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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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20 Random Facts About Shopping
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Shopping on Black Friday—or, really, any time during the holiday season—is a good news/bad news kind of endeavor. The good news? The deals are killer! The bad news? So are the lines. If you find yourself standing behind 200 other people who braved the crowds and sacrificed sleep in order to hit the stores early today, here's one way to pass the time: check out these fascinating facts about shopping through the ages.

1. The oldest customer service complaint was written on a clay cuneiform tablet in Mesopotamia 4000 years ago. (In it, a customer named Nanni complains that he was sold inferior copper ingots.)

2. Before battles, some Roman gladiators read product endorsements. The makers of the film Gladiator planned to show this, but they nixed the idea out of fear that audiences wouldn’t believe it.

3. Like casinos, shopping malls are intentionally designed to make people lose track of time, removing clocks and windows to prevent views of the outside world. This kind of “scripted disorientation” has a name: It’s called the Gruen Transfer.

4. According to a study in Social Influence, people who shopped at or stood near luxury stores were less likely to help people in need.

5. A shopper who first purchases something on his or her shopping list is more likely to buy unrelated items later as a kind of reward.

6. On the Pacific island of Vanuatu, some villages still use pigs and seashells as currency. In fact, the indigenous bank there uses a unit of currency called the Livatu. Its value is equivalent to a boar’s tusk. 

7. Sears used to sell build-your-own homes in its mail order catalogs.

8. The first shopping catalog appeared way back in the 1400s, when an Italian publisher named Aldus Manutius compiled a handprinted catalog of the books that he produced for sale and passed it out at town fairs.

9. The first product ever sold by mail order? Welsh flannel.

10. The first shopping cart was a folding chair with a basket on the seat and wheels on the legs.

11. In the late 1800s in Corinne, Utah, you could buy legal divorce papers from a vending machine for $2.50.

12. Some of the oldest known writing in the world includes a 5000-year-old receipt inscribed on a clay tablet. (It was for clothing that was sent by boat from Ancient Mesopotamia to Dilmun, or current day Bahrain.)

13. Beginning in 112 CE, Emperor Trajan began construction on the largest of Rome's imperial forums, which housed a variety of shops and services and two libraries. Today, Trajan’s Market is regarded as the oldest shopping mall in the world.

14. The Chinese invented paper money. For a time, there was a warning written right on the currency that all counterfeiters would be decapitated.

15. Halle Berry was named after Cleveland, Ohio's Halle Building, which was home to the Halle Brothers department store.

16. At Boston University, students can sign up for a class on the history of shopping. (Technically, it’s called “The Modern American Consumer”)

17. Barbra Streisand had a mini-mall installed in her basement. “Instead of just storing my things in the basement, I can make a street of shops and display them,” she told Harper's Bazaar. (There are photos of it here.)

18. Shopping online is not necessarily greener. A 2016 study at the University of Delaware concluded that “home shopping has a greater impact on the transportation sector than the public might suspect.”

19. Don’t want to waste too much money shopping? Go to the mall in high heels. A 2013 Brigham Young University study discovered that shoppers in high heels made more balanced buying decisions while balancing in pumps.

20. Cyber Monday is not the biggest day for online shopping. The title belongs to November 11, or Singles Day, a holiday in China that encourages singles to send themselves gifts. According to Fortune, this year's event smashed all previous records with more than $38 million in sales.

A heaping handful of these facts came from John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, and James Harkin's delightful book, 1,234 Quite Interesting Facts to Leave You Speechless.

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A Brief History of Black Friday
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The unofficial start of the holiday shopping season is often referred to as the busiest shopping day of the year. But where did this tradition start and just how big is it? Here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions about Black Friday. Hopefully they'll give you some good talking points tomorrow, when you line up outside Best Buy at 4 a.m.

HOW DID BLACK FRIDAY BECOME SUCH A BIG SHOPPING DAY?

It's hard to say when the day after Thanksgiving turned into a retail free-for-all, but it probably dates back to the late 19th century. At that time, store-sponsored Thanksgiving parades were common, and once Santa Claus showed up at the end of the parade, the holiday shopping season had officially commenced.

In those days, most retailers adhered to an unwritten rule that holiday shopping season didn't start until after Thanksgiving, so no stores would advertise holiday sales or aggressively court customers until the Friday immediately following the holiday. Thus, when the floodgates opened that Friday, it became a huge deal.

SO RETAILERS WERE ALWAYS HOPING FOR AN EARLY THANKSGIVING?

You bet. They weren't just hoping, though; they were being proactive about it. In 1939, the Retail Dry Goods Association warned Franklin Roosevelt that if the holiday season wouldn't begin until after Americans celebrated Thanksgiving on the traditional final Thursday in November, retail sales would go in the tank. Ever the iconoclast, Roosevelt saw an easy solution to this problem: he moved Thanksgiving up by a week. Instead of celebrating the holiday on its traditional day—November 30th that year—Roosevelt declared the next-to-last Thursday in November to be the new Thanksgiving, instantly tacking an extra week onto the shopping season.

