I made $8 at my mom’s garage sale last weekend. That wasn’t a typo—I only made eight dollars, which put me in the hole about $79 when you factor in the speeding ticket I got on the way to her house.
Suffice it to say, I wish my luck ran more like that of the unwitting people below who happened upon some amazing discoveries while browsing through people’s worn records and used tableware. Check out some of their bargains:
1. Ansel Adams negatives. Rick Norsigian was in the market for an antique barber chair at a Fresno garage sale when he spotted a couple of boxes of glass negatives. His interest piqued, Norsigian offered the owner $45 and ended up going home with them. After noticing how similar the images seemed to some famous Ansel Adams photos of Yosemite National Park, he had them examined by experts. They were declared authentic, most likely rescued from a fire that destroyed a third of Adams’ work in 1937. People from Adams’ camp are skeptical, to say the least, even comparing Norsigian to Hitler. Whoa.
2. Vintage Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield pictures.
Purchased for $2.00 at a New Jersey garage sale in 1980 by photographer Anton Fury, the photos are still in his possession while he figures out who they belong to and where they came from.
3. Floyd Landis’ bicycle. Most bikes found at garage sales were maybe worth a couple of hundred bucks new. The one Greg Estes of Owenton, Ky., found was worth $8,000 and was custom built for Tour de France 2006 winner Floyd Landis (well, he was the winner until he was stripped of his title for doping). It turned out the bike had been blown off the vehicle transporting it to an event in 2008; someone found it by the side of the road and decided to throw it in a garage sale, hoping to make a few bucks.
4. A 16th-century oil painting. The portrait was found at a garage sale in South Bend, Ind. Purchaser Frederick Wright didn’t really even care for the piece and only bought it because the man depicted reminded him of a character from the British sitcom Are You Being Served? After interpreting a French inscription and discovering that the portrait may have been done in 1573 by French painter and designer Francois Quesnel, Wright had the piece appraised. Its worth was estimated at $4,000 to $6,000.
5. Original artboards for the first issue of the Avengers comic book.A creative little girl bought the blank drawings to color in when her stepdad wondered if they might be worth something. They were: about $48,000. It turned out the boards had been reported stolen and the family was arrested (and later released):
6. The Declaration of Independence. Or at least a version of it. This tale is pretty famous, so you may have heard it before. If not, it goes a little something like this: Guy buys a cool, weathered-looking copy of the Declaration of Independence at a yard sale, then stashes it in his garage for years. Guy gets engaged, guy and girl clean out their junk so they can move in together. Guy gives copy of the Declaration to a thrift store. A week later, he finds out it was the real thing. Well, it was a copy, but it was one of 200 official copies commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1820. It sold for $477,000 in 2007.
7. A rare Velvet Underground acetate disc. In 2004, record collector Warren Hill forked over a dollar for a plain acetate in a cardboard sleeve that had the words “Velvet Underground” scribbled on it. An acetate disc, in case you don’t know (I didn’t), is a type of record that was used for recording different mixes or getting preview copies of albums to DJs. Anyway, Warren got a quarter back from his dollar, and his 75-cent investment ended up netting him about $24,999.25 after it was discovered to be a demo of the first album the Velvet Underground ever made. The demo was rejected by Columbia Records.
8. A diamond-encrusted pendant shaped like LeBron James’ jersey. Vaneisha Robinson shelled out $5 for a cute LeBron pendant at a garage sale several years ago, then later had it appraised out of curiosity and found out it was 14-karat gold covered in two carats of real diamonds. The pendant originally belonged to Maverick Carter, the head of LeBron’s marketing company. Robinson says she was pressured into turning the pendant over to Carter's mother and filed a lawsuit last year.