Some people get rich through hard work and extreme talent. You could also rob a bank. Or, you could get really lucky, like the people we’re about to meet here. Here are our Top 10 luckiest discoveries that made people rich.
10 – The wall of coins
In Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, the walls are made of candy. In this house in Windber, Pennsylvania, the walls were made of money.
It had been abandoned for 20 years when the children of the couple that had lived there decided to take a friend to go see what was inside. Within minutes of entering the house, they found a small pile of coins on the floor by a wall. As they explored further, they found a hole in the wall. Recalling a distant childhood rumor about their parents storing loose change in the wall, they opened up the wall. An unbelievable number of coins flowed out of the wall, like a waterfall of cash.
Once they counted all the coins, it added up to $8,500. However, because many of the coins were rare collector’s items, minted between 1793 and 1857, the real value of their haul was around $200,000. Who needs a bank when you’ve got a money wall?
9 – Things dug up in Australia
If you’re watching in Australia, it may be worth investing in a metal detector and a shovel, because you can find some seriously valuable stuff underground down under.
An anonymous prospector was playing with his metal detector in Ballarat, Victoria when the alarm sounded. He dug through 23 inches of dirt until he saw the unmistakable glint of gold. As he dug, the nugget of gold got bigger and bigger. It turned out our man had found a giant nugget, weighing 12 pounds, with a value of around $300,000.
The strange thing is, this area had been explored many times before. This record-breaking nugget would’ve been missed by hundreds of other prospectors.
Australia was also home to the Royal One Opal. It was found by an Australian miner called Bobby, who, similar to Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, was one day away from retirement when he found it. He found it under a foot of dirt at the bottom of the same mine where he had worked for his whole career. It’s estimated worth is around $750,000. I’m sure Bobby enjoyed his retirement after that.
8 – The Third Imperial Egg
An anonymous man in the Midwest of the US was scraping a modest living buying metal objects and selling them for scrap. For $14,000, he purchased a golden orb decorated with gems, hoping to make a $500 profit when he sold it on. However, he decided to get it professionally appraised first. It turned out this lump of unwanted metal was actually The Third Imperial Egg, one of the 50 original Russian Faberge Eggs.
Only 42 of them were believed to have survived the Bolshevik Revolution, and this one was thought to have been destroyed. Our man sold it on to an art collector for a staggering $33 million. That’s a lot more than the $500 he thought he would make.
Spare a thought for the guy who sold it for $14,000 though. That’s got to hurt. The moral of this story is always know what you’re dealing with!
7 – Mo’ money mo’ problems
This is a story of how greed can cause a large fortune to turn into a small fortune pretty quickly. It’s also another story of a wall full of money.
In 2008, builder Bob Kitts was smashing up a bathroom for his old school friend, Amanda Reece, when he found 2 large medicine chests hidden in a wall. He opened the chests, and to his surprise, they were full of envelopes. Each one had a $50 bill in it. The envelopes were addressed to the P. Dunne News Agency. All in all, there was $182,000 in there.
The two old friends were initially thrilled, but that’s where the trouble began. Reece offered Kitts 10% of the money, but he wanted 40% and sued her. The estate of the P. Dunne News Agency found out about it, and they wanted a piece too. Eventually, a judge split the money between Reece, Kitts and 21 descendants of Mr Patrick Dunne. I bet the two friends wish they’d kept their mouths shut now.
6 – 1974 D-Penny
When he died, a Denver Mint employee left his son Randy a small coin collection. Randy kept this handful of coins in a sandwich bag, and after he moved from Denver to San Diego, the bag stayed in his car for over a month.
Nearly 20 years later, Randy came across the coin bag again and decided to show it to a professional appraiser. The expert was impressed by a silver penny, and after a bit of research, found that this was a 1974 D-Penny.
This penny was made of aluminium and was part of a test batch of only 10 coins. It was thought that all 10 were destroyed after it was found that they wouldn’t work in vending machines, but this one still remained. Its value was $250,000.
Unfortunately for Randy, the government got involved, saying the coin was actually their property. After a legal dispute, the rare coin is now displayed in a museum.
Now that we’re halfway through, let’s have a trivia question. Take a look at these photos of equally amazing discoveries. What are they? Stick around till the end and see if your correct!
5 – Rare paintings
What’s in your attic? Mine’s full of a load of junk. So was the attic of Norwegian businessman Christian Nicolai Mustad, or so he thought.
In 1908, Christian bought what he thought was a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. However, art experts at the time told him that he’d actually bought a forgery because it was not signed. Incensed, Christian banished the painting to his attic, never to be seen again.
When Christian died, his descendants discovered the painting and found out more about it. In 2011, art experts decided that this painting, called Sunset at Montmajour, was the real thing after all, and it was worth around $50 million.
