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17 Most Amazing Garage-Sale Finds Ever

One man's trash really is another man's treasure.

You've no doubt poked your way around a garage sale, yard sale, stoop sale, or some other collection of someone's "junk." You may have even had a twinge upon spotting a vintage toy or book in particularly good condition, wondering, "Hey, maybe this is worth something?" But more likely than not, you opted not to add more clutter to your own place and left empty-handed.

Well, next time, you should reconsider. Garage sales, it turns out, can be the sites of some seriously valuable trinkets. Often, owners have no idea the value of the stuff they're tossing aside. That was the case with these 17 items, which, through luck or smarts, were bought on a dime—and turned out to be worth a lot more than their price tag. And for some things you maybe should've kept around, check out the 20 Crazy Valuable Things You Probably Owned and Threw Out.

A copy of The Old Man and the Sea…signed by Hemingway!

Three stacked leather bound books by Ernest Hemingway. - Image
Shutterstock/Andrew McDonough

The Old Man and the Sea is one of the most famous American novellas of all time, ever. It's no wonder, then, why one man would have picked up the familiar title while perusing a garage sale. When he opened the book, not only did he find that this copy was an original print, he also found a personal inscription from the author, Ernest Hemingway: "To Carlton and Suzanna Tweed with best wishes always."

The buyer picked up the book for two bucks, but it's clearly worth much more. As of now, an official appraisal hasn't been posted, but some estimate it to be worth as much as $30,000. And if you're a book-collector, check out these 16 Genius and Stunning Ways to Organize Your Books.

A long-lost Pollock

Light blurry acrylic colorful splashes on blue painted canvas. Acrylic painting fragment. The small depth of field. - Image

One Arizona man was sorting through his belongings before moving to a retirement home when he came across a vintage Lakers poster he thought might be worth something. But when Josh Levine, an appraiser, came by, he wasn't interested in the poster. Instead, an old painting caught his eye.

After months of research, Levine learned that the painting's colorful swirls were the work of Jackson Pollock. It had belonged to the owner's sister, a New York socialite, and was put up for auction, starting at $5 million—but Levine estimates it could bring in thrice that.

So what's the estimated worth of the Lakers poster? $300.

History's rarest Velvet Underground record

Andy Warhol was hired as manager and producer of The Velvet Underground

In 2002, a record collector was browsing a sidewalk sale in New York, where he noticed a Velvet Underground acetate called "Scepter Studios." The record, which he bought for only 75 cents, included rare recordings, most tracks never having been released elsewhere. Aware of the album's rarity, he put it up for auction on eBay four years later, where it sold for over $25,000. Only one other copy of the record is known to exist and is owned by Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker. And for some seriously amazing musical trivia, don't miss these 40 Facts About Music That Really Sing.

A stack of Coca-Cola company shares

resume noticed, Pick-Up Lines So Bad They Might Just Work

Before he passed away, Tony Marohn was a self-avowed treasure hunter who enjoyed garage sale-hopping. In 2008, he made one of his greatest finds, though it wouldn't appear so on the surface. For $5, he purchased a box of documents, including a stock certificate for a company called Palmer Union Oil Co., a predecessor of Coca-Cola. Marohn's initial attempt to retrieve his 1.8 million shares resulted in Coca-Cola suing him, but his family continued the fight after his death. After all, passing up $130 million in shares isn't easy to do! And for more amazing discoveries, learn all about the 27 Hidden Treasures That Could Be in Your Attic Right Now.

A collection of missing Ansel Adams negatives

 Photographic portrait of nature photographer Ansel Adams — which first appeared in the 1950 Yosemite Field School yearbook. The camera is probably a Zeiss Ikon Universal Juwel.
Wikimedia Commons/J. Malcolm Greany

A box of glass-plated negatives sat undisturbed for years after one man bought them at a garage sale in Fresno, California, for $45. The buyer, Rick Norsigian assumed them to be the lost negatives of the famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams, so he decided to hire a lawyer to help him sell the prints. Since then, they've sold over $1.8 million. Unfortunately, in 2014, Norsigian filed a lawsuit against his lawyer and business partner over suspicion of profit withholding.

The McLaren F1 of video games

vintage video games valuable items in your attic

People often take to the internet to brag about their vintage video game finds, but the value of such games rarely extends beyond nostalgic. That wasn't the case for Michael McCaskill, who purchased 20 old Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges for $80. Buried among them was the 1987 gem, Stadium Games.

At first glance, it might seem like your run-of-the-mill '80s-era fitness game. But it's actually one of the rarest video games in the world. Nintendo had a similar game in stores at the time, and wanted to avoid cannibalizing their own success, so they pulled the game from stores. Only about 200 remained—of which just 15 or so are thought to have survived.

McCaskill sold his copy to a local video game shop owner for $7,500.

Gem-encrusted Lebron James memorabilia

Basketball in Cleveland - Image
Shutterstock/Scott Meivogel

Residents of Akron, Ohio, have a lot of pride for hometown boy Lebron James. So when 20-year-old Akron native Vaneisha Robinson saw a glittery pendant shaped like James' jersey at a garage sale, she quickly picked it up for $5. After wearing it to school for years, she finally got it appraised, only to learn that it was worth upwards of $10,000. The pendant she had passed off as costume jewelry was actually 14-karat white gold and diamond-encrusted.

A piece of ancient pottery

Empty bowl on rustic wood, Japanese handmade ceramic bowl, ceramic texture - Image
Shutterstock/Jit-Anong Sae-Ung

An antique bowl sat in an upstate New York living room for years after one family purchased it at a local garage sale. When they finally became curious about the bowl's origins, an assessor told them the last thing they expected to hear. Experts assessed that the bowl had been crafted by the Northern Song Dynasty and that very few equals existed today. It was eventually sold to a London dealer for a whopping $2.25 million.

