Typically, buying a house is an extremely expensive affair, though most new homeowners would agree the cost is more than worth it. A select few of them may not even realize how true that sentence is until they start remodelling, digging through old attics, tearing down wallpapers, or even walking around their new lawn. Turns out those locations are popular hot spots for finding some outrageously valuable stuff, from long lost paintings to decades-old baseball cards to huge bags of cold, hard cash.
Of course, when people find old objects in their new homes, it’s not exactly just a matter of “finder’s keepers.” Legal wrangling and authentication issues often get involved before any sort of a pay out can be made, ensuring the rightful owners benefit from whatever was discovered. That said, no matter where the pieces eventually fall, the fact remains, people have found things worth millions of dollars in the places they least expected.
Unfortunately, anyone looking to make a windfall by snatching up abandoned properties probably isn’t going to be this lucky. Strange as some of these finds have been, there’s always a long, complicated explanation about how the items got there, showing it was hardly a mere matter of luck. To hear the full story, keep reading to learn about 30 things people found in attics worth more than we can ever imagine.
29 $45,000 in Cash Returned To The Rightful Owners
It’s understandable that a person would read this list and hope something similar happened to them, but the idea barely crossed the minds of Josh and Tara Ferrin. The Utah couple had just recently purchased a new home, and
as Josh cleaned out the garage, he discovered several bags of cash, stamps, and bond certificates that were collectively valued at $45,000.
However, being kind hearted folk, the Ferrin’s first instinct was to track down the previous homeowners and hand it over. The original owner had passed away, but his sons were unsurprisingly pleased to hear news of the discovery.
28 Digging For Treasure In the Front Yard
While people focus on the values of things they find laying around the house, dogs are more inclined to simply sniff around and dig for the love of, well, sniffing around and digging.
By allowing their dog to be a dog, a California couple discovered 8 cans filled with centuries old gold coins dated from 1847 to 1894 buried in their own yard.
The original value of the coins ranged from $1 to $20, with most of them on the higher end. Of course, that was 1800s value—with the help of numismatic expert Don Kagin, they’ve been valued at $11 million today.
27 The Very First Superman Heated A House For Decades
Even with superhero-based films breaking all sorts of box-office records, some may be surprised to learn just how much money one of those colorful books they originally appeared in can go for these days. A Hoffman, Minnesota construction worker named David Gonzalez learned this information firsthand when he purchased a new home at a very low price and discovered Action Comics #1 stuck in the building’s insulation along with some old newspapers. Unfortunately, the comic wasn’t in peak condition, or it could have gone for millions, but even in the slightly run down state, it gave Gonzalez $175,000 at auction.
26 Van Gogh Sees The Sunset At Long Last
Anyone who finds an old painting in their house with an unknown artist should probably get it appraised. Once that’s done, they should find another expert and double check, just in case.
Had Christian Nicolai Mustad gone through this process, he would have known the oil landscape in his attic was “Sunset at Montmajour,” painted by none other than Vincent Van Gogh.
Mustad left the legendary artist’s work in his attic after being told it was fake, and it wasn’t until his family re-investigated after he passed away did they learned the truth.
25 Russian Nest Egg Dolls
When most people hear “Fabergé,” they probably think about the expensive decorative eggs. However, they weren’t the only decorations Peter Carl Fabergé created, and anything else he made for the Russian royal family holds great value, as well. The family of George Davis learned this when cleaning out the man’s attic after he passed away, where they found a Fabergé doll with ties to the Russian royal family.
Davis had apparently purchased the doll in 1934, only to forget about it until relatives discovered it.
To their surprise, this trinket in the attic was worth $5.2 million.
24 A Discovery People Dream About
Not all value is measured in dollars, as some things are more important than cash. For example, a reel-to-reel recording of one of history’s greatest activists having a casual chat about his mission. Stephon Tull found exactly that in his father’s attic, featuring the elder Tull speaking with Martin Luther King, Jr.
The recording was dated December 21, 1960, a full three years prior to King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Apparently, the interview was granted when Tull was planning a book about the history of civil rights that never came to pass.
