We’ve all heard lore of thousands of dollars tucked away in households, unknown to the owners that they are sitting on such pockets of value. Or perhaps you’ve tuned into the PBS program Antiques Road Show to see someone bring forth an antique handed down from family member to family member until it ends up in a box labeled ‘junk’ just to see it be valued by specialists on the television show.
Such was the case when a woman inherited an old album from her grandmother’s possessions in Annisquam, Massachusetts. What sat in a basement for generations was finally discovered as the absolutely one-of-a-kind object that it is—an album with not only the signed portrait of President Abraham Lincoln from his time in office, but also signed portraits of his entire cabinet. The album ended up being valued between $75,000 and $100,000, a number that the owner admits to knowing was not impossible before its valuation. Why was the album tucked away after the inheritor initially uncovered it? The owner waited 35 years because of her love for the album and the historical significance it brought her.
Similarly, a family member’s faith in object and interest in discovering its full potential lead to correcting decades of disbelief regarding a Vincent Van Gogh. According to BBC.com, Sunset at Montmajor was purchased by a private collector, Christian Nicolai Mustad, and placed in his home in Norway only to be told by the French Prime Minister during a visit in the 1930’s that he believed it to be a fake due to lack of signature by the artist. Mustad believed him and hid the landscape away in his attic and was not seen until his death in 1970. Drawn to the story and potential they saw, Mustad’s family became infatuated with uncovering the truth and sought authentication. Experts were able to connect the painting by its description and specific color usage to a letter written by Van Gogh to his brother in 1888. Along with more modern authentication methods, the family was finally able to discover the true history of the painting once lost to the thought of forgery.
However, not all discoveries lead to a family owned treasure being hung in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. In La Jolla, California, a rare aluminum coin was found in a desk. The oddity of this aluminum penny moved the finder to consult a rare coin shop owner by Michael McConnell, leading to its identification as a one-of-a-kind penny minted at the Denver Mint. The discovery raised immediate interest as the estimate of worth was set at $100,000 to $250,000. So much interest that the federal government stepped in to claim ownership as similar aluminum pennies were made in Philadelphia but never put into circulation. As this particular coin was the singular of its kind made at the Denver Mint, McConnell knew he had found the type of coin he believed he would never confirm its existence. While McConnell and the coin’s finder ended up donating the coin to the government, they expressed a deep appreciation for finding what they believed might be a myth.
Sometimes digging into the past of an object that has been discarded can result in the discovery of monetary value. Other times research confirms ideas or stories we have held on to from our family members as they pass the objects un-assumedly to future generations. One thing is for sure, opening up our minds to the possibility of these discoveries being made allows us the opportunity to better understand an object that we might have disregarded as junk or maybe even walk past each day. Either way, there are endless histories to explore and unicorns to chase!
We look forward to helping you make these discoveries here at What’s it Worth