Experience has proven that getting rich is most reliably achieved through hard work and wise decision making. However, that hasn’t stopped common men from trying to hit it big through practically effortless means like winning the lottery or raking it in at the casino — not exactly realistic pathways to wealth. However, it cannot be denied that several lucky individuals have gotten rich through those means. In fact, there are even those who’ve acquired wealth without really intending to do so.
Here are ten cases of annoyingly fortunate men and women who got rich by accident:
10. The Rumor About The Hole in the Wall (2007)
Jeff Bidelman was asked to help look for items of value in a Windber, Pennsylvania home that had been left unoccupied for twenty years. The children of the couple that lived there had heard rumors that a hole in one of the home’s walls was filled with money resulting from their parents occasionally throwing money into it, but they thought the rumor was nothing more than an urban legend. However, within minutes of scouring the premises, Bidelman and one of the couple’s daughters had found a whole pile of coins, which they put into a plastic bag — already a satisfying find, they thought. Then they saw a hole in the wall and wondered about the rumor. Shockingly, after they opened up the wall, an unbelievable number of coins rushed out. On face value alone, the coins were worth $8,500, but many of them, minted from 1793 to 1857, were obviously much more valuable as collectors items. Preliminary estimates placed the total value of the find at $200,000.
9. The Gift That Gave the Buyer More Than Intended (199os)
Sometime in the 90s, 73-year-old Teri Horton, a former long-haul truck driver, decided to buy a painting she had spotted in a corner of a thrift shop in California. Horton’s friend was depressed at the time, and she was willing to pay $5 so she and her buddy could gulp down some beers, then use the piece as a dart board. However, they instead decided to sell the painting at a yard sale. There, an art teacher saw the work of art and commented, “You very well may have a Jackson Pollock on your hands” to which Horton replied, “Who the F is Jackson Pollock?” That question eventually became the title of a documentary that reveals how Horton has struggled to authenticate the piece as an original by Pollock, a major figure in abstract expressionism from the earlier 1900s. Many art connoisseurs remain unconvinced that the piece is a genuine Pollock; nevertheless, the painting has its share of believers. In fact, Horton has declined an offer of $9 million from a Saudi Arabian buyer since she insists that she’ll take no less than $50 million for the painting.
8. Being Switched at Birth Earns a Fortune for Both Children (2013)
In 1951, two male infants were accidentally switched at birth and only realized their interchanged fates when they were already sixty years into their lives. The unintended substitution took place after the two babies, one from a rich family and another from a poor one, were born on the same day. Due to the carelessness of hospital personnel, each couple took home the wrong baby. Thus, the child born to rich parents suffered through losing his supposed father at two and living with his supposed siblings in a one-bedroom apartment. Meanwhile, the child born to poor parents enjoyed an affluent life, which included having his own private tutor and eventually becoming the head of a real estate business. Secretly, however, the rich parents wondered why their son bore little resemblance to them, and a DNA test conducted in 2011 eventually revealed the hospital mixup. Upon being informed of the circumstances, the man who had to live a difficult life sued the hospital, and Judge Masatoshi Miyasaka, who presided over the case, awarded the victim over $370,000 — a hefty amount, yes — but still incomparable to what the man had to endure for most of his life.
7. Even More Lucrative Than She Thought (2007)
Laura Stouffer of Summerville, South Carolina occasionally enjoyed scouring through thrift shops. One day in 2007, she spotted a framed print of Shepherd’s Call, a painting of a border collie produced in the 1800s. She liked the piece, so she purchased it, but since it was just a framed print, she knew it wasn’t really worth all that much. However, upon attempting to clean off the dust from the piece, she found, sandwiched between the print and its cardboard backing, an original “window card” poster of the 1930 classic All Quiet on the Western Front. Its estimated value: at least $20,000.
6. Metal Detector Beeps for £250,000
Housewife Mary Hannaby of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire made a hobby out of combing beaches and fields. She would use her metal detector every time she went on one of her six-hour walks with her 33-year-old son every Sunday. After seven years of doing so, all she had to show for her efforts was an old dental plate. But all that changed one day in 2009 when a beep on her machine uncovered a 15th century gold treasure, which was valued to be worth at least £250,000. The piece, found just four feet below the ground in a field between Ashridge and Great Gaddesden, depicts the Holy Trinity and is said to be one of only three in the world. Adding to the housewife’s good fortune, the owner of the land, explaining he would have never found the piece by himself, refused Hannaby’s offer to split the money equally and insisted he only wanted 30% of the proceeds from the sale of the pendant.