Roughly five decades later, he didn’t need to write a word for it to be worth $20,000 to $60,000.
23 Baseball Cards Worth A Fortune
Sold to the right collector, individual baseball cards originally sold with gum for mere cents can be worth thousands of dollars. Imagine, then, how valuable it could be to find multiple unopened boxes filled with them, which happened to a man in Tennessee when searching a family home’s attic after his uncle passed away.
The oldest cards were from 1948, including rookie photographs of future baseball icons like Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, and Warren Spahn.
The man also had some very old basketball cards, but these don’t quite compare in value to collectors. Nonetheless, his total findings could be worth over $1 million.
22 200-Year-Old Coins Worth thousands
Given the other stories on this list, anyone with ties to abandoned property might want to go and check on their investment. A family in Windber, Pennsylvania learned the value of keeping abandoned houses in order after some distant relatives passed away and they inherited a house no one had lived in for roughly 20 years.
Once they arrived to clean the house, the family immediately found huge stacks of old coins, dating as early as 1793.
According to coin experts, the overall collection could have been worth as much as $200,000.
21 A Broken Home Hides “Breaking Home Ties”
In some cases, items found on this list weren’t necessarily lost so much as the were hidden. That was the case with this Norman Rockwell painting, appropriately called “Breaking Home Ties.” Don Trachte, Jr. bought the work in 1960, then hid it behind a wall during a contentious divorce from his wife.
Years later, after the man passed, his sons Don and Dave re-discovered the painting, solving a long mystery at the Rockwell Museum, which believed their version of the painting wasn’t original.
20 A Garden Filled With Two Kinds of Broccoli
Unlike the noble career farmer, most people keeping vegetable gardens in their back yards do so more as a hobby than an actual means of sustenance. All signs suggest Wayne Sabaj’s broccoli patch was of this variety, until he discovered a bag containing $150,000 in cash in the same general vicinity of his McHenry County, Illinois garden. Sabaj initially assumed it was illegal money and informed the police, who discovered it wasn’t illegal, but several other entities laid claims on the sum. Before the legal wrangling could conclude, Sabaj himself passed away from diabetes, meaning whoever got the money, it wasn’t, unfortunately, the guy who found it.
19 Some Folks Sure Leave A Lot of Money Lying Around
Exhilarating as it can be to stumble upon random cash, anyone who assumes it instantly belongs to them is in for a rude awakening. That’s what happened when an Arizona couple hired contractors to remodel their home who discovered dozens of military ammunition cans loaded with a grand total of $500,000 in cash. While both the owners and remodellers wanted to keep the money, judges decided it still belonged to previous owner Robert Spann, or more accurately his family, as the man passed away 11 years earlier. According to Spann’s daughters, he always left money hidden around the house for safe keeping, suggesting it was misplaced and not abandoned.
18 Ruminations on the Great American Novel
In the modern era, an author starting a second draft might mean opening up a new Word document. Back before computers, though, they had to painstakingly comb through typewritten manuscripts and add in all the necessary changes before starting over again.
An LA resident discovered Mark Twain’s process for doing this when he found an early copy of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in his attic loaded with handwritten changes by the author himself.
Apparently, the manuscript was once loaned to James Fraser Gluck, a distant relative of the man who found it. The pages also included an early version of “Life on the Mississippi,” another iconic Twain work.
17 Even Older Baseball Cards Worth Millions
If baseball cards from the 1940s are worth nearly $1 million, it only makes sense that even older cards would have greater value. That goes double if the cards are from the time when baseball memorabilia came in tobacco cans rather than children’s chewing gum. Karl Kissner of Defiance, Ohio learned this information upon cleaning out his grandfather’s attic where he found pristine condition tobacco cards from 1910. Half of the players featured later entered the Baseball Hall of Fame, including Ty Cobb, Cy Young, and Honus Wagner. When put up for auction, they made nearly $3 million, which Kissner split between his relatives.
