People who enjoy shopping at thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales all have one thing in common: they know the thrill of finding the "perfect" item. It can feel like spotting a diamond in the rough! A man named Emil Knodell who went to an estate sale in Missouri City, Texas, found such an item. It was already a steal, but when he bought it he had no idea that it contained a valuable secret. You could say he hit the jackpot twice with his furniture purchase that fateful day.
Estate Sales Can Be A Goldmine For Those In The Know
An estate sale usually happens after someone passes away. Many times, their family will sell off the belongings that they don't want to claim for themselves. In some of these cases, the family isn’t aware of how valuable their loved one’s possessions are, and they’re also trying to get rid of things as quickly as possible. This means that you can find some pretty good deals if you have the time to weed through everything.
That’s the precise reason that Emil Knodell, a 67-year-old retired marketing director, ended up at an estate sale in Missouri City, Texas, one day. He was well aware of the possibility of finding bargains.
Knodell Approached The Estate Sale With An Open Mind
This particular sale was run by a company called Premier Estates Sales Network. The firm is run by people who specialize in valuing and pricing items, so the chance that Knodell would score something truly rare or valuable.
But he remained hopeful and optimistic about his prospects. "I always come to a sale with an open mind because you never know," he said in an interview. His willingness to sort through an entire lot of items was about to pay off, big time.
He Spotted A Dresser That He Liked
After looking through many, many items, Knodell's attention was grabbed by a dresser. It was nothing flashy, just a wooden chest with thee drawers and a marble top. But it was said to date all the way back to 1890, making it a real antique.
The dresser was initially priced at $300 but had been marked down by the time Knodell made it to the sale. It was less than $100 when he happened across it. Quite a bargain, but the low purchase price was just the start of Knodell’s luck.
Moving The Dresser Took The Strength Of Two Men
Even though this sale was organized by a professional estate sale company, the people involved were not aware of the dresser's real value. A staff member for Premiere Estate Sales Network, Jeff Allen, was asked by Knodell for help loading the dresser into his truck.
Allen agreed and the two men began moving the large dresser outside and into the waiting vehicle. That’s when they both noticed something unusual about the antique piece of furniture.
Unexplained Noises Intrigued Both Men
Jeff Allen, the estate sale employee, remembered the day well. "He asked for help loading it," Allen explained in an interview. It's what happened after the move that was really strange.
“As soon as we laid it down, it started making all this racket on the inside,” said Allen. “Obviously we were very intrigued with what was happening with the dresser.” Who wouldn’t be? After all, furniture doesn’t usually make unexpected noises. What was causing the dresser to make a “racket”?
As any curious person would do, Allen and Knodell decided to investigate the source of the strange noise they had heard coming from the old dresser.
In order to really get a good look at the heavy piece of furniture, they turned it over and laid it down on its back. That was exactly the view they needed, and what they saw revealed after they'd turned the dresser over shocked both of them.
One Secret, Revealed
The dresser appeared ordinary enough other than the fact that it was clearly old. But as with many things, there was more than meets the eye with this mysterious piece of furniture that only cost $100 bucks.
"When you look at the front of it, it looks like it has three obvious drawers with molding on the base," explained Knodell. “But the bottom has a secret drawer that opens up.” Woah, this is news! What did the secret door contain?
How Did Everyone Miss The Secret Drawer?
By now the dresser had been seen by the family of whoever owned it before the passed away. And it had also been appraised by the professionals of Premiere Estate Sales Network. It's pretty hard to understand how everyone involved had missed this surprising part of the dresser!
Finding the secret drawer was just the tip of the iceberg. Knodell and Allen were about to open the compartment and learn exactly what was hidden inside.
The Secret Compartment Was Well-Hidden
Whoever designed this dresser wanted their valuables to remain safely hidden. This is clearly evident in how carefully the secret compartment was hidden from view. If Knodell and Allen hadn't heard strange noises coming from the antique, the extra drawer might have stayed hidden forever.
At this point, Knodell was probably just excited that he got a four-drawer dresser for the price of a three-door! Little did he know but he was about to find out he got a much bigger bargain than he ever could have guessed.
And The Drawer Is Finally Opened...
Knodell later spoke about opening the dresser drawer. "It was a real adrenaline rush," he said, adding that both he and Allen “were in shock for a second.” That's pretty easy to understand, as finding something as crazy as a secret door in an otherwise normal, everyday dresser isn’t something that happens too often.
Knodell’s good luck in buying the dresser became really clear as the two men got a glimpse of the fourth drawer’s contents.
Wow, Actual Treasure!