5. Parchment From Yard Sale Nets $477,000 (2007)
In the late ’90s, Stan Caffy, a pipe fitter, bought a rolled-up piece of parchment from a yard sale in Donelson Hills, Tennessee. The purchase, along with other things he had collected over the years, had been parked at his garage for some time when Caffy’s wife pushed him to clean out the space. That resulted in Caffy donating the parchment to a thrift store in Nashville, which is where Michael Sparks, a bike hobbyist, bought it for $2.48. Sparks habitually looked for old and odd things at sales, but never really intended to make money off of such purchases. He still made a killing, however, as the parchment turned out to be one of the 200 official copies of the Declaration of Independence commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1820. It was the 36th such copy found intact, and after having the print authenticated and preserved, it was sold at auction for $477,650.
4. Hole Cover Purchased for $1.25 Million (1999)
In 1999, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston bought the painting Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth by 19th century artist Martin Johnson Heade for $1.25 million. For years, that piece hung in the Indiana home of a man in his thirties. He had no idea it was made by an important artist and how much it was worth as he had purchased it “for next to nothing” simply to cover a hole in his wall. However, one day, as the man who wished to remain anonymous was playing Masterpiece, a board game about art, he saw an image of a similar Heade painting. Curious, he contacted the Kennedy Galleries in Manhattan and was able to confirm that his painting was indeed a long lost Heade. That resulted in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston making the hefty purchase.
Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth is actually the third important painting of flowers by Heade that turned up in the late ’90s. The first was Two Magnolias on Blue Plush, which sold for $882,500 after being bought for $29 at a rummage sale, while the second was Magnolia Blossoms on Blue Velvet, which went for $937,500 after being purchased for $100.
3. Substantial Fortune Turns Into Small Find (2008)
Construction contractor Bob Kitts was tearing down the bathroom wall of the 83-year-old Lake Erie, Cleveland home owned by Amanda Reece, Kitts’s former high school classmate. He was mindlessly accomplishing the task when something he saw grabbed his interest — suspended inside the wall below a medicine chest were two metal lockboxes. Upon opening them, Kitts saw white envelopes with “P. Dunne News Agency” as their return addresses. He then ripped the corner off of one of the envelopes and saw a $50 bill. That prompted him to call Reece, and together, they counted all of the money in the envelopes, which amounted to $182,000 in Depression-era currency. The two happily posed for photographs with the cash, but little did they know, the joyful moment would soon turn into a regretful one.
When the friends talked about dividing the money, Reece wanted to give Kitts 10%, but he wanted 40. That disagreement led to an ugly legal dispute, which had Dunne’s estate getting involved. In the end, the courts decided that the money had to be divided between Kitts, Reece, and 21 descendants of Patrick Dunne, the originally huge find turning into a modest bonus for the friends originally involved in the dispute.
2. 72-Year-Old Woman Hits the Jackpot – Twice (2009)
Bernice Gallego of Fresno, California once won $250,000 on a slot machine — which is amazingly lucky of her — but that’s not really accidental enough for her to be listed here. What earns the then 72-year-old woman her slot is how a baseball card she found turned out to be one of the first baseball cards ever produced. Actually, Gallego had no idea that she had found something valuable. She pulled the card from a box of antiques and thought she’d make some money off of it by posting it on eBay for a starting bid price of $10. To her surprise, she received a flurry of inquiries about whether or not the card was genuine, which caused her to end the auction. After asking around, she learned that the card was an 1869 edition of the “Red Stocking B.B. Club of Cincinnati”, baseball’s first professional team. When she once again auctioned the card, this time on Memory Lane, it fetched a whopping $64,073.
1. Lost Hammer Leads to $15 Million Find (1992)
Retired gardener, then 69-year-old Eric Lawes, had no dreams of becoming excessively wealthy. He and his wife were quietly living off their pension in Suffolk, England, close to where their two grown sons lived. However, the contented man’s fate would change dramatically in November of 1992 when he lost a hammer. Lawes used an old metal detector his wife had given him to search for the tool in one of the nearby fields, but instead of the missing hammer, the man found a silver coin. In fact, upon digging further, Lawes unearthed a solid-gold necklace encrusted with jewels and enough gold coins to fill two shopping bags. Additional digging under the guidance of archaeologists further revealed the most important discovery of Roman artifacts in Britain, which included a wooden chest containing fifteen gold bracelets, a silver bowl filled with silver valuables, a silver bust of a woman, and about 1,000 gold coins — all in all valued at around $15 million. Lawes has already decided that he and his wife won’t move from their two-bedroom cottage, but he said he was eager to use the money to ease his wife’s arthritis and buy a new car and a jacuzzi.