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5 More People Who Accidentally Found a Fortune

We’ve all found something that we thought might be worth a lot of money. We have not all been fortunate enough to stumble across anything actually worth a fortune. Rob has shared some of these stories before, but here are a few more people who accidentally discovered something incredibly valuable.

1. A 500-Year-Old Pendant

Taking a three-year-old out to use a metal detector is mostly about showing the kiddo a device that beeps when you find a quarter or an old can. And to be fair, that’s really all Jason Hyatt expected to do when he took his son James on his very first expedition. Just minutes after getting started, the detector buzzed and the father-son duo started digging. About 8 inches under the surface, they discovered a gold locket with an image of the Virgin Mary clutching a cross.

The pendant is what’s known as a reliquary, and it dates back to the 16th century, during the reign of Henry VIII. Experts claim it may have even belonged to a member of the royal family. There are only three other reliquaries of this type known to exist.

As a bonus (sort of), James will learn a valuable lesson about sharing. Part of the reliquary's $4 million sale will go to the owner of the property where it was discovered.

2. A Vase Fit for the Emperor

When a pair of siblings set out to clean their deceased uncle’s home, they certainly weren’t expecting to become millionaires in the process. As they started packing up his things, they ran across a vase that seemed so worthless they stuck it up on a bookshelf and continued working on boxing up the rest of his items. Eventually their attention returned to the vase, and they realized it might be worth something, so they took it to an auctioneer who told them the piece was from the 1740s and was almost certainly created specifically for the Qianlong Emperor.

Naturally, the pair put the vase up for auction, where the piece ended up breaking the record for any Chinese artwork –closing at $69 million. Now that’s one heck of an unexpected inheritance.

3. A 260-Year-Old Violin

One evening in 1967, a woman thought she saw a baby on the side of the freeway, so she got out and investigated. Fortunately, it wasn't a baby, but a violin case with a pretty nice-looking violin inside. The woman kept the violin, eventually giving it to her nephew, who then lost it to his ex-wife, Theresa Salvato, during a divorce settlement. When Theresa decided to take violin lessons, her instructor thought there was something unusual about her instrument. He asked to borrow it, and then took it to a violin dealer who examined it and declared it to be the $800,000 violin that had been missing from UCLA’s collection since 1967.

Named "The Duke of Alcantara," the rare instrument was a Stradivarius that had been borrowed from the school’s collection by the school orchestra’s second violinist, David Margetts. David reported the violin stolen, but it turns out he likely put it on top of his car and forgot about it.

Salvato contacted the school, but refused to hand over the instrument after they sent two campus police officers to her home and accused her of theft. Eventually, the matter had to be settled in court, where Salvato was pronounced the rightful legal owner of the instrument. She then sold the violin back to the school for $11,500 — a fraction of its actual worth. Even so, it’s not too shabby for something found on the side of the freeway.

4. A Missing Mark Twain Manuscript

For years now, the second half of Mark Twain’s manuscript for Huck Finn has been treasured and cared for in the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. But what about the first half? As it turns out, it’s been hidden away inside of a trunk in the attic of the very book collector that convinced Mark Twain to donate the book to the library in the first place. After Twain handed the manuscript over to James Fraser Gluck, the collector managed to lose the first half before giving it to the library.

Finally, over 100 years later, Gluck’s granddaughters discovered the manuscript and intended to put it on auction at Sotheby’s in New York. Before the auction date, an ownership claim arose after the library pointed out that Twain had promised the manuscript would go into their collection. Rather than making a legal battle out of the matter, the sisters decided to sell the manuscript to the library for an undisclosed, but reportedly low, six-digit sum. While it was far less than the piece would have earned at auction, the sisters claimed they agreed to sell it to the library as an act of charity.

5. A Lost Van Gogh Masterpiece

Sometimes valuable items can be hiding in plain sight. Just ask the unnamed middle-aged couple living in Milwaukee who happened to have an original van Gogh masterpiece hanging on their wall. They thought the painting was just a simple reproduction, but when they invited an art appraiser to take a look at another painting in their home, he noticed the van Gogh and realized it was the 1886 original. When “Still Life With Flowers” sold at auction, the couple quickly ended up $1.4 million richer.

So, any of you guys ever find an original van Gogh? How about something valuable but maybe not Stradivarius-level valuable? We've heard the Atari 2600 is worth a few bucks.

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The Little Known Airport Bookstore Program That Can Get You Half of What You Spend on Books Back
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Inflight entertainment is a necessary evil, but the price can quickly add up without the proper planning. Between Wi-Fi access and TV/movie packages, you can run into all kinds of annoying additional charges that will only increase the longer your flight is. Thankfully, there is one way to minimize the cost of your inflight entertainment that’s a dream for any reader.

Paradies Lagardère, which runs more than 850 stores in 98 airports across the U.S. and Canada, has an attractive Read and Return program for all the books they sell. All you have to do is purchase a title, read it, and return it to a Paradies Lagardère-owned shop within six months and you'll get half your money back. This turns a $28 hardcover into a $14 one. Books in good condition are re-sold for half the price by the company, while books with more wear and tear are donated to charity.

If you haven’t heard of Paradies Lagardère, don’t worry—you’ve probably been in one of their stores. They’re the company behind a range of retail spots in airports, including licensed ventures like The New York Times Bookstore and CNBC News, and more local shops exclusive to the city you're flying out of. They also run restaurants, travel essentials stores, and specialty shops. 

Not every Paradies Lagardère store sells books, though