Richard Schaffer an antiques collector from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., was browsing the Goodwill Internet auction site a few weeks ago in search of a violin when he happened to spot a tintype photo for sale of Robert E. Lee.
Turns out he wasn't alone. The listing attracted thousands of other viewers including me and 131 bidders. Schaffer ended up being the highest bidder of $23,000.
Goodwill Industries has decided to refund Schaffer after finding out the tintype photo of Robert E. Lee was a copy, not the original, a photograph based on a lithograph that was originally based on a photograph.
The saga started when the tin type photo of Lee caught the eye of an employee at Goodwill in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The employee stopped it from going to a bin where items sell for a dollar or two. The photo was sent instead to the charity's online auction, with bidding starting out at $4, Schaffer has not yet decided if he wants a refund from Goodwill. He states he wants to have it appraised first.
My records show that in 2009, Goodwill Industries sold an early 20th century painting on its website for $7,500. Readers can check out their website at www.shopgoodwill.com. More than 40,000 items are up for bid each week, listed by various Goodwill stores around the country. Thanks to Schaffer for helping me with this article.
Once a year, for the past seven years, David Schnaidt, auctioneer and owner of Apple Tree Auctions in Newark, auctions millions of dollars worth of items he finds in abandoned bank deposit boxes. The contents are from one of the largest banks in the country, with bank branches in Ohio, New York, Connecticut, and Louisiana.
Some of these abandoned boxes are 20 to 30 years in default. He says once the bank is reimbursed for the $150 vault drilling fee, and back rent owed on the box, he gets his cut, and the rest goes to the state treasury.
Schnaidt says most of the real valuable items he finds come from the New York branch, and states that stocks, bonds and cash he finds do not go through the auction process. These items go to the state.
Schnaidt and bank employees go through each vault, verifying the contents. In one of the boxes he opened recently held over $1 million in abandoned cash that was registered to a corporation no longer in business. He states many people die, move away, or forget to pay rent on the boxes.
Schnaidt remembers a couple of years ago finding an abandoned deposit box containing valuable silver, watches, Tiffany, emeralds, diamonds, and east Indian gold jewelery that sold at auction for thousands of dollars, with the biggest portion of the money unclaimed and going to the state of New York.
Readers, to find out if you have unclaimed funds, call (614) 466-4433, log onto missingmoney.com or write to Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of Unclaimed Funds, 77 South High St., 20th Floor, Columbus, Ohio, 43215; or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can check at the Washington County Auditor's Office.
Larry Koon is the author of several price guide books on antiques and collectibles. His column appears every Monday on Life. Send letters to Treasure in the Attic, c/o The Marietta Times, 700 Channel Lane, Marietta 45750.
; or e-mail him at email@example.com. When writing, send a complete description of the item, along with size, color, any markings on the item along with condition the item is in, and how the item was obtained, and any other information. If possible, send a photograph. Letters will be answered through this column.