16 The Fanciest TV Stand In History
In most cases, when a homeowner unknowingly has access to extremely valuable materials and doesn’t know it, this is because they kept the someplace else out of sight. Not so for a French oil engineer living in London, who kept an ancient Mazarin Chest in his living room, thinking it was just a big fancy box. In addition to keeping bottles inside the box, he also used it to prop up a TV.
Little did he know it was a Japanese artifact considered missing since 1941.
15 A Painting With Huge Value For Men Named Peter (Or Anyone Else)
Everyone appreciates art for a different reason. Some find the colors relaxing, others have great appreciation for the artist, and a select few might simply like a painting because it features a dude with the same name as them. That last explanation is all a man needed to purchase this small photo he believed was a portrait of Saint Peter, but the fact it only cost $300 meant it didn’t appear special, so he kept it in the attic. Years later, the man’s family recognized the piece as the work of a follower of El Greco, and when sold at auction, it made $98,000.
14 There’s More Than Just Spare Change In That Old Couch
When people need a few extra quarters, one of the first places they might look is underneath a couch cushion. A student in Berlin, Germany may well have been seeking out spare change when he discovered a painting called “Preparation to Escape to Egypt” inside a couch they just purchased at a flea market for $215. The exact artist is unknown, but experts determined it was made by a friend of Carlo Saraceni, which was enough to place it’s value at $27,630. Now that’s a lot of quarters.
13 Long-Lost Texas History Gets Found
Don’t mess with Texas. Common as that phrase is in pop culture, few people applied it to painting until an Irish artist named Harry McArdle began creating murals celebrating Texan independence in the 1800s. His most famous works documented the Battle of San Jacinto, with reports claiming two murals of the infamous incident existed, though it was long believed one of them was lost in a fire.
Centuries later, McArdle’s great-great grandson happened to find the lost work in his grandmother’s attic.
Though she initially believed it wasn’t worth much, auctioneers set the story straight, and eventually the painting sold for $334,000.
12 Early Works From An Iconic Painter
As this list has shown several times over, some art owners buy paintings without having any idea what they actually are. In some cases, they also try selling them without figuring out the actual provenance, which could end up costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars. When “The Unconscious Patient” first showed up at a New Jersey auction house after being found in the basement of a house after the owners passed away, estimates assumed it would sell for a few hundred dollars.
having been recognized as an early work of Rembrandt.
11 Paintings by Dozens of Famous Artists
Because of the artists style, a Jackson Pollock painting can be hard to spot, but experts aware of the value could never mistake his work. When an Arizona man was moving into a retirement home and had an auction house look through his belongings, not only did they find a priceless Pollock work, but also pieces created by other art legends including Kenneth Noland, Hazel Guggenheim McKinley, and Cora Kelley Ward.
Apparently, the man’s sister had been a friend of Guggenheim and all the paintings were given to her as gifts.
Parsed out at auctions, there’s no saying how much they could earn, with the Pollock alone approximated at $15 million.
10 Caravaggio or Not, This Painting’s Worth A Lot
When dealing with extremely old paintings, it can be hard to reach a consensus on who created them. Two out of three experts claimed “Judith Beheading Holofernes” was in fact not by the legendary Caravaggio, but rather one of his students.
Of course, what this means is that the third expert did think it was by the Italian master. Either way, the painting found sitting in a French basement for roughly 400 years was deemed special.
The only catch is that until the actual artist could be determined, the French government placed a hold on selling the piece. Once it’s up for auction, the owner believes it could be worth $130 million or more.
9 Dozens of Vintage Movie Posters
How much is the average person willing to pay for their favorite movie poster? Apparently, a whole lot, especially if the poster is nearly 100 years old.
Blair Pitre of Lacombe, Alberta, Canada recently purchased a house once owned by a man who ran a movie theater, and later discovered roughly 40 vintage posters tucked under the ceiling as extra insulation.
Included were hits starring legends like Buster Keaton, Gary Cooper, and Greta Garbo. Individual posters of this age can range up to $5,000 in value, making his overall collection worth nearly $50,000.
