9 Valuable Lost Treasures
Whatever happened to pirate Amaro Pargo's treasure? Or over 90 classic episodes of Doctor Who? From lost pieces of media to irreplaceable works of art to literal pirate booty, these are the amazing and tragic stories behind valuables that seem to be gone forever, adapted from an episode of The List Show on YouTube.
1. The First Titanic Movie
Did you know the first-ever movie about the Titanic starred an actual Titanic survivor? And unlike the ship, it’s unlikely the film will ever be seen again.
Long before James Cameron’s blockbuster hit theaters in 1997, there was Saved From the Titanic. This 1912 silent film premiered just one month after the ship sank, despite critics who reasonably deemed it way too soon. It starred 22-year-old Dorothy Gibson, a model and actress who had boarded the ill-fated ocean liner following a European vacation. After Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, Gibson became one of roughly 700 people out of about 2200 on board to escape via lifeboat. Her survival story became fodder for Hollywood almost immediately upon her return home.
The film supposedly mashed together real images of Titanic Captain Edward Smith and the ship’s launch with a newly recorded performance from Gibson. The actress even wore the same outfit she had on the night of the disaster. Saved From the Titanic was a hit with moviegoers in 1912, but modern audiences will never get to see the first Titanic film. Two years after its release, the only known print was destroyed in a studio fire. Today you can watch at least a dozen movies inspired by the Titanic saga, but none that star a real figure from the historic event.
2. La Circassienne au Bain
Though many valuable items have been recovered from the actual shipwreck, some of Titanic’s physical treasures are lost for good. That includes Merry-Joseph Blondel's painting La Circassienne au Bain. Mauritz Håkan Björnström-Steffansson, the son of a Swedish pulp baron, brought the oil painting onto the ship with him in 1912. Though Björnström-Steffansson survived, he was unable to save his prized possession.
He would later file a claim against the White Star Line for $100,000—or roughly $2 million today. If the masterpiece was indeed worth that much, it would make it the highest-priced treasure lost in the disaster. On a brighter note: While the painting itself may be lost, an artist working under the pseudonym John Parker was able to conduct research and create a reproduction of it in the early 2010s.
3. The Story of the Kelly Gang
When The Story of the Kelly Gang premiered in 1906, it was the longest film audiences had seen. Though accounts vary, it likely ran around 60 minutes, which would make it the world’s first feature-length film. Produced in Australia, it followed the country’s infamous outlaw Ned Kelly, and it won over critics and moviegoers alike. But like many movies from the silent era, it’s now considered lost: No full copies of The Story of the Kelly Gang are known to exist today, but a few clips have survived.
In 1979, a few minutes of footage were found beneath a bed in an abandoned house, and some time later another film snippet was recovered from a landfill. The biggest discovery came in the mid-2000s, when several more minutes were unearthed from the archives of the British Film Institute. The incomplete movie was edited together and released on DVD in 2007. Though it does feature some thrilling scenes, viewers used to Hollywood’s three-act structure may be a little lost.
4. Seven of the Romanovs’ Fabergé Eggs
One of the many mysteries surrounding the Romanovs is the case of the missing Fabergé eggs. In the late 19th century, gifting bejeweled eggs made by the House of Fabergé jewelry firm became an Easter tradition for imperial Russia’s royal family. The czars Alexander III and Nicholas II commissioned 50 of the precious knick-knacks between them.
During the Bolshevik’s February Revolution in 1917, the Fabergé eggs were removed from the palace and taken to the Kremlin in Moscow. Many were later sold to raise funds for the Russian government, and today the whereabouts of seven imperial eggs are still unknown.
It’s possible that the current owners have no idea they’re holding onto a priceless piece of history. Some years back, a scrap dealer found a sapphire-and-diamond-encrusted golden egg at an antique sale and bought it for $13,302. He eventually learned it was one of the original Romanov eggs, and was valued at $33 million.
5. Alfred Hitchcock’s The Mountain Eagle
Few filmographies are as widely studied as Alfred Hitchcock’s, but one of his movies definitely isn’t watched in film schools. His second film, a silent drama called The Mountain Eagle, wasn’t preserved in the years following its premiere in 1926. But Hitchcock wasn't exactly heartbroken about it: He reportedly told François Truffaut that the film wasn't his best, and he was actually relieved it was lost. Still, even though it likely wasn’t on par with his later classics like Psycho and Vertigo, The Mountain Eagle’s place in film history makes it a lost treasure to cinephiles.
6. The Polish Royal Family’s Royal Casket
Polish Princess Izabela Czartoryska was known for collecting priceless artifacts. She founded Poland's first museum—the Czartoryski Museum—which still operates in Krakow today. But the location of her most famous treasures are unknown. In 1800, the princess assembled a collection of precious relics from the Polish royal family. The memorial chest contained 73 items, including an ivory box that belonged to King John III and fine watches from several Polish monarchs. The Royal Casket was looted during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II, and today the whereabouts of its contents are a mystery.
7. Amaro Pargo’s Treasure
Spanish pirate Amaro Pargo is famous for his lost treasure. When he died in 1747, he left behind a will bequeathing a hoard of gold, silver, and precious gems to his niece. She likely wasn't too grateful for the gesture, however. Amaro didn’t specify the location of his hoard, so his niece was never able to claim her inheritance. Since then, several places have been ransacked by people hoping to get rich off of Amaro’s treasure. His former house in Spain and the cave he used as a hideout are both popular spots for treasure hunters, though if the bounty is there it’s never been uncovered.
8. More Than 90 Episodes of Doctor Who
Doctor Who fans will be sad to hear that 97 episodes from the early seasons are lost. From the 1950s through the mid-1970s, the BBC wasn’t too concerned with conserving its media. Most television shows from this time were meant to air once, and storing bulky videotapes was expensive. The British network dealt with this problem by erasing old tapes and reusing them whenever they ran out of room in their archives. The BBC wiped out 60 to 70 percent of its programming during this era as a result, including the entire early days of Doctor Who—253 episodes in total.
It would be an easy problem to fix if some fans could just get their hands on a working TARDIS, but in the meantime, the BBC and the show’s devoted fan base have managed to salvage more than half of those once-missing episodes in some form. Episodes turned up in all sorts of places, including flea markets, various BBC departments around the world, and even the basement of a Mormon church.
9. The Flor de La Mar and Its Treasure
When the Flor de La Mar sank to the bottom of the Indian Ocean in 1512, it brought down a legendary treasure haul with it. The Portuguese ship was said to be carrying up to 60 tons of gold and 200 chests of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires when it vanished during a storm. If found, the bounty on board would be worth billions today. Though many people have searched the seabed where Flor de La Mar may have ended up—with some even claiming to have found it—the shipwreck and its valuable contents remain lost.
BONUS: Margaret Hamilton’s Sesame Street Episode
A famous episode of Sesame Street only played once before it disappeared from airwaves for good. In the 1976 episode, actress Margaret Hamilton appeared as the Wicked Witch of the West nearly four decades after playing the character in The Wizard of Oz. During her visit to Sesame Street, she loses her broomstick, threatens to turn Big Bird into a feather duster, and wins the heart of Oscar the Grouch.
It sounds like a delightful mash-up of two of the most famous children’s properties of all time, but sadly, not everyone agreed: PBS was inundated with complaints from parents, some of whom claimed that seeing the villainous character had traumatized their kids. The network never aired the episode again.
The episode was widely considered lost media, but in 2019, New York’s Museum of the Moving Image screened a few minutes of the episode at a “Lost and Found” event for Sesame Street’s 50th anniversary, and in 2022, the footage was posted in its entirety on YouTube.