20 Amazing Things Found at Yard Sales

George Rose/Getty Images Entertainment
George Rose/Getty Images Entertainment

From an actual copy of the Declaration of Independence to a brooch that once may have belonged to Russian royalty, these items might make you think twice about driving past a yard sale again. In this article, which was adapted from The List Show on YouTube, we explore 20 pretty amazing yard sale finds.

1. A Photo of Billy the Kid

Wikimedia//Public Domain

A potentially valuable photo of Billy the Kid was once bought at a flea market for $10. In 2011, Frank Abrams of North Carolina picked up the picture, which featured five men in wild west gear, because he thought it looked interesting and odd. He hung it up in the spare bedroom he rented out on Airbnb. Later, while watching a documentary about the outlaw Billy the Kid, Abrams decided to take a second look at the men in his photograph. He identified one of them as a known associate, and later adversary, of Billy the Kid—and believed that another man in the photo was the Kid himself. While not everyone agrees that the photo is of the Kid, other pictures of the outlaw have been valued at millions of dollars. So Abrams decided to move his photo from the spare bedroom into a safety deposit box.

2. Unpublished Photos of Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield

Keystone Features/Getty Images

In 1980, Anton Fury of New Jersey bought an envelope of photo negatives for $2 at a garage sale. When he took a closer look, he realized he’d bought around 30 unpublished photos of Marilyn Monroe as well as 70 of actress Jayne Mansfield. Not much has been heard about the photos since, so it’s unclear if Fury cashed in on his find.

3. Photographs Supposedly by Ansel Adams

Rick Norsigian bought a couple boxes of glass negatives at a garage sale in Fresno, California, for $45. He stashed them under his pool table for a couple of years. When he finally pulled them out, he noticed a similarity between the snaps of Yosemite and San Francisco, California, and Ansel Adams’s photographs. Norsigian gathered a team of experts, who declared the negatives to be the work of the famous photographer and worth $200 million. One expert, however, later changed his mind and said the photos were actually taken by lesser-known photographer named Earl Brooks.

The debate over who took the photos rages on, but at least one thing has been settled legally: Norsigian was allowed to sell the prints, but he had to give them a disclaimer, and was not allowed to use the Adams name.

4. A Supposedly Original Andy Warhol Sketch

Susan Greenwood, Liaison Agency/Getty Images

A man once claimed he bought an original Andy Warhol sketch at a garage sale in Las Vegas for $5. The piece depicted singer Rudy Vallee and it was thought that Warhol drew it when he was about 10 years old. The Royal West of England Academy in Bristol put it on display in 2012.

A Warhol piece like that would be worth millions—but art experts and Warhol’s family aren’t convinced that it’s authentic. Warhol’s brother noted, “It had no characteristics of his drawing style whatsoever and the signature was vastly unlike his real signature.”

5. A Velvet Underground Demo

Photographer unknown, Published by Verve Records, at that time a subsidiary of MGM Records, Wikimedia//Public domain

Andy Warhol managed The Velvet Underground in 1966 when they recorded a demo to send to labels. In the early 2000s, record collector Warren Hill came across one such demo at a Manhattan street sale and bought it for $0.75 cents. The record contains six tracks that eventually appeared on the album "The Velvet Underground and Nico," while three went unreleased. Hill sold the demo for about $25,000.

6. A Custom Bike Built for Tour de France winner Floyd Landis

Bryn Lennon//Getty Images Sport

In 2008, a custom bicycle built for Tour de France winner Floyd Landiswho was stripped of his title in 2007—was carried off a truck by wind. The bike was worth about $8000, unbeknownst to the person who found, then sold, it at his garage sale. They thought it looked like a bike with flat tires and broken pedals (which were actually just clip-in pedals). So Greg Estes was able to buy it for $5. He later discovered its worth and once even jokingly attempted to sell it for $6000 at his own yard sale. But the owners actually wanted the bike back, so he probably didn’t get that much cash for it.