8 Hundreds of Vintage Comics
Okay, so a single issue of Superman’s debut is worth a whole lot, but that’s just the beginning when it comes to finding comic book fortunes in a person’s house. Michael Rorrer found a whole lot more when he inherited 345 vintage comics from his great aunt, including not only Superman’s debut, but also Batman’s, plus a handful of other iconic pages.
Collectively, they sold at auction for $3.5 million, with the highest seller being Detective Comics 27, the first appearance of the Caped Crusader, which alone netted $523,000.
Forget WHAM or POW—that’s a CA-CHING!
7 Abraham Lincoln’s Signature and Photograph
It probably goes without saying that the written word predates photographs, meaning there’s a great deal of history that went undocumented on film or in any other form of picture. Some might assume the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln is included in the list of things society will never see pictures of, but they’d be wrong.
When looking through her grandmother’s belongings, a woman once found a photo album featuring not only Lincoln, but his entire Cabinet, all signed and dated.
Her natural instinct was to take it to PBS’s Antique’s Roadshow, which valued the extremely rare collection at $75,000 to $100,000.
6 A Single Penny Worth Hundreds of Thousands
It only takes a vague familiarity with rare coins to know that the rarest of all are worth a serious amount of cash to collectors. That said, most laypeople would likely be shocked to learn a single penny — a currency so minor there’s been debate for decades whether it should even exist — could be worth $250,000. The catch is that this penny isn’t the usual copper, but rather a 1974-D aluminum penny, which owner Randy Lawrence thought was a mere novelty when he found it in his father’s desk. When appraised by a coin expert, though, he learned just how rare it was.
5 Personal Beatles Demos For Cilla Black
Chances are only enthusiasts of 1960s pop music are going to recognize the name Cilla Black, but just about everyone is familiar with The Beatles. Before the Fab Four were the biggest band in history, they also wrote songs for other artists, including Black’s tune “It’s for You.”
Most Beatles historians assumed the original recording had been lost for years until Black’s nephew found it in his father’s belongings.
Upon the initial discovery, it was assumed the record labeled “It’s For You – Demo” was Black’s original recording, only for experts to play it and hear Paul McCartney’s voice, making the value skyrocket to $23,500.
4 A Violin from the Titanic
Considering the ultimate fate of the Titanic, it’s hard to imagine anything from the “unsinkable” ship actually surviving to present day. Surprisingly, more than a few artifacts were saved from the ship, including an actual violin played by the band as it sank. Although bandleader Wallace Hartley indeed passed away in the ordeal, his body was eventually discovered, and the violin along with it. Somehow, it wound up in a British attic for decades until its rediscovery. Due to water damage, the violin was unplayable, but historical value alone made it worth $1.8 million.
3 This Owl Is Not As it Seems
Art teacher Jane Cordery wasn’t entirely sure what she had when she found a painting of a white owl in her attic, though she did know it clearly had value. Upon consultation with experts, they discovered the piece was “The White Owl” by William James Webbe, which hadn’t been seen on display since the 19th century. The woman’s partner believed his mother gave it to him at some point. Of course, anyone would be surprised to learn a random gift from mom was worth $951,000.
2 Andy Warhol Smiles Down On This Portrait
One of the most enigmatic artists of the modern era, Andy Warhol defined the term “pop art” with his extremely high-quality portraits of everyday mainstream figures. He was also known to create dozens of drawings for his friends and followers in The Factory, which is how a woman named Harriet Gould later found a rare Warhol piece in her attic. Apparently, Gould’s son Jon was friends with Warhol, and she left his belongings in her attic after here child passed away at the young age of 33. Once she realized what her son once had, it was valued at anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million.
1 A Suitcase Loaded with $100 Bills
Given how many random stacks of money have been found in houses, when a family found a whole suitcase stashed in the ceiling of their new house, they immediately crossed their fingers and hoped for the best. Much to their shock, they discovered dozens of newspapers from 1951, used to lovingly wrap dozens of $20 and $100 bills from the same time period. Due to the age of the money, it was worth much more than just face value, altogether totaling $23,000. After a lawyer told them they could keep it, the discovery wound up paying for the house.