Why do people store things in safe deposit boxes? Of course, you want to keep your valuables protected from some kind of accident at the house, so you might store your passport, marriage certificate, birth certificates, or other precious documents. In addition, you might use the box to store things that are valuable to you for sentimental reasons or because they have intrinsic value. Or maybe you are not quite sure if what you own is valuable, but you want to keep it under lock and key — just in case.
Surprisingly, every year a number of people abandon these safe deposit boxes, and the holders of the property (usually banks) need to do something with the valuables inside them. The property becomes a class of asset the state calls “unclaimed property.” According to the State of Arkansas “(u)nclaimed property includes savings accounts, checking accounts, unpaid wages or commissions, stocks, dividends proceeds, refunds, money orders, paid-up life insurance policies, utility deposits and contents of safe deposit boxes. Safe deposit box contents often include things like jewelry, coins, baseball cards, stamps and other personal documents.”
As a last resort, the banks or other holders of the property sell these items on eBay. Last year we told you about the State of Massachusetts’ annual unclaimed property auction, which generated a lot of interest. So, this year we thought to surface a few of the more intriguing items from the Arkansas unclaimed property auction. If you want to see the entire list, take a look here.
First up is this One Dollar Tallahassee Rail Road Company Bill:
Sales of rare currency are common on eBay, but usually we see auctions for currency backed by the U.S. Treasury or foreign treasury departments. You know, the ones that give us confidence the currency was (or is) “legal tender.” We hadn’t seen currency backed by a railroad company before this auction. A quick search revealed these items are more common than we thought, and in fact there are quite a few search results. Our interest was piqued, and we found this site, dedicated to railroad currency and scrip. According to the site, “(f)ew people realize that before the Federal Government started to print currency during the Civil War private issuers such as state chartered banks, insurance, mining companies and railroads issued their own bank notes.”
This seems like a fitting item to have found its way into a safe deposit box for safekeeping: its value was unknown, but it was likely to appreciate over time. Or at least that is what we think. In this day, we are sure market forces will determine exactly the value of this piece of American history, with a current high bid of $51.
Baseball or basketball trading cards are another type of collectible that might gain value with the passage of time. You never know who is going to be the next Babe Ruth or Larry Bird, so keeping those cards safe is common sense for those people who have a collector’s mentality. We were therefore intrigued with this Lot of 30 Micellaneous Baseball and Basketball Cards:
The description is pretty straightforward and vanilla, but at least it includes the players’ names:
“You are bidding on a lot of 30 Miscellaneous Baseball and Basketball Cards: Tom O’Malley, Jack Howell, Jamal Mashburn, Willie Stargell, Charles Oakley, Jeff D’Amico, Stanley Jackson, B.J. Armstrong, Kent Mercker, Alan Mills Todd Hundley, Dan Plesac, Charles Nagy, Ron Karkovice, Bob Kipper, Adam Peterson, Jud Buechler, Tom Chambers, Shawn Bradley, Dexter Boney, Mark Aguirre, Tim Brooks, Johnny Ruffin, Scan Rooks, Marlon Maxey, Larry Johnson, Craig Ehlo, Michael Jordan, National Anthem Card”
Of course, even we recognize Michael Jordan, but who else is hidden here? And even if there is someone famous, how do you rate the value of the card? Many factors help determine the value of a card to a collector, including its condition. How do you know exactly what condition are they in, aside from scrutinizing the photos? There are lots of questions regarding this lot, which might be why this auction’s current high bid stands at $71.75, although interest is high with 28 bids. We will leave it to the experts (and eBay’s mysterious “market forces”) to determine the final outcome.
Just so you know, Arkansas keeps a database of unclaimed property in the state. According to the state, “over $74 million in unclaimed properties have been returned to the rightful owners.” But the intriguing part is that over $170 million is still waiting to be claimed. If you feel you have a claim to an item, take a look at the Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt site, and see what you find.
On the other hand, we’ll just wait to see what shows up on eBay.