While everyone would love to make some decent cash from their used valuables, it’s often more convenient to just give them away. That’s part of the reason why garage sales and yard sales are such great places to find decent items at bargain prices.
It often works in a similar way for estate sales. The biggest difference, of course, is that instead of selling their own stuff, folks will sell things that belonged to their relatives who have recently passed away. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), that means that families may not know how much their loved ones’ things may have actually been worth.
That’s what turned out to be the case when Emil Knodell visited an estate sale in Missouri City, Texas—and picked up an item that contained a secret treasure…
Recently, 67-year-old retired marketing director Emil Knodell visited Missouri City, Texas. He was attending an event lead by Premier Estates Sales Network when he purchased a seemingly ordinary dresser. “I always come to a sale with an open mind because you never know,” he said in an interview.
Estate sales usually take place after somebody passes away so that their home’s materials and assets can be liquidated. Because everything is meant to happen as quickly and efficiently as possible, the chances of scoring a major bargain on something that’s worth more than initially estimated are pretty high—something that Emil knew well.
While you’d still be quite lucky to find something truly spectacular at one of these events—estate sales are often run by experts who know what they’re doing, after all—they’re still a great place for bargain hunters to find antiques or other valuable items for less.
At this particular event, Emil was attracted to a dresser that supposedly dated back to 1890 and featured a solid marble top and three drawers. On the first day of the sale, it was offered for $300, but by the time Emil came across it, he was able to take it home for less than $100! Soon enough, he’d discover just how much of a bargain he really got…
Premier Estate Sales, as it turned out, really had no idea how much this dresser was worth. Regardless, Jeff Allen, a staff member for the company, helped Emil fit the large dresser into his truck, as per the man’s request.
“He asked for help loading it,” Jeff explained. “As soon as we laid it down, it started making all this racket on the inside. Obviously we were very intrigued with what was happening with the dresser.”
Confused by the odd noises the dresser was making, the men knew they had to investigate. They decided to take a closer look by laying the dresser down upright, and that’s when they saw something shocking.
“When you look at the front of it, it looks like it has three obvious drawers with molding on the base,” said Emil, describing the scene. “But the bottom has a secret drawer that opens up.” Who knew?
Somehow, everybody, including the professionals, missed this secret compartment! Once they opened the secret drawer, Jeff and Emil couldn’t believe all of the treasures that they found inside. It was quite the discovery, to say the least!
“It was a real adrenaline rush,” said Jeff. “Both of us were in shock for a second.” It’s hard to blame them for being so surprised! What had already been a steal at the auction was proving to be even bigger jackpot.
There were diamonds, emeralds, coins, rings, bracelets, military dog tags, currency from around the world, and medals from the Civil War. There was even a lock of hair! This was clearly a valuable piece of history that had gone unnoticed for too long.
If this dresser really did date back to the late 19th century (and all the signs pointed to the fact that it, indeed, did), then it stood to reason that there would be some collectors out there who might be interested in buying it.
Jeff was able to use his professional expertise to estimate the worth of the dresser, and all of the contents inside of it, for a cool $15,000. That was more than 150 times what Emil initially paid for the object just a little while earlier!
There was a hiccup, though, as none of these objects were considered in the sale. They belonged to Emil at that point, so there was nothing stopping him from walking away $15,000 richer. Yet, would that have been the right thing to do?
It would have been quite easy, not to mention perfectly legal, for Emil to have a “finders keepers” attitude about the events that had unfolded, but he didn’t feel like that would have been the proper course of action.
“I bought the chest (of) drawers. I didn’t buy those things,” Emil explained in an interview. “If I kept them, I would never feel right about it. There would be a cloud over the whole thing. It’s a feeling more than anything else.”
“I’m an old ex-Marine, and I try to do the right thing,” Emil continued. “Jeff also, the man in charge, his immediate reaction was ‘let’s call the owner.’ There was never a question of anyone keeping it. It was ‘this is fantastic. Let’s call the owner and get the stuff back to them.’”
The son of the deceased was the executor of the estate. He’d told Jeff that he remembered seeing the dresser in his grandparents’ Michigan home, but he had no idea that there were so many valuable contents inside of it.
Ultimately, Emil did everything that he could to return all of the valuable items found in the secret drawer back to the family. Knowing that he had made an ethical decision must have given him some peace of mind!
It’s quite remarkable that Emil decided to do the right thing so quickly. Hopefully the family who got their dresser back was grateful!