Six Accidental Fortunes: Could You Be Next?

It is possible to find a fortune when it is least expected, albeit the odds of doing so are probably the same as being struck by lightning.

Here are six unbelievable good luck stories that will may make you embrace the powers of leprechauns and maybe even the tooth fairy, but whatever you do, don’t quit your day job until you get everything checked out by experts.

1- The Hoxne Hoard
Our first treasure story concerns a hammer that was lost in Suffolk, England back in 1992. In November of that year, a farmer named Hoxne lost a hammer in one of his fields and he asked his friend, Eric Lawes, to use his metal detector and search for it.

Well, they never found the hammer, but Lawe’s metal detector uncovered an extraordinary treasure trove; namely, 24 bronze coins, 565 gold coins, 14,191 silver coins, hundreds of gold and silver spoons, jewelry and statues all dating back to the Roman Empire!

Referred to as the “Hoxne Hoard,” the amazing discovery was reported to British authorities as required by law. Not only was it soon declared as a “Treasure Trove,” but also the legal property of Britain.

In all fairness, the government is required to pay fair market value for the items, which for the farmer who lost his hammer and his friend with the metal detector meant a nice split of about £1.75 million (about $2.8 million). The British museum proudly displays the Hoxne Hoard, which draws thousands of people every year.

2. Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfreesboro, Arkansas
Nowhere near the famous diamond mines of South Africa, this park sits on top of a volcanic pipe (geologic tube formed by an ancient underground volcanic explosion) and is the only diamond site open to the public. In 1924, lucky W.O. Bassum found a 40.23-carat diamond.

Nicknamed the “Uncle Sam Diamond,” is so far the largest diamond ever discovered in North America. It was later cut down to 12.42 carat and sold for $150,000 in 1971 (about $800,000 in today’s currency). Only to be slightly outdone, in 1964 “The Star of Murfreesboro”, a 34.25-carat diamond, was discovered at the same site. In 1975, the “Amarillo Starlight Diamond” weighing 16.36 carats was found. As recently as 2006, another stunning find, the “Roden Diamond,” a mere 6.35 carats, was discovered.

The crown jewel of the park is not the biggest diamond recovered but the one given the “perfect’ rating by the American Gem Society. The first diamond in the world to ever receive such a high grade was the “Strawn-Wagner Diamond,” a comparatively small 3.09-carat diamond that was dug up in 1990 and expertly cut down to 1.90 carat.

It is said that on an average, two diamonds are found every day at Crater of Diamonds State Park.

So what are you waiting for? You may become the next Harry Winston!

3- The Declaration of (Financial) Independence
Did you know that there were originally two hundred copies of the Declaration of Independence? Further, did you even suspect that until recently only 35 of them have been found?

Well, neither did Michael Sparks who inadvertently purchased number 36 from a Nashville thrift store where he bought a candleholder, a set of salt and pepper shakers and a yellowed print of the Declaration of Independence. Out of a sense of patriotism, he bought the document for $2.48 and it wasn’t until a few days had past that he began to wonder exactly how old this document was.

After an Internet search, Sparks soon realized that he had purchased one of only 200 official copies of the Declaration of Independence commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1820.

It took a year for Sparks to have the print authenticated and preserved, and then he put it up for auction, netting a final sale price of $477,650. Alas, for the candleholder and salt and pepper shakers were worthless.

4- Covering a hole in the wall can lead to a hole in one
Once upon a time, an employee at an Indiana tool-and-die company spent $30 for a few pieces of used furniture and an old painting of some flowers. He hung the picture directly over a hole in the wall that had been bothering him.

There it hung for several years, until one evening he was playing a board game called Masterpiece in which players attempt to outbid one another for artwork at an auction. Much to his surprise, one of the cards in the game featured a painting of flowers that greatly resembled the one hanging on his wall.

An online search revealed that his painting was similar in style to the work of Martin Johnson Heade, an American still-life artist best known for landscapes and flower arrangements. He found the Kennedy Galleries in Manhattan, which handles many of Heade’s works, and asked them to evaluate his painting.

They verified that the painting covering the hole in his wall was a previously unknown Heade painting, since named Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth. In 1999, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston purchased the painting for $1.2 million dollars.

Heads up!

5- Gold pendant a new variety of four-leaf clover
Every Sunday afternoon for the last seven years, Mary Hannaby had gone for a walk with her metal detector but she never found anything of value. It was good exercise, however, and so she kept it up. On one Sunday in June 2009, her detector beeped, and she bent down to dig up what turned out to be a postage stamp-sized gold pendant featuring an intricate carving of the crucifixion of Jesus.

The British Museum dubbed the pendant an “important find” valued at around $6,000, but they did not wish to buy it and so Mary took the pendant to Sotheby’s. The experts there believed the pendant to be one of only three similar items known to exist and they estimated its worth at 250,000 ($415,900) because it greatly resembled another English treasure also found with a metal detector, the Middleham Jewel.

Sotheby’s put the pendant up for auction on July 9, 2009, making it the highlight of a large lot of antique sculptures. The bidding started at £30,000 (about $49,900), but as the final call was made, the best offer was only £38,000 (about $63,200) .

Although far below reserved sale expectations, that’s still not bad for a Sunday morning walk, n’est ce pas?

6- Jackson Pollock painting found in thrift store
In 1992, a retired truck driver named Teri Horton went to her local thrift store in search of a gag gift for a depressed friend. She found a rather large painting (66 inches by 47 inches) that she believed would be good for a laugh because it was, in her opinion, so ugly. The store wanted $8; she haggled and paid only $5.

Her friend didn’t want it and she took it home and tried to unload it at her garage sale. A local art teacher saw the painting and suggested it might be a Jackson Pollock whom Teri had never heard of. Since that day, Teri Horton has been struggling to prove that her thrift store treasure is a lost piece of artwork potentially worth well over $100 million.

The problem lies in the painting’s lack of verifiable history of ownership (known as provenance”). Teri had the work examined by a forensic specialist who claims to have found a fingerprint that matches one in Pollock’s studio. Even that evidence, however, has been disputed by the art world, leaving the painting, as yet, unsold.

Teri, her painting, and her battle with the art world elite became the subject of a 2006 documentary called, appropriately, Who the *$&% is Jackson Pollock?

So don’t waste another minute. Dig through your basement and attic. (Go as far as China, if necessary). Make it a mission to comb neighborhood thrift stores and yard sales.

You just never know…..

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