While not as famous as Van Gogh, Martin Johnson Heade is renowned in art circles for his flower paintings. In the 1990s, an Indiana man was playing Masterpiece, a board game about art. One of the questions in the game showed a picture of a painting that looked remarkably similar to one that was on his wall, covering up a hole. It had been there for years and cost next to nothing. Curious, he contacted some art experts. It turned out this hole cover was a lost painting by Heade, and was worth $1.25 million. You can buy a lot of filler with that.
4 – Action Comics #1
What is it about walls? So far we’ve found coins and treasure chests hidden in walls. Here’s another one. Action Comics #1 was published in 1938, and is the holy grail for comic book collectors, as it features the debut of Superman. Only around 100 exist, and a top condition copy is worth more than $2 million.
David Gonzalez from Minnesota, bought an old house for $10,000, with a view of renovating it, selling it, and making a bit of cash. While he was smashing down one of the walls, he came across a dusty old comic hidden in the wall insulation.
Of course, it was Action Comics #1. It wasn’t in great condition, and David actually tore the cover during an argument with his wife’s aunt a few days after finding it. David put the comic up for auction, eventually landing $175,000. Not a bad profit on a $10,000 investment. Now, where’s my sledgehammer? I’ve got some walls to smash.
3 – A hoard, not a hammer
Do you know what it’s like when you can’t find something? Annoying, isn’t it? In 1992, when Peter Whatling, a farmer in Suffolk, England lost his favorite hammer, he asked his friend Eric Lawes, who had a metal detector, to help him find it.
Eric was scanning one of his friend’s fields when the detector’s alarm sounded. It wasn’t his hammer though, it was a small silver coin. Intrigued, Eric dug some more. He found a gold necklace and enough coins to fill 2 shopping bags. He called the archaeologists in after that.
The Hoxne Hoard, as it became known, was a massive deposit of Roman riches, valued around $15 million. They found a chest containing 15 gold bracelets, a silver bust of a woman, and over 1000 gold coins. Most of the find is now on display in the British Museum.
Eric was rewarded with $2.3 million, which he shared with Peter. I don’t know if he ever found the hammer.
2 – The Declaration of Independence
In 1989, a man in Pennsylvania bought a painting at a garage sale for $4. He hated the painting but liked the frame, so removed the picture to put a new one inside. However, under the picture was an old document. This turned out to be a mint condition copy of the Declaration of Independence from 1776, one of only 25 that were made at the time. He sold it for $2.4 million. The same document sold again in 2000 for over $8 million.
It’s not such a rare story though. Michael Sparks, from Nashville, purchased a yellowing copy of the Declaration from a thrift shop because he like the look of it. He paid $2.48. Later, he decided to check it by an expert. It turned out Michael had bought a lost 1820 copy of the Declaration, commissioned by John Quincy Adams, one of only 36 existing copies. When he sold it, Michael netted just under half a million bucks.
© NBC News
1 – Coke shares
Do you go to garage sales? After you hear this story, you might want to go more often.
In 2008, California man Tony Marohn paid $5 for a box stuffed with random documents. When he sorted through the papers, he found a stock certificate for 1625 shares in the Palmer Oil Company, issued in 1924. Since the certificate was issued, Palmer merged with another company, who had merged and merged again, until they were bought up by the Coca-Cola Company.
Tony’s lawyers told him he now had 1.8 million shares in Coke, worth around $130 million. This would make Tony the largest non-institutional shareholder in Coca-Cola.
Coke, obviously, was not happy about it. They dismissed Tony’s demands, calling them ‘absurd’ and called in the lawyers. Unfortunately, Tony Marohn never got to live his dream of running Coca-Cola. He died in 2010. His family carried on the case, but were unsuccessful. Apparently, Tony’s $5 share certificate was not the real thing.
Now back to those vibrant orange organ-looking alien stone organisms – what are they? And why are they relevant to this article? Well, these are known as Pyura chilensis, a sort of living rock. They are filter-feeding sea creatures that live on the rocky coast of Chile and Peru. Of course, their meat is a delicacy, as locals eat them raw or cooked with salad because apparently they’re delicious. Interestingly, they are born male before developing female organs which means they can breed with themselves.
So, why are they in this article? Well, if you happen to come across a colony and realize they’re more than just simple beach rocks, then you’ve won a mini lottery. Specimens are expensive and can reach hundreds of dollars at high-end restaurants. However, be aware not to eat too much of it, because its meat contains an abnormally high concentration of vanadium which filters from surrounding seawater.
That ends our Top 10 lucky discoveries that made people rich. Have you ever found anything valuable at a garage sale or hidden in a wall? Let us know by leaving a comment.