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6 Lost Treasures Just Waiting To Be Found

Last month we told you about people who stumbled upon their fortune. If you haven't found your own copy of the Declaration of Independence or a few thousand Ancient Roman coins, let me give you a push in the right direction with these tales of lost treasures that are just waiting for you to find them.

1. The Lying Dutchman?

Arthur Flegenheimer, who went by the alias "Dutch Schultz," was a New York mobster during the 1920s and '30s known for his brutality and hard-nosed business tactics. By the time he was 33, Dutch had taken on the Mafia in numerous gangland wars, fought the U.S. government twice on tax evasion charges, and amassed a fortune thanks to his lucrative criminal operations.

As his second tax evasion trial began to take a turn for the worse, it appeared Schultz might be looking at jail time. In preparation, he placed $7 million dollars inside a safe, drove to upstate New York, and buried it in a hidden location so he'd have a nest egg when he got out of prison. The only other person who knew where the safe was buried was the bodyguard who helped him dig the hole. Shortly after, both men were gunned down by hitmen inside the Palace Chophouse Restaurant in Newark, New Jersey.

On his deathbed, Schultz began hallucinating and rambling after the rusty bullets used by the assassins caused an infection. A court stenographer was brought in to record his statements and some believe his incoherent references to something hidden in the woods in Phoenicia, New York, might be a clue to the location of his buried loot. Of course the meaning of his words is cryptic and not 100% reliable, but that hasn't stopped hundreds of people from looking. So far, though, Dutch's safe has not been found.

2. A Famous Poet and You Didn't Know It

TamerlaneBefore Edgar Allan Poe was Edgar Allen Poe, he was just another struggling writer who couldn't catch a break. In 1827, he hired Calvin F. S. Thomas to publish 50 copies of his manuscript, Tamerlane and Other Poems, in the hopes that it would kick-start his career. Unfortunately, Tamerlane received no critical consideration at the time (and has only received middling reviews since), so Poe's rise to fame would have to wait until he published The Raven nearly 20 years later in 1845.

Because the book had such a small, first editions have become one of the most sought after pieces in American literature. In all, only 12 copies are known to still exist, mostly held by libraries and museums. But there could easily be more that have gone unnoticed, because, for reasons unknown, Poe's name does not appear as the author of the book; it is only attributed to "A Bostonian." Without a familiar name on the cover, many people dismiss Tamerlane as a worthless collection of poems by some anonymous writer no one's ever heard of. It was this fact that allowed the last copy, found in 1988, to be purchased for a mere $15 from an antique store. At auction a month later, the book wound up fetching $198,000.

3. A 10-Cent Treasure?

While yes, a dime could once buy you a phone call or a cup of coffee, today most people probably wouldn't even bother to pick one up if they saw it lying on the ground. But what if you found a few thousand dimes sitting around? And what if those dimes were over 100 years old?

dimeA wagon train left Denver in 1907 carrying six large barrels filled with newly-minted "Barber" dimes, nicknamed after Charles Barber, the designer of the coin. The dimes were being delivered to Phoenix, Arizona, some 900 miles away, but the shipment never arrived. One theory is that the wagon train was attacked by bandits and, despite their armed escort, were unable to fend off the attack. Others believe the party might have plummeted hundreds of feet to the bottom of Colorado's Black Canyon while navigating the treacherous mountain trails. All that can be said for sure is that neither the coins, nor the men carrying them, were ever seen again.

Now, a little over 100 years later, a single 1907 Barber dime in excellent condition fetches around $600. Assuming the barrels weren't destroyed and the coins haven't been exposed to the elements all this time, these missing coins should be fairly flawless. If you estimate 5,000 coins at $600 each, you're looking at $3,000,000. With that kind of dough, you could make an awful lot of phone calls.

4. Morriss' Code

In 1820, a mysterious stranger left a locked iron box with Robert Morriss, an innkeeper in Bedford County, Virginia. The stranger, who went by the name Thomas Jefferson Beale, said that a man would be coming to retrieve the box some time in the next ten years. However, if no one ever came, Morriss could keep the box and the contents inside.

But what was inside the box? Beale reluctantly revealed that there were three pages covered in numbers. These "ciphertexts" were coded messages that could only be read by using corresponding documents as a key. Beale promised to send the three keys to Morriss when he arrived in St. Louis, so that, should the box become Morriss', he could decipher the messages and learn the location of a treasure Beale had buried nearby.

