12 Hidden “Treasures” That Were Actually Worth Nothing
Imagine searching for some elusive hidden treasure and finding it only to discover... it's utterly worthless?
The “gold coins” that were actually props
Two men aided by a metal detector were thrilled to discover a stash of 50 gold coins in a field in the English countryside. Believing the coins could be worth up to £250,000, the two began making plans for how they’d spend their windfall. Their excitement was short-lived, however, as it soon became apparent the coins didn’t “feel” like gold, and, in fact, they turned out to actually be props used in the filming of the BBC television comedy Detectorists.
Antiques Roadshow‘s “oh no” moment
A man who purchased a clay jug at an estate sale was so proud of his find that he took it with him on Antiques Roadshow, which appraised the jug as dating back to the mid- to late 19th century and being worth $50,000 USD. So far so good… until a woman from Oregon saw the broadcast and recognized the jug as something she had created in a high school art class in the 1970s.
Winston Churchill’s career as a poet isn’t going so well
Before Winston Churchill became Britain’s prime minister, he was a journalist covering the Boer War in South Africa. What he saw moved him to write a 40-line poem he called “Our Modern Watchwords.” When a retired manuscript dealer found the poem, written in blue pencil, it was authenticated and valued at $23,000 USD. The only problem was that when the poem was placed for sale at an auction house, it failed to sell at all.
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Worthless stash can still be ratings gold
Back in the mid-1980s, many people were excited to learn Chicago’s Lexington Hotel was being partially demolished for renovation purposes, but no one quite so much as Geraldo Rivera, who live-broadcast the unearthing of what he described as “Al Capone’s Vaults.” As it turned out, there was nothing to be found. No treasure, no human remains, nothing. But that didn’t stop the broadcast of The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults from becoming a massive ratings success.
These slang words from the 1920s are very, very weird.
When they say “vomit” like it’s a good thing
Although “ambergris” is essentially nothing more than a thick lump of rather stinky whale vomit, it’s actually worth a lot of money because it’s used in the making of expensive perfumes. For example, when a couple found a 32-pound chunk of ambergris on a beach in Australia, their find netted them £186,500. So when a man walking his dog on an English beach found what he was sure was a sizable chunk of ambergris, he was excited… until he learned it was nothing more than a worthless rock.
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Some hidden treasures are actually hiding in plain sight. That’s why archaeologists were excited to discover a 7.7-metre-wide circle of metre-high stones in the English countryside. Not exactly Stonehenge, but compelling nonetheless, especially because the scientists estimated the circle to be some 3,500 to 4,500 years old. Just two weeks later, however, the circle was discovered to have been the work of a local farmer who had owned the land in the 1990s.
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Captain Kidd’s “treasure”
William Kidd was a notorious pirate during the late 17th century, so it stands to reason he stashed his treasure somewhere. In 2015, a group of archaeologists discovered what they thought was that very treasure—in an old shipwreck off the coast of Madagascar. Unfortunately for them, the shipwreck site failed authentication. In fact, the site was found to be nothing but rubble.
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At least the lawyers are making money off this one
For decades, Dennis Parada searched northern Pennsylvania for gold rumoured to have been lost there during the Battle of Gettysburg. When he finally “struck gold,” literally, he led the FBI to his excavation site, only to be told he had to leave the site while the FBI investigated. Things only got worse when the FBI’s report of their investigation stated that there was nothing of value at the site. Parada responded by accusing the FBI of foul play. “I have no idea what motivation the FBI would have for hiding gold,” his lawyer told Fox News, and Parada has no intention of backing down.
Out of circulation
In 2007, a Florida-based shipwreck-salvage company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, found a sunken Spanish ship in the ocean off of southwest Portugal. Although the loot inside was valued at $500 million USD, Odyssey never saw a penny of it because Spain quickly commenced a lawsuit seeking ownership of said loot. After five years of protracted litigation, Odyssey was made to give all of it to Spain, which is not using it for profit but exhibiting it via museums across Spain.
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No exchange rate
When an Italian woman, Claudia Moretti, inherited her uncle’s home, she was thrilled to discover it contained a safe, which, itself, contained 100 million lire in cash. But what even is a lire? Before the euro was adopted in 2002, the lira was Italy’s form of currency. Unfortunately for Moretti, the adoption of the euro came with a proviso that after December 6, 2011, any remaining lire would be un-exchangeable. In other words, Moretti’s find was worth nothing. But the same can’t be said for these incredible fortunes people found in their attics.
The Coso spark plug
In 1961, three amateur archaeologists out searching for geodes in Olancha, California, dug up a “mechanical gizmo encased in fossil-encrusted rock out of a mountainside in the Southern California desert,” as Salon puts it. The archaeologists were certain the “gizmo,” which soon came to be referred to as the “Coso Artifact,” dated back to the days before we’d thought man even existed and would prove that everything science had told us about the evolution of man would have to be rewritten. The thing was, when it came to authentication, the Coso Artifact turned out to be a 1920s-era spark plug, covered in hardened earth.
The jury’s still out on Forrest Fenn’s treasure…
In 1988, a New Mexico author and treasure hunter, Forrest Fenn, placed $2 million USD worth of treasure in a small chest and buried it somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Or so he claims. A few years later, he published a poem purporting to be read as a treasure map of sorts. But no one’s found it yet, and six people have died trying. In the meantime, Fenn isn’t calling off the search, despite having been asked to do so by law enforcement. What remains to be seen is if Fenn actually hid anything of value anywhere and if the legend of Fenn’s treasure becomes an urban legend.
Next, check out these unique treasures in abandoned houses.