The history of fine art and collectibles is filled with stories of treasures found in attics, basements, closets, and other unlikely places. The fantasy for every collector, the media loves these types of stories and the finders can sometimes become as famous as the find. Here is a list of just a few of the astounding estate, attic and barn finds sold at Heritage Auctions over the years. I guarantee this list will have you tearing up the floorboards looking for your own buried treasure.
A remarkable 2013 attic find; this 7-inch flask was presented to James Robert McAleer, who shared ownership of the 1912-13 Boston Red Sox during what was called the “Dead Ball Era.” The front depicts a Native American brave while the back commemorates the team’s 1912 championship season.
2. 1918 Buffalo Nickel: $17,250
A resident of Los Banos, California, brought a small bag of coins to a coin dealer March 25, 2006. The man said he found a plastic bag of coins in an old trunk while he was sorting through his parents’ belongings. Most were common but one was a spectacular: a 1918/7-D nickel – one of the three most sought-after varieties in the Buffalo nickel series.
3. 19th Century Silk Ribbons Display: $26,290
This rare set of 19th-century silk ribbons found in an attic was considered “one of the most thrilling early baseball discoveries in baseball hobby history” when it crossed the block in 2010. Only a handful of these ribbons ever have surfaced in the collecting world prior to the discovery of this 62-ribbon archive. These ribbons were made exclusively for baseball clubs to exchange prior to games. The players wore those accumulated trophies pinned upon their jerseys. While the exact identity of the ribbons’ original owner cannot be established definitively, one can safely surmise that he was a player for a particularly noteworthy early team.
4. 1910 Cracker Jack Baseball Cards: $286,800
The most significant trading card find in hobby history emerged from an attic in a small Ohio town. Dubbed the “Black Swamp Find,” neat individual player stacks of untouched cards, each banded by a short length of twine tied by a print shop employee, were discovered in an attic in a box long forgotten beneath an ancient dollhouse. The near-complete set offered at auction in 2012 changed the collectible card hobby forever and the family who found them appeared on The Today Show, among other television programs.
5. Frankenstein (Universal, 1931) Movie Poster Insert: $358,500
The three-sheet poster was found by a teen named Steve Wilkin in the early 1970s tucked inside a long closed and boarded over projection booth in a remodeled theater. He kept the poster in his workshop for decades before he decided to offer the poster on Craigslist. When Wilkin entertained offers of up to $50,000, he decided to send it to auction where it set a world record for the most valuable movie poster insert ever sold.
Written by: Eric Bradley