A note straight from Stephen King

JOHOR,MALAYSIA - JULY 28, 2016: Assorted books written by famous thriller author Stephen King on display in wooden rack.
Shutterstock/Raihana Asral

Before The Shining became one of cinema's greatest horror films, it was one of horror writer Stephen King's most popular novels. When one person spotted a paperback version of the book at a local garage sale, they were elated to find that the book had a personal note from the author, dated 1981, four years after the novel had originally been published. Along with the note, a picture of the author was stuck under the cover, leading the buyer to assume that the book's original owner had purchased the book at a signing with the author. Not bad for $1.99! And for more about the beloved author, check out these 20 Facts About Stephen King That Are As Gripping As His Books.

A jean jacket…full of cash and jewelry

Red sale tag with jeans jacket - Image
Shutterstock/5 Second Studio

A woman in Huntington Beach was hosting a garage sale to get rid of some extra stuff she had laying around the house. Among the things she sold was a denim jacket. At the time, she hadn't thought twice about the jacket, but later remembered that she had been hiding thousands of dollars of valuable jewelry inside and was devastated. A pair of $18,000 diamond earrings, a diamond ring, and $1,500 in cash were all let go…for $20. There's been no word from the buyer, but you can bet it was the best $20 they ever spent.

Costume jewelry made of actual diamonds

Jewelry diamond rings and necklaces show in luxury retail store window display showcase - Image

For nearly 30 years, a woman kept a cocktail ring she had bought at a London garage sale. The tarnished ring had a huge stone that made it look like costume jewelry, but when she finally decided to have it appraised in 2017, she was shocked to find out just how much the ring was worth. The 26.27-carat cushion-cut diamond sits on an antique silver mount, and was auctioned off for $850,000—quite a return considering she only paid ten quid for it!

Costume jewelry made of actual gemstones

CESENA (FC), ITALY - SEPTEMBER 16, 2018: lights enlightening vintage jewellery at antiques fair in Cesena - Image
Shutterstock / GoneWithTheWind

It can be difficult to tell whether a piece of old jewelry is worth something or not, especially when personal fashion taste comes into play. For example, when one woman was given an antique brooch by her mother, she threw it at the bottom of a bag and forgot about it. It wasn't until after she had sold it for $8, years later, that she learned what her mother had actually given her. What she had assumed was costume jewelry was a diamond-, emerald-, and ruby-encrusted brooch worth $30,000.

A pair of banned Nikes

MOSCOW-6 AUGUST, 2016:Rare Nike Air Force 1 basketball sneakers in black, white & red colors.Nike basketball fashion shoes on stand at fashion exposition.Fashionable foot wear for youth & Apple II pc - Image
Shutterstock/Hurricane Hank

After being diagnosed with cancer, one sneaker-enthusiast was forced to sell his beloved sneaker collection to pay for his chemotherapy. Finally on the road to recovery, the universe decided to reward him at a garage sale. For just $10, he found a pair of rare Nike Air Force 1s that had been banned. The shoes are so rare that they're valued between $1,000 and $2,500. It's safe to say they went to the right buyer.

Vintage editions of LIFE

Colorful abstract background image of stacked magazines. - Image

At an estate sale, a person's life is essentially on display. A lifetime of belongings, of memories, and of history. That's what one person found at a local when they came across three special editions of LIFE magazine from the summer of 1969. The estate owner had kept the issues pertaining to the mission to the moon. Coming across history isn't uncommon, but collector's items like this still hold great value.

A dusty Warhol sketch

Andy Warhol, inspiring quotes
Wikimedia Commons/Jack Mitchell

A British businessman was vacationing in Las Vegas in 2010, when he picked up a bunch of sketches from a garage sale for $5. When he got home, he was sorting through the sketches to decide which ones to frame. That's when he caught sight of a pair of bright red lips, Andy Warhol's signature, on the back of one of the sketches. Current appraisals pin the sketch at over $1.3 million.

A figurine straight out of Ancient Egypt

Detail of ancient Book of the Dead (1070 BC), Thebes - Egypt - Image
Shutterstock/Paolo Gallo

When an elderly woman of Cornwall, England, passed away, the entirety of her belongings went up for sale. An auctioneer came by the estate sale and noticed one statue in particular—a bust of a feline that had been sitting on the mantle for years—that looked older than the rest.

Upon closer inspection and research, the auctioneer found it had been connected to a man who ran an Egyptian antiquities dealership and that the bust may have been discovered by Howard Carter, who also discovered King Tut's tomb. It dates to about 600 B.C.E. and sold for over £50,000. And for more places to find interesting trinkets, check out the 17 Things You Should Always Buy on Craigslist.

A priceless photo tucked away in a Polaroid

THAILAND, AUGUST 22 2018: Vintage retro Polaroid camera on the wooden table. - Image

A 13-year-old boy was spending the weekend with his grandmother driving around the neighborhood garage sale hopping. Finally, at the third yard sale they visited, he found something he wanted: a vintage Polaroid camera. He picked it up for just $1.

Back at his grandmother's house, he opened up the camera to learn how to use it, when he discovered a photo sitting inside the film cartridge. When he went to show the photo to grandmother, she nearly broke down in tears. The photo was of her son…who had passed away 23 years prior. And for more tear-jerkers, check out these 19 Pet Adoption Stories That Will Make You Cry.

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Alex Daniel
A journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Read more
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