7. A table built by furniture maker John Seymour and Son

iStock.com/JannHuizenga

At some point in the 1960s, Claire Wiegand-Beckmann saw a moldy table at a garage sale that she thought would be perfect for her new house. The asking price was $30, but she only had $25 on her, and she got the table. Thirty years later she brought it on Antiques Roadshow, where it was identified as being one of six made by Boston furniture maker John Seymour and Son, whose pieces you can also see at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It would sell at auction for $541,500.

8. A Painting Called “Preparation to Escape to Egypt”

Photo courtesy of Ketterer Kunst GmbH & Co.

In 2007, a student bought a pullout couch for $215 at a flea market in Berlin. Inside it, there was an Italian painting from the early 17th century, titled “Preparation to Escape to Egypt.” The artist couldn’t be determined, but that didn’t matter: The painting was auctioned off for $27,630.

9. A Painting by Francois Quesnel

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Similarly, a professor bought a 16th-century oil painting at a garage sale in Indiana in the late 1980s. It caught his eye because the subject looked like a character in a show he liked, which was the British sitcom Are You Being Served? He kept it in storage until 2011 when an appraiser estimated that it might be worth up to $6000. The appraiser believed it could be the work of Francois Quesnel, who worked for the de Medici family and has a portrait hanging in the Louvre.

10. A Portrait by Anthony Van Dyck

Anthony van Dyck, Wikimedia//CC BY-SA 3.0

A Catholic priest once purchased a gold frame at an antique shop for £400 (about $498). But it was the portrait inside the frame that ended up being the true find. It was by Anthony Van Dyck, a famous 17th century painter who worked under King Charles I. According to experts, this particular painting was likely a sketch leading up to him creating his more famous work The Magistrates of Brussels, which was sadly destroyed by the French at the end of the 17th century.

11. The Art Boards For the First Avengers Comic Book

Marvel Studios

A family in Texas once unknowingly bought art boards for the first Avengers comic book because their 12-year-old daughter spotted them as something she’d like to color. They were worth about $48,000, but they had been reported missing, so the family returned them.

12. A Piece of Pottery From the Northern Song Dynasty

Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s New York

In 2013, a bowl bought at a garage sale for $3 that had been sitting in a New York living room sold for $2.2 million at an auction. It turned out the family had bought an 11th century piece of pottery from the Northern Song Dynasty and plopped it on their mantle for a few years.

13. An Authentic Bronze Egyptian Cat Statue

Mohamed El-Shahed /AFP/Getty Images

A bronze Egyptian cat from around 700 to 500 BCE was picked up at a house clearance and eventually sold for £52,000 (about $64,676) in 2015. The owners of the bronze cat were on the cusp throwing the object away, but thankfully did not. Then an expert from the British Museum verified it as authentic.

14. A Brooch That May Have Belonged to Russian Royalty

Stephen Digges/Getty Images

In 2011, Thea Jourdan wrote an article about her yard sale find. She spent about £20 (about $25) on a brooch at an antique shop. Her daughter often wore it while playing dress up. But when Jourdan had her engagement ring looked at by a jeweler for insurance purposes, the jeweler noticed the brooch. It had potentially belonged to Russian royalty in the 19th century, and it sold for £32,450 ($40,360).

15. Vince Lombardi’s Sweater

U.S. Military Academy/Getty Images Sport

Vince Lombardi is arguably football royalty: He won two Super Bowls coaching the Green Bay Packers. And while watching a documentary about Lombardi in 2014, Sean McEvoy of Tennessee noticed a sweater that looked familiar. He had bought Lombardi’s sweater at Goodwill for $0.58 earlier in the year. It ended up selling for $43,020.

16. An Augusta National Green Jacket

Andrew Redington/Getty Images Sport

Another rare item of clothing in the world of sports is the Augusta National green jacket, which is given to the winner of the Masters Tournament in golf. Members of the Augusta National club get jackets too, but only the Masters Champion can wear their jacket outside the club, but only for one year. Then, in 1994, a golf fan found one at a thrift shop in Toronto that the club did verify was real. In 2017, it sold at an auction for about $139,000. No word on whether the buyer is allowed to wear it, though.