So just what was in this almost-magical dresser drawer? We finally find out: it was full of some serious treasure, in the form of jewels, money, and old personal mementos! Allen and Knodell had found a slice of history in that dresser. Paper currency from around the world, Civil War military medals, dog tags, and even a nicely-preserved lock of hair were hiding in the drawer.
There was even more, though: valuable jewelry like rings and bracelets, and loose gems including emeralds and diamonds. Who would ever have guessed that all this stuff would be in a wooden dresser marked down to $100?
Putting A Date On The Treasure
It was quickly becoming clear that the estimate of 1890 on Knodell's new purchase was probably pretty accurate. And if that was legitimately the case, there would probably be plenty of collectors who would like to get their hands on the historic treasure inside it.
Collectors who would probably be willing to pay a pretty penny to own the hidden relics. It was time to request a professional's opinion in order to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Jeff Allen Weighs In On The Find
Luckily for Knodell, his new friend Jeff Allen was one of the professionals working for Premiere Estate Sales Network. He gave the newly-discovered treasure a closer look to determine the worth of both the dresser and all the loot it contained.
Allen's professional opinion was that the dresser and its contents were worth a combined $15,000! All this for the mere $100 that Knodell had initially spent on it. This means that he got 150 times his money’s worth on his purchase.
A Problem Arises
As with many "too good to be true" stories, this one also ended up having a twist. Here's the problem: none of the items in the treasure lode were technically included in the sale since no one knew that they were even there.
Knodell bought the dresser fair and square so he was the legal owner of all the things he found inside. Some people might just think “hey, I’m $15,000 richer!” and be done with it. But Jeff wasn’t sure if keeping the items was really the right thing to do.
An Ethical Dilemma
Could Emil Knodell bring himself to have a "finders, keepers" attitude about the things he found in the dresser he'd just snagged for only $100? As we said earlier, some people would not hesitate to sell the treasure and pocket the profit.
But Knodell just didn’t feel too comfortable with that course of action. So he did what he thought was the proper thing to do. We're about to learn what his thought process was as he made the decision about what to do next.
Knodell Has A Good Sense Of Right And Wrong
In an interview after the fact, Knodell explained how he was feeling after he learned that the dresser and all the valuable things inside were worth a whopping $15,000.
"I bought the chest [of] drawers. I didn't buy those things," he said. "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.” Knodell's strong sense of 'right' and 'wrong' helped him make a decision he was comfortable with.
A Search Begins
It turns out that part of Knodell's history guided him in his decision. "I'm an old ex-Marine, and I try to do the right thing," he explained. Jeff Allen had the exact same gut instinct as Knodell: "'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.'”
So that's exactly what the two men set out to do. But that required figuring out who the owners were first...
A Family Member Helps Put Together The Pieces
It turns out that locating the owner of the surprise treasure trove was not as difficult as you might expect. In fact, the son of the deceased (who had owned the dresser) was the executor of the estate. And fortunately, he remembered seeing the dresser in his grandparents home in Michigan in the past.
Of course, the dresser's valuable contents were a huge shock to him. He had absolutely no idea that any of that stuff even existed.
Peace Of Mind Comes From Doing The Right Thing
Emil Knodell's gut instincts to do the right thing and return the valuables paid off for him. Not financially, as he legally could have claimed the $15,000 for himself and used it to bolster his retirement savings.
But that move wouldn't have sat well with the former Marine. He returned every single item to the family of the deceased. Knowing that he had done the "proper" thing was peace of mind to Knodell, worth more than the money would have.
A Grateful Family
It's always refreshing to hear a story of someone who does the right thing even at personal cost. Emil Knodell could easily have pocketed the large sum of $15,000 if he had wanted to. But his moral convictions led him to track down the family who he felt were the rightful owners.
That family is probably grateful beyond words to have their loved one's treasure back, even though they didn't even know it existed. We hope they gave Emil Knodell a sincere thank you for his honesty! And we certainly hope he continues to find great bargains at estate sales.
An Arizona Couple Found Booze And Clues In Their Kitchen
A couple in Phoenix, Arizona purchased a fixer-upper back in 2013 and finally got around to renovating the kitchen two years later. When they took out the kitchen island, they found the door to a safe. Remembering that a combo was etched into one of their medicine cabinets, they eventually got the safe open.
Inside, they found a 1960 bottle of bourbon and $51,080 in cash! They also found a book, A Guide for the Perplexed by E.F. Schumacher that had clues for a treasure hunt. Though they were left with more questions, they certainly had succeeded in finding the treasure!
