and Son proved the violin to be Hartley’s. In 2013, it sold for $1.7 million. A letter Wallace Hartley wrote to his parents during his first day on the Titanic also sold for $185,968.80. “This is a fine ship & there ought to be plenty of money on her,” he wrote. “We have a fine band & the boys seem very nice.”
A rare copy of the Declaration of Independence
The New York Post reported that researchers discovered a copy of the Declaration of Independence in storage at a record office in southern England. According to a press release from Harvard University, the document, which is being called “The Sussex Declaration,” apparently dates back to the 1780s. It is believed to have once belonged to the Third Duke of Richmond, known as the “Radical Duke” for his support of the Americans during the Revolution.
In August 2015, researcher Emily Sneff of the Declaration Resources Project was attempting to create a database on every known edition of the Declaration, she told The Harvard Gazette. The document caught her attention because of the catalog listing that it was a manuscript on parchment. Her and Harvard’s Danielle Allen began to investigate. After reviewing a photo of the document from the archives, she realized it was different than any other copy she had ever seen before.
“When I looked at it closely, I started to see details, like names that weren’t in the right order—John Hancock isn’t listed first, there’s a mark at the top that looks like an erasure, the text has very little punctuation in it—and it’s in a handwriting I hadn’t seen before,” she added. “As those details started adding up, I brought it to Danielle’s attention and we realized this was different from any other copy we had seen.” The researchers will continue to study how the document reached England, as well as attempt to decipher some text that appears to be scraped away at the top of the parchment, according to the Gazette. If you’re inspired to search for your own fortune, here are 25 things in your house that could be worth money.