17. A Watch From the James Bond Film Thunderball

Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images News

In 2013, a watch from the James Bond movie Thunderball sold for £103,875 (about $129,197). It had been purchased for £25 (about $31) at a car boot sale, which is basically a British flea market involving car trunks. It was a one-of-a-kind piece, created for the film.

18. A 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge Cartridge

Jjhendricks at English Wikipedia, Wikimedia//CC BY-SA 3.0

In 2006, Rob Walters went to a garage sale and bought a 1991 Nintendo Campus Challenge cartridge. This was a cartridge specifically created for Nintendo competitions, and it contained three games: Super Mario Bros. 3, PinBot, and Dr. Mario. It should have been destroyed in 1991 but for some reason, it wasn’t. Walters eventually sold it for $14,000.

19. The Declaration of Independence

Original: Second Continental Congress; reproduction: William Stone, Wikimedia//Public domain

In 1989, a man bought a torn painting of a countryside for its frame at a flea market in Pennsylvania for $4. He discarded the picture and found a folded up Declaration of Independence—which was one of an estimated 200 original copies from 1776. Of those originals, only 26 remain. In 1991, the man sold his historic find for $2.42 million.

20. Another Copy of the Declaration of Independence

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 2007, a copy of the Declaration from the 1820s sold for almost half a million dollars after a man bought it at a Tennessee thrift shop for about $2.50. He’d happened upon one of the 200 copies commissioned by John Quincy Adams.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Facts About Real Genius On Its 35th Anniversary

Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In an era where nerd is a nickname given by and to people who have pretty much any passing interest in popular culture, it’s hard to imagine the way old-school nerds—people with serious and socially-debilitating obsessions—were once ostracized. Computers, progressive rock, and role-playing games (among a handful of other 1970s- early '80s developments) created a path from which far too many of the lonely, awkward, and conventionally undateable would never return. But in the 1980s, movies transformed these oddballs into underdogs and antiheroes, pitting them against attractive, moneyed, successful adversaries for the fate of handsome boys and pretty girls, cushy jobs, and first-place trophies.

The 1985 film Real Genius ranked first among equals from that decade for its stellar cast, sensitive direction, and genuine nerd bona fides. Perhaps fittingly, it sometimes feels overshadowed, and even forgotten, next to broader, bawdier (and certainly now, more problematic) films from the era like Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science. But director Martha Coolidge delivered a classic slobs-versus-snobs adventure that manages to view the academically gifted and socially maladjusted with a greater degree of understanding and compassion while still delivering plenty of good-natured humor.

As the movie commemorates its 35th anniversary, we're looking back at the little details and painstaking efforts that make it such an enduring portrait not just of ‘80s comedy, but of nerdom itself.

1. Producer Brian Grazer wanted Valley Girl director Martha Coolidge to direct Real Genius. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.

Following the commercial success of 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds, there was an influx of bawdy scripts that played upon the same idea, and Real Genius was one of them. In 2011, Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School that the original script for Real Genius "had a lot of penis and scatological jokes," and she wasn't interested in directing a raunchy Nerds knock-off. So producer Brian Grazer enlisted PJ Torokvei (SCTV) and writing partners Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (Splash, City Slickers) to refine the original screenplay, and then gave Coolidge herself an opportunity to polish it before production started. “Brian's original goal, and mine, was to make a film that focused on nerds as heroes," Coolidge said. "It was ahead of its time."

2. Martha Coolidge’s priority was getting the science in Real Genius right—or at least as right as possible.

In the film, ambitious professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) recruits high-achieving students at the fictional Pacific Technical University (inspired by Caltech) to design and build a laser capable of hitting a human-sized target from space. Coolidge researched the subject thoroughly, working with academic, scientific, and military technicians to ensure that as many of the script and story's elements were correct. Moreover, she ensured that the dialogue would hold up to some scrutiny, even if building a laser of the film’s dimensions wasn’t realistic (and still isn’t today).

