Everyone’s heard stories of Picassos found in attics. Whether they’re true or not, there’s one item that you’re a lot more likely to stumble across and that can be worth nearly as much—old money.

Valuable coins and currency have been found in all sorts of unusual places, from desk drawers to forgotten vaults. Here are some places where big finds were made.

A Child’s Toy Box

A 35-year-old British man had been given several coins years earlier as “pirate gold” to play with by his grandfather, who had traveled extensively and picked up coins as mementos.  30 years later, when he was building a toy box for his 4-year-old son, he remembered a coin he had kept from his grandfather’s trinkets and dug it out of a drawer to add to his son’s toys.

When he looked at it closely for the first time in years, he wondered if it might be more than just a toy coin, so he took it to an auctioneer who told him it was a genuine Queen Anne “Vigo” 5-Guinea gold coin. He learned it was one of only five “lost” coins of about 200 made from Spanish gold and silver captured during the Battle of Vigo Bay in 1703 and used to mint coins commemorating the victory.

It sold at auction in 2016 for £225,000, or nearly $300,000 US.

A Late Husband’s Desk

When a widow was going through her late husband’s desk drawers, she found a single gold coin. Since her husband wasn’t a collector, she assumed it was a replica he had forgotten about, but took it to a dealer just in case.

It turned out to be another of the so-called lost Vigo 5-guinea coins. It was appraised at over $150,000, but top-quality examples have sold for nearly $500,000.

Hiking in Galilee

While hiking with friends in Galilee, tourist Laurie Rimon found a 2000-year-old Roman gold coin, one of only two of its type known. It depicts the image of the emperor Augustus and was minted in AD 107 under the reign of Roman emperor Trajan, around the time of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. and destruction of Jewish temple

Inside a Wall

Contractor Bob Kitts discovered $182,000 in Depression-era currency hidden two locked metal boxes in the wall of an 82-year-old Lake Erie house he was remodeling. Letters inside the boxes led to the descendants of the original owner, and the money was eventually returned to them.

Collectibles dealer Jeff Bidelman was helping a family clear out an abandoned home when he found $20,000 worth of old coins including ones dating as far back as 1796. It was rumored that the previous owners had dropped coins through a hole in a wall for safekeeping. Turns out the rumors were true.

Finally, a strange set of coins was found during a house renovation in Egypt. They had the image of an alien-looking figure on one side and cryptic symbols on others along with Latin inscriptions including one saying “It’s here in due time.” Relics of ancient aliens? More likely, they’re examples of “hobo coins,” re-engraved coins made by artisans with a little extra time on their hands. But they’re collectible, too, and some can be valuable.

Don’t Overlook Possibilities

It’s not uncommon to find coin collections, change jars, or loose coins and currency in the desks and drawers of old or abandoned property. If you only find a few pieces, you can probably do an internet search to get an idea of their potential value. But always err on the side of caution. Unless you’re an expert, you may overlook a small detail that could drive up a coin or bill’s value.

If a collection or a large stash of coins or bills is involved, take the time to have it looked at by reputable coin dealer. Even if individual pieces are only worth a few dollars, it can quickly add up. And there might be a hidden treasure lurking in the bundle.


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Great American Coin Company