Treasure hunters bid for forgotten valuables at state auction

Monday, Jul 31 2017 10:02 AM

Treasure troves of jewelry, coins, sports cards and other valuables forgotten by their owners for at least five years were sold off to the highest bidders by the state Saturday.

It didn't take long for the big bid of the day inside the Sheraton Suites Hotel on Cypress Creek Road in Fort Lauderdale. After 15 minutes, a large collection of ornamental pieces, figurines, and jewelry that had a starting bid of $1,788 sold for $28,000 to an anonymous buyer.

It was a vigorous bidding war, and as the price climbed so did the tension, broken only when the auctioneer struck the gavel on the lectern and yelled "sold."

The single highest bid was for a diamond ring, which sold for $11,500.


The Florida Department of Financial Services, through its Division of Unclaimed Property, says it makes an exhaustive attempt to find the owners of bank safe deposit boxes that haven't had any activity for three years.

The state searches for the owner’s address and sends out letters. It also maintains the website, where people can search by their name for unclaimed property. If after two years, there is no response, the contents will go to auction.

About one in five Floridians has unclaimed property, said Ashley Carr, the department’s spokeswoman.

“Many families don’t communicate about these things, say if a family member passes. The survivors may have settled the life insurance and other affairs but didn’t know the deceased kept a safe deposit box,” Carr said.

And people also simply forget about their prized possession like buried treasure, she said.

Approximately 50,000 items were auctioned Saturday, sold in 317 lots that had a total reserve value of $630,000. The reserves, or the minimum the seller will accept, are set by professional appraisers who evaluate each item and determine the value of each lot. The reserves ranged from $75 to $10,000 and the number of items in the lots also ranged dramatically, from one or two pieces to dozens.

About 200 bidders attended, many of whom viewed the items up close during a preview on Friday. The crowd was comprised mostly of collectors and vendors, and they came prepared with notes taken from the preview.

The bidders had their game faces on Saturday, bearing stoic expressions, and many kept their eyes fixed on their notes even as they raised their hands to bid. Some bid just a few times while others raised their hands' dozens of times.

Marc Earle, a 64-year-old coin dealer from St. Petersburg, has been attending the annual auction for at least 15 years. He said the most he has spent at one auction is $75,000.

“I bought a coin once that was worth about $68,000,” he said. “So it makes sense.”

He came away empty-handed Saturday.

“Either I was going to buy a lot or buy nothing,” he said. “There were people who were willing to work on a closer margin than I was, and that’s the way it goes.”

The money raised from the auction goes into a fund to support the state’s public school system. Last year the state raised $1.5 million. The total amount of the bids are usually at least double the overall reserve amount. Saturday’s tally was about $1.2 million.

The state takes out a 10 percent fee to pay for the security and the auctioneers, the Fisher Auction Company based in Pompano Beach. The state has been using Fisher for 20 years.

The rightful owners or heirs of the property can still make a claim long after their possessions become part of someone else’s collection or store display. They can file a monetary claim if they can prove ownership, and the state would cut them a check for the amount that their items fetched at auction.

“There is no time limit,” Carr said. “The whole point of the program is to get the money back to the individual.”

by Brian Ballou 


article :


Get in touch

268 Orchard Road
B1-01 Singapore 238856

   +65 67377268
268 乌节路 #B1-01 新加坡邮区238856
欢迎拨电+6567377268 预约

Follow us