Twenty years later, no one had ever come for the box, nor had Morriss received any key documents from St. Louis. He went ahead and opened the box, and spent the rest of his life trying to decode the pages to no avail. After his death, Morriss left the box to a friend, who, surprisingly, was able to decipher the second page using a particular copy of the Declaration of Independence. The page described the treasure itself—2900 pounds of gold, 5100 pounds of silver, and thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. The message then went on to say that the exact location of the treasure was found on the first page, so you would have to decode it to find the loot. The first and third pages have never been deciphered, despite people working on it for nearly 175 years.

beale_page1

All of the pages are available online (the first page is pictured above), so you can try your hand at deciphering them yourself. But if you find the Beale treasure, you better give me a cut for pointing you in the right direction.

5. A Blockbuster of a Poster

Metropolis-PosterThe film Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, is considered a classic of the silent film era. However, upon its initial release in 1927, it was not well-received, even in its native Germany. Some critics said the story was boring, the acting was terrible, and the special effects were a joke. In America, its reception was even worse when 40 minutes of the film were cut to accommodate the 90-minute running time preferred by theater owners. The resulting film was nearly incomprehensible.

Because the movie was not a blockbuster, surviving promotional items from the film's release are very rare. Perhaps the most famous of these rarities are the posters, called "one-sheets," which hung in theaters while the film was showing and torn down and thrown away soon after. There are only four known original Metropolis one-sheets that survived the film's German run in theaters "“ one at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, another in Berlin's Film Museum, and two held by private collectors, one of whom bought the poster for the record-setting price of $690,000 in 2005.

But here's the kicker: there are no known surviving posters from the film's American release. No one is even sure what the American poster looked like. It could have resembled the German one-sheet, which features Maria, a stylized female robot, and a beautiful Art Deco cityscape above her. But there were also different designs for France and Hungary, so it's possible the American version could have been based on those, too. Experts agree on one thing, though—if someone were to dig up an original American Metropolis one-sheet, it is very likely that it would become the first $1 million movie poster.

6. Crack the Case of the Lost Fabergé Eggs

egg2Fabergé Eggs have long been seen as beautiful examples of excess wealth. Between 1885 and 1917, 109 unique egg sculptures were fashioned out of solid gold and precious gems for some of the richest families in Europe and Asia. Of that number, 54 were "Imperial Eggs" created exclusively for the Russian Imperial Family.

During the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, most of the Imperial Eggs were confiscated by the new government and moved to the Kremlin Armory to be cataloged and stored. By the time Joseph Stalin decided to begin selling them in 1927, a handful of eggs had disappeared from the inventory. More went missing as they were sold to private collectors, who usually insisted upon anonymity. In all, eight of the 54 Imperial Eggs are currently considered lost.

It's theorized that, thanks to the anonymous nature of many of the sales, the true pedigree of the lost eggs was forgotten as they've been passed down as heirlooms. So it's very likely that some oblivious person could have received a Fabergé Egg in their Great-Great-Great Aunt Ruth's will and not even known it.

Finding one these lost Eggs would make you an instant multi-millionaire. In 2007, a Fabergé Egg, which was also a precision clock once owned by the Rothschilds, sold for £8.9 million, becoming the most expensive timepiece ever sold. In 2002, the Winter Egg sold for a still very respectable $9.6 million. And these two Eggs hadn't been missing for 90 years. The publicity alone for finding one of the lost Imperial Eggs would elevate the final price to an astounding level.
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Does your hometown have any legends of buried treasure just waiting to be found? Maybe you're searching for a rare comic book or record album. Tell us about your treasure-hunting experiences in the comments below.

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A.C. Gilbert, the Toymaker Who (Actually) Saved Christmas 
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was told he had 15 minutes to convince the United States government not to cancel Christmas.

For hours, he paced the outer hall, awaiting his turn before the Council of National Defense. With him were the tools of his trade: toy submarines, air rifles, and colorful picture books. As government personnel walked by, Gilbert, bashful about his cache of kid things, tried hiding them behind a leather satchel.

Finally, his name was called. It was 1918, the U.S. was embroiled in World War I, and the Council had made an open issue about their deliberation over whether to halt all production of toys indefinitely, turning factories into ammunition centers and even discouraging giving or receiving gifts that holiday season. Instead of toys, they argued, citizens should be spending money on war bonds. Playthings had become inconsequential.

Frantic toymakers persuaded Gilbert, founder of the A.C. Gilbert Company and creator of the popular Erector construction sets, to speak on their behalf. Toys in hand, he faced his own personal firing squad of military generals, policy advisors, and the Secretary of War.

Gilbert held up an air rifle and began to talk. What he’d say next would determine the fate of the entire toy industry.

Even if he had never had to testify on behalf of Christmas toys, A.C. Gilbert would still be remembered for living a remarkable life. Born in Oregon in 1884, Gilbert excelled at athletics, once holding the world record for consecutive chin-ups (39) and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault during the 1908 Games. In 1909, he graduated from Yale School of Medicine with designs on remaining in sports as a health advisor.