Old Hollywood Film Posters Found In Floorboards
Blair Pitre was renovating a home he'd just moved into in Alberta, Canada, when he happened to find Old Hollywood relics hidden in the roof and floorboard of the home. Pitre found about 40 vintage film posters that date back to the '20s and '30s.
His house was built in 1912 and reports indicate that the home's previous owner also owned the local movie house. The original posters feature the likes of Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper, and Buster Keaton, to name a few. The posters were auctioned off and earned Pitre around $50,000. He used the proceeds to complete his home renovations.
A Frenchman Inherited A Lot More Than A House
A Frenchman in Normandy inherited more than just a house from his deceased relative. Hidden away under furniture, old piles of linen, and even inside the bathroom was over 200 pounds in gold.
Auctioneer Nicolas Fierfort told AFP in 2016, "There were 5,000 gold pieces, two bars of 12 kilos and 37 ingots of 1 kilo." The man himself had failed to find all this gold before he sold the house to a new owner, who was the one to discover the treasure. All of the gold was bought in the '50s and '60s and was estimated to be worth around $3.7 million.
A Long-Lost Paul McCartney Record Reemerged
British pop star Cilla Black had a top-ten hit in 1964 called "It's for You," which was specially written for her by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. McCartney was known to have recorded a version on acetate and sent it to Black, but since then the record has forever been lost.
After Black passed in 2015, her relatives were cleaning up her house when they happened upon an envelope with "It's For You" written on it. Assuming it was a recording of her hit record, they were surprised when it was actually McCartney singing. The recording was auctioned at $22,306.
A Man Found Money To Pay Off His House Within Its Walls
A 35-year-old man found roughly $45,000 hidden in his basement. The master DIY-er recounted his findings on Imgur, sharing that the money was found in two little boxes that were hidden in the ceiling of the basement.
The man's home was built in the '40s and he'd already renovated the top two floors before getting to the basement. Along with the money was a Cleveland newspaper dating back to the '50s. The bills were pretty
One Man's Treasure Wasn't Going To Be Another Man's Trash
When Thomas Schultz purchased a small cottage in Bellport Village, New York, there was something quite special waiting for him in the garage. Thousands of paintings, drawings, and journals were left behind and all belonged to one man, Arthur Pinajian.
Pinajian's relatives told Schultz to just toss it all in the dumpster, but that didn't sit right with him. "I didn't want to be the person responsible for throwing a man's life's work into a dumpster," Schultz said in 2013. The abstract impressionist's work was appraised at $30 million. Some pieces sold for $500,000, while others went up in Manhattan's Fuller Building.
Cartoonist's Sons Find An Original Norman Rockwell In The Walls
"Henry" cartoonist Don Trachte passed away in 2005. The following year, his sons Don Jr. and Dave were cleaning up and inspecting their father's home when they noticed a strange gap in the wood-paneled wall. They pried open the gap to reveal an original Norman Rockwell painting.
Trachte and Rockwell were actually good friends and neighbors, which is why Trachte was in possession of an original copy of "Breaking Home Ties." The sons speculated that he painted a copy of the painting for display and hid the original behind the wall to prevent his ex-wife from taking it in their divorce. It later sold for $15.4 million at a Sotheby's auction.
A Man Found Batman And Superman In His Great-Uncle's Closet
Michael Rorrer was tasked with cleaning out his great-aunt's house in Virginia after her passing in 2015. Deep within a basement closet was a neat stack of old comic books that belonged to his great-uncle.
It wasn't until later that a co-worker mentioned how cool it'd be if the stack
A French Couple Found Gold In Their Garden
A couple in Roanne, France bought a house and garden in 2002. While working in the garden, they happened to strike gold. In 2009, they found six gold bars and they found 22 more in 2013. Though they alerted the police of their findings, they quietly sold the bars and pocketed the money.
This caused the bank to start an investigation, news of which prompted the original owners of the house to sue. The gold was worth over $900,000, but unfortunately, the couple lost the case. They were ordered to return the remaining gold bars to the original owners and reimburse them for what was sold.
One Man's Discovery Brings Joy To His Neighbors
Matthew Emanuel and his wife of Staten Island were merely undertaking a landscaping project in 2018 when the company they hired dug up a metal box. It turned out to be a huge safe that when opened up, revealed itself to be carrying jewelry and cash.
The cash was dirtied and fragile, but what they could salvage totaled to $16,300. They found a neighboring address listed on the contents of the safe, so Emanuel went to the neighbor and asked if they'd been robbed. It turned out that they were robbed in 2011, but thought the safe had been lost forever.