3. One element of Real Genius that Martha Coolidge didn’t base on real events turned out to be truer than expected.

From the beginning, the idea that students were actively being exploited by their teacher to develop government technology was always fictional. But Coolidge learned that art and life share more in common than she knew at the time. “I have had so many letters since I made Real Genius from people who said, 'Yes, I was involved in a program and I didn’t realize I was developing weapons,'" she told Uproxx in 2015. “So it was a good guess and turned out to be quite accurate.”

4. Val Kilmer walked into his Real Genius audition already in character—and it nearly cost him the role.

After playing the lead in Top Secret!, Val Kilmer was firmly on Hollywood’s radar. But when he met Grazer at his audition for Real Genius, Kilmer decided to have some fun at the expense of the guy who would decide whether or not he’d get the part. "The character wasn't polite," Kilmer recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1995. "So when I shook Grazer's hand and he said, 'Hi, I'm the producer,' I said, 'I'm sorry. You look like you're 12 years old. I like to work with men.'"

5. The filmmakers briefly considered using an actual “real genius” to star in Real Genius.

Among the performers considered to play Mitch, the wunderkind student who sets the movie’s story in motion, was a true genius who graduated college at 14 and was starting law school. Late in the casting process, they found their Mitch in Gabriel Jarrett, who becomes the third generation of overachievers (after Kilmer’s Chris and Jon Gries’s Lazlo Hollyfeld) whose talent Hathaway uses to further his own professional goals.

6. Real Genius's female lead inadvertently created a legacy for her character that would continue in animated form.

Michelle Meyrink, Gabriel Jarret, Val Kilmer, and Mark Kamiyama in Real Genius (1985).Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Michelle Meyrink was a staple of a number of ‘80s comedies, including Revenge of the Nerds. Playing Jordan in Real Genius, she claims to “never sleep” and offers a delightful portrait of high-functioning attention-deficit disorder with a chipper, erratic personality. Disney’s Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers co-creator Tad Stones has confirmed that her character went on to inspire the character of Gadget Hackwrench.

7. A Real Genius subplot, where a computer programmer is gaming a Frito-Lay contest, was based on real events.

In the film, Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite) plays Lazlo Hollyfeld, a reclusive genius from before Chris and Mitch’s time who lives in a bunker beneath their dorm creating entries to a contest with no restrictions where he eventually wins more than 30 percent of the prizes. In 1969, students from Caltech tried a similar tactic with Frito-Lay to game the odds. But in 1975, three computer programmers used an IBM to generate 1.2 million entries in a contest for McDonald’s, where they received 20 percent of the prizes (and a lot of complaints from customers) for their effort.

8. One of Real Genius's cast members went on to write another tribute to nerds a decade later.

Dean Devlin, who co-wrote Stargate and Independence Day with Roland Emmerich, plays Milton, another student at Pacific Tech who experiences a memorable meltdown in the rush up to finals.

9. The popcorn gag that ends Real Genius isn’t really possible, but they used real popcorn to simulate it.

At the end of the film, Chris and Mitch build a giant Jiffy Pop pack that the laser unleashes after they redirect its targeting system. The resulting popcorn fills Professor Hathaway’s house as an act of revenge. MythBusters took pains to recreate this gag in a number of ways, but quickly discovered that it wouldn’t work; even at scale, the popcorn just burns in the heat of a laser.

To pull off the scene in the film, Coolidge said that the production had people popping corn for six weeks of filming in order to get enough for the finale. After that, they had to build a house that they could manipulate with hydraulics so that the popcorn would “explode” out of every doorway and window.

10. Real Genius was the first movie to be promoted on the internet.

A week before Real Genius opened, promoters set up a press conference at a computer store in Westwood, California. Coolidge and members of the cast appeared to field questions from press from across the country—connected via CompuServe. Though the experience was evidently marred by technical problems (this was the mid-1980s, after all), the event marked the debut of what became the online roundtable junket.