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If you've ever watched the long-running PBS series Antiques Roadshow, you know that some people have precious treasure hidden in plain sight. It's astounding to see the priceless items people have stashed in their attics, basements, and even in their walls; it's all treasure waiting for the right person to come along. These are some of the most valuable and bizarre finds of all.
In 2013, David Gonzalez bought a dilapidated house in Elbow Lake, Minnesota. Gonzalez, a contractor by trade, immediately set out to gut the interior walls of the fixer-upper. As his sledgehammer busted through the drywall, he noticed it was filled with paper for insulation, a common practice in the 1930s. A comic book caught Gonzalez' eye amid the shreds of newspaper. It turns out it was Action Comics No. 1 - the first appearance of Superman - the holy grail of comic books. A nearly-mint-condition copy of the comic sold at auction for over $2 million. The copy Gonzalez found was nowhere near mint, with back pages missing and severe weathering. It still sold for $175,000 at auction. Considering he paid $10,000 for the house, it's safe to say he was alright with that.
George Davis was a longtime employee of Hammer Galleries in Manhattan, and over the years, he purchased a handful of antiques. When he passed away in late 2013, his relatives found a small, unadorned box in the attic of his home upstate. The box held a small figurine that turned out to be worth a fortune. The doll was a Faberge figure of an Imperial Russian commander from before World War I. The trim on the uniform was made of real gold, and the medals and insignia were set in precious stones. It was originally commissioned by Czar Nicholas II for his wife in 1912, bought by an American industrialist and then eventually by Mr. Davis in 1934 for $2,250. It was appraised at nearly $800,000, but it sold for over $5 million at auction.
Here's Looking at You, Kid
In 2015, Randy and Linda Guajiro were looking through some antiques at a store in Fresno, California, when they came across a box of old photographs. They looked through them, and, although nothing jumped out at them, a voice in Randy's head told him to hold on to the dark tintype photo of the young man holding a croquet mallet. The Guajiros paid $2 for three photos in all, including the tintype one. Randy eventually took it to an expert on Americana antiques in the San Francisco Bay Area who helped piece together the identity of the men in the photo. It's the only known photograph of Billy the Kid with his gang, the Regulators, making it a priceless piece of American history. The only other photo of the legendary outlaw sold at auction for $2.6 million. This photo's value is set at $5 million because it shows the Kid with his gang, notorious legends of the wild west in their own right.
Next time you're rifling through some junk in the attic, take a second look. You never know what you'll find.