Unknown Van Gogh Painting Discovered In A Rich Man's Attic
In 2013, Vincent Van Gogh's legacy was revived when a previously unknown painting was confirmed to be one of his originals. The landscape titled "Sunset at Montmajour" was described in great detail by Van Gogh in a letter to his brother, but it never saw the light of day for over a century.
Norwegian industrialist Christian Nicolai Mustad bought the painting in 1908, but when he was told it was probably fake, he banished it to his attic. In the 21st century, Mustad's descendants found the painting in the attic and researchers at the Van Gogh Museum confirmed its authenticity. It was valued at $50 million.
A Man Found A Titanic Relic In His Mother's Attic
In 2006, the son of an amateur musician was cleaning her house after her death. He happened to find a violin that was passively given to his mother by her violin teacher, but it turned out that the violin belonged to bandmaster Wallace Hartley, who famously played "Nearer, My God, To Thee" as the Titanic was sinking.
The violin was verified to be authentic and is believed to be the exact violin that Hartley was playing in his last moments. Though it was rendered unplayable due to saltwater damage, the violin was auctioned off at more than $1.7 million in 2013.
A Jar Of U.S. Gold Coins Was Found In London
Residents of Hackney in east London were digging a hole on their property to build a frog pond. Three weeks into the project they dug up a jar filled with 80 gold coins, which turned out to be U.S. Double-Eagle gold coins valued at $20 a piece.
The coins belonged to Martin Sulzbacher, a German banker whose family went to London during WWII. Martin's brother buried the coins on their property just before they were killed by a bomb. When the jar was found in 2007, they found Martin's son Max, who sold the coins in an auction for over $100,000.
Man Finds Rare Vintage Baseball Cards In Grandpa's Attic
In 2012, 51-year-old Karl Kissner was rummaging his grandfather's attic in Defiance, Ohio when he chanced upon a jackpot find for an avid baseball find. Kissner found almost 700 vintage baseball cards in near-mint condition, including cards for legends such as Cy Young and Ty Cobb.
Included in the find were cards part of a 30-payer set that came with caramel candy back in 1910. The cards were auctioned off in small groups over time. The first group of cards, which contained 37 of the best cards, sold for over $500,000 in 2012.
An Uncle Gave His Relatives More Than Just A Garage
In 2009, relatives of orthopedic surgeon Dr. Harold Carr inherited the contents of his locked up garage in Newcastle, England. They were surprised to learn that that inheritance included a rare 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante – only 17 of which were made.
The Bugatti sat in the garage unused since 1960 and despite the wear of time, was pretty much
An Original Keith Haring Was Painted On The Walls
Architect Todd Ernst was on the renovation team for an 8,000 square foot apartment in New York's Tribeca neighborhood in 2010. To their surprise, they discovered that the apartment's original walls were plastered with an original mural by Keith Haring.
The mural was found in the historic American Threat Building, which in the past would frequently host exhibitions with the School of Visual Arts where Haring was a student. The warehouse has since been converted into condos. The painting couldn't be removed, since its on a concrete wall and as a result, the 10-room loft has pre-war and contemporary elements throughout. In 2016, its asking price was around $14 million.
A Leaky Roof Led This Family To An Original Caravaggio
A family in Toulouse, in the southwest of France, had a leaky roof. The repairs brought them into their attic, where they found a long-lost painting that they believed to be an original Caravaggio. The well-preserved painting was a depiction of Judith Beheading Holofernes, thought to be painted by the famed Baroque master in the
When the family brought the painting to the attention of historians, there was debate over the painting's authenticity. Art expert Eric Turquin argued that the truth may never be established. Regardless, the painting went on display and is thought to be worth almost $141 million if it is real.
A Couple Found $10 Million In The Ground
A couple in Northern California were walking their dog on their property one day in 2013 when they noticed a metal can sticking out of the ground. They decided to dig it
In all, they dug up $27,460 in twenty-dollar coins, $500 in ten-dollar coins, and $20 in five-dollar coins that dated back to the late 19th century. While the face value of all 1,427 coins amounted to $27,980, their value today is worth more than $10 million.
A Contractor Found Superman In The Walls
In his decade of contracting work, David Gonzales has never found anything in the walls that he demolished. That is, until 2013, when a home he was remodeling in Elbow Lake, Minnesota revealed a rare 1938 copy of Action Comics #1.
The comic was found with
A Couple Turned Their Home Into A Museum
Miriam and Theo
He funded a massive excavation project and it took eight months before they finally found what they were looking for. They found a handful of ancient artifacts, but the real find was a 2,600-year-old burial chamber dated to the 500's BCE. The findings were priceless, so