But medicine wasn’t where Gilbert found his passion. A lifelong performer of magic, he set his sights on opening a business selling illusionist kits. The Mysto Manufacturing Company didn’t last long, but it proved to Gilbert that he had what it took to own and operate a small shingle. In 1916, three years after introducing the Erector sets, he renamed Mysto the A.C. Gilbert Company.

Erector was a big hit in the burgeoning American toy market, which had typically been fueled by imported toys from Germany. Kids could take the steel beams and make scaffolding, bridges, and other small-development projects. With the toy flying off shelves, Gilbert’s factory in New Haven, Connecticut grew so prosperous that he could afford to offer his employees benefits that were uncommon at the time, like maternity leave and partial medical insurance.

Gilbert’s reputation for being fair and level-headed led the growing toy industry to elect him their president for the newly created Toy Manufacturers of America, an assignment he readily accepted. But almost immediately, his position became something other than ceremonial: His peers began to grow concerned about the country’s involvement in the war and the growing belief that toys were a dispensable effort.

President Woodrow Wilson had appointed a Council of National Defense to debate these kinds of matters. The men were so preoccupied with the consequences of the U.S. marching into a European conflict that something as trivial as a pull-string toy or chemistry set seemed almost insulting to contemplate. Several toy companies agreed to convert to munitions factories, as did Gilbert. But when the Council began discussing a blanket prohibition on toymaking and even gift-giving, Gilbert was given an opportunity to defend his industry.

Before Gilbert was allowed into the Council’s chambers, a Naval guard inspected each toy for any sign of sabotage. Satisfied, he allowed Gilbert in. Among the officials sitting opposite him were Secretary of War Newton Baker and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

“The greatest influences in the life of a boy are his toys,” Gilbert said. “Yet through the toys American manufacturers are turning out, he gets both fun and an education. The American boy is a genuine boy and wants genuine toys."

He drew an air rifle, showing the committee members how a child wielding less-than-lethal weapons could make for a better marksman when he was old enough to become a soldier. He insisted construction toys—like the A.C. Gilbert Erector Set—fostered creative thinking. He told the men that toys provided a valuable escape from the horror stories coming out of combat.

Armed with play objects, a boy’s life could be directed toward “construction, not destruction,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert then laid out his toys for the board to examine. Secretary Daniels grew absorbed with a toy submarine, marveling at the detail and asking Gilbert if it could be bought anywhere in the country. Other officials examined children’s books; one began pushing a train around the table.

The word didn’t come immediately, but the expressions on the faces of the officials told the story: Gilbert had won them over. There would be no toy or gift embargo that year.

Naturally, Gilbert still devoted his work floors to the production efforts for both the first and second world wars. By the 1950s, the A.C. Gilbert Company was dominating the toy business with products that demanded kids be engaged and attentive. Notoriously, he issued a U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, which came complete with four types of uranium ore. “Completely safe and harmless!” the box promised. A Geiger counter was included. At $50 each, Gilbert lost money on it, though his decision to produce it would earn him a certain infamy in toy circles.

“It was not suitable for the same age groups as our simpler chemistry and microscope sets, for instance,” he once said, “and you could not manufacture such a thing as a beginner’s atomic energy lab.”

Gilbert’s company reached an astounding $20 million in sales in 1953. By the mid-1960s, just a few years after Gilbert's death in 1961, it was gone, driven out of business by the apathy of new investors. No one, it seemed, had quite the same passion for play as Gilbert, who had spent over half a century providing fun and educational fare that kids were ecstatic to see under their trees.

When news of the Council’s 1918 decision reached the media, The Boston Globe's front page copy summed up Gilbert’s contribution perfectly: “The Man Who Saved Christmas.”

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Ho, No: Christmas Trees Will Be Expensive and Scarce This Year
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The annual tradition of picking out the healthiest, densest, biggest tree that you can tie to your car’s roof and stuff in your living room won’t be quite the same this year. According to The New York Times, Christmas trees will be scarce in some parts of the country and markedly more expensive overall.

The reason? Not Krampus, Belsnickel, or Scrooge, but something even more miserly: the American economy. The current situation has roots in 2008, when families were buying fewer trees due to the recession. Because more trees stayed in the ground, tree farms planted fewer seeds that year. And since firs grow in cycles of 8 to 10 years, we’re now arriving at a point where that diminished supply is beginning to impact the tree industry.

New York Times reporter Tiffany Hsu reports that 2017’s healthier holiday spending habits are set to drive up the price of trees as consumers vie for the choicest cuts on the market. In 2008, trees were just under $40 on average. Now, they’re $75 or more.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice tree at a decent price—just that some farms will run out of prime selections more quickly and you might have to settle for something a little less impressive than in years past. Tree industry experts also caution that the shortages could last through 2025.

[h/t New York Times]

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