BRILLIANT! HOW DID THAT WORK OUT?

Not so well. Roosevelt didn't make the announcement until late October, and by then most Americans had already made their holiday travel plans. Many rebelled and continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on its "real" date while derisively referring to the impostor holiday as "Franksgiving." State governments didn't know which Thanksgiving to observe, so some of them took both days off. In short, it was a bit of a mess.

By 1941, though, the furor had died down, and Congress passed a law that made Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November, regardless of how it affected the shopping day that would become known as Black Friday.

WHY CALL IT BLACK FRIDAY?

If you ask most people why the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday, they'll explain that the name stems from retailers using the day's huge receipts as their opportunity to "get in the black" and become profitable for the year. The first recorded uses of the term "Black Friday" are a bit less rosy, though.

According to researchers, the name "Black Friday" dates back to Philadelphia in the mid-1960s. The Friday in question is nestled snugly between Thanksgiving and the traditional Army-Navy football game that's played in Philadelphia on the following Saturday, so the City of Brotherly Love was always bustling with activity on that day. All of the people were great for retailers, but they were a huge pain for police officers, cab drivers, and anyone who had to negotiate the city's streets. They started referring to the annual day of commercial bedlam as "Black Friday" to reflect how irritating it was.

SO WHERE DID THE WHOLE "GET IN THE BLACK" STORY ORIGINATE?

Apparently store owners didn't love having their biggest shopping day saddled with such a negative moniker, so in the early 1980s someone began floating the accounting angle to put a more positive spin on the big day.

DO RETAILERS REALLY NEED BLACK FRIDAY TO TURN AN ANNUAL PROFIT?

Major retailers don't; they're generally profitable—or at least striving for profitability—throughout the entire year. (A company that turned losses for three quarters out of every fiscal year wouldn't be a big hit with investors.) Some smaller outlets may parlay big holiday season sales into annual profits, though.

IS BLACK FRIDAY REALLY THE BIGGEST SHOPPING DAY OF THE YEAR?

It's certainly the day of the year in which you're most likely to be punched while reaching for a Tickle Me Elmo doll, but it might not be the busiest day in terms of gross receipts. According to Snopes.com, Black Friday is generally one of the top days of the year for stores, but it's the days immediately before Christmas—when procrastinators finally get shopping—that stores make the serious loot. Black Friday may, however, be the busiest day of the year in terms of customer traffic.

Snopes's data shows the 10-year span from 1993 to 2002, and in that interval Black Friday was never higher than fourth on the list of the year's busiest shopping days by sales volume. In 2003 and 2005 Black Friday did climb to the top of the pile for sales revenue days, but it still gets stiff competition from the week leading up to Christmas, particularly the Saturday right before the big day.

DO PEOPLE REALLY GET INJURED ON BLACK FRIDAY?

Sadly, yes. One of the most tragic Black Friday incidents happened in 2008, when 34-year-old seasonal employee Jdimytai Damour was killed after a crowd of hundreds of people from the approximately 2000 people waiting outside knocked him own and stampeded over his back after the doors opened at 5 a.m. at the Wal-Mart on Long Island, New York.

In 2010 in Buffalo, New York, several shoppers were trampled trying to get into a Target. One of the victims, Keith Krantz—who was pinned against a metal door support and then shoved to the ground—told a CNN affiliate he thought he would be killed. “At that moment, I was thinking I don't want to die here on the ground,” Krantz said.

In Murray, Utah, 15,000 shoppers swamped a mall with such force, the local police had to respond to break up skirmishes and fistfights, and keep shoppers from ransacking stores.

In 2008, a fight broke out between a young girl and a man at another Wal-Mart store in Columbus, Ohio, over a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen television. It was $798, marked down from $1000. The New York Times reported that the not-so-aptly-named Nikki Nicely, 19, leaped onto a fellow shopper’s back and began pounding his shoulders violently when he attempted to purchase the television. “That’s my TV!” shouted Ms. Nicely, who then took an elbow to the face. “That’s my TV!” The fight was broken up by a police officer and security guard. “That’s right,” Nicely cried as her adversary walked away. “This here is my TV!”

HOW CAN THIS KIND OF THING BE AVOIDED?

In an effort to keep a few would-be clients from personal injury law firms, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created a special checklist for retailers expecting large crowds.

So what’s OSHA’s advice? Consider using bullhorns. Hire a team of police officers. Be prepared for “crowd crushing” and “violent acts.” Set up barricades. And, above all else, if charging shoppers come running, stay out of the way.

Haley Sweetland Edwards contributed to this story, portions of which originally appeared in 2009.

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