The Most Unbelievable And Valuable Things People Have Found In Attics

Most people dream of finding a hidden treasure, but many think of it in terms of "The Goonies," a pirate's chests of gold, and "X marks the spot." But some lucky homeowners have found amazing things hidden in their attics that turned out to be worth a fortune — sometimes with incredible historical value.

One such lucky person was David Whitcomb. According to Insider, Whitcomb bought a commercial building in Geneva, New York, for the low price of $100,000. However, he discovered a hidden attic room under a drop ceiling on the third floor, The New York Times reports. And in it, he found the former studio of noted photographer James Ellery Hale, and it was chock full of antique photos, frames, and other equipment. Notably, the stash included portraits of suffragette leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (via Smithsonian). The entire lot went on sale on September 18, 2021, by One Source Auctions, and the results were impressive. A rare framed Hale portrait of Susan B. Anthony sold for $30,500, and three others sold for a total of $11,100. A number of Hale's hand-painted backdrops also sold for $1,000-$2,700 each, and many other items in the 350-item lot sold for multiple hundreds. Not bad for a $100,000 investment!

Literal pieces of history are stashed away, waiting to be found

When owners of an ancestral Scottish home enlisted the help of Cathy Marsden — a Rare Books and Manuscripts specialist at auction house Lyon & Turnbull in the U.K. — the last thing she was expecting to find was an important copy of America's most fundamental document — the Declaration of Independence. But one document caught her eye. "I was looking through a pile of papers which had been brought down from the attic, amongst which was a folded up, vellum document. When I ... started doing some research, I became really excited as its significance became clearer," Marsden said.

The document turned out to be one of only 200 original "signer's copies" of the Declaration of Independence produced by printer William Stone at the behest of then-secretary of state John Quincy Adams in 1820, Insider writes. According to the National Archives, the original copy from 1776 had started to fade, and Adams wanted to ensure the words were saved for posterity. One of two given to founding father Charles Carroll in 1824, they were passed to his grandson-in-law, Scottish ambassador John McTavish. As reported by BBC, McTavish donated one copy to the Maryland Historical Society and kept the other. Over the next 177 years, its location was lost to time, so it's not clear how it ended up in the attic in Scotland.

According to Lyon & Turnbull, the copy — one of only six still in private hands and one of only 48 remaining — was sold at auction July 1, 2021, for $4,420,000 (£3,210,000).

The smallest items can have huge value

We always root for the underdog, and found attic riches are no exception. As reported by ABC News, a family facing impending foreclosure stumbled upon a rare copy of Action Comics No. 1 in the basement of their 1950s house while packing up. The first comic where Superman appeared, the outlet notes there are only about 100 copies still in existence. Receiving a "5.0 Very Good" CGC grading for its condition, it sold at auction in September 2010 for $436,000 (via ComicConnect).

Elsewhere, family of Manhattan gallery owner George Davis were sorting through his estate in Rhinebeck, New York, after his death, when they discovered a figurine by renowned Russian royal jeweler Fabergé stashed away in his attic, The New York Daily News writes. According to The New York Times, Russian royals loved collecting figurines, and this one was commissioned by Nicholas II for Empress Alexandra and portrayed her Cossack bodyguard, Nikolai N. Pustynnikov (via Hudson Valley Observer). The small statue came with its sales provenance and was sold at auction for $5.2 million.

Sometimes, an alleged forgery is actually the real thing

Even though artist Vincent Van Gogh's style is unique and distinct, sometimes people can be convinced it's not real. That happened in 1908 to his lesser well-known portrait, "Sunset at Montmajour." As The New York Times reports, it was painted in 1888 during his mature period. His brother Theo's widow, Marije Vellekoop, sold the piece to an art dealer in Paris after her husband's death, and it was resold in 1908 to Norwegian collector Christian Nicolai Mustad (via Family Handyman). However, the French ambassador to Sweden at the time declared it a fake, and, believing him, Mustad threw it into the attic. On his death in 1970, it was sold to its current owners, who took it to the Van Gogh Museum in 2011, where it was authenticated as by the artist himself through both paint composition and a correlating letter from Van Gogh to his brother Theo (via Van The painting is in private hands, but it's a full-sized (3'x2.5') painting, so it's expected to sell for over $50 million at auction (via The International Business Times).

Similarly, in 2014, owners investigating a ceiling leak discovered the painting "Judith and Holofernes" by Caravaggio under a mattress in an attic in Toulouse, France, The Guardian reports. Despite some questions of authenticity, it was valued at up to $170 million, but it ultimately sold prior to auction to a private bidder for an undisclosed sum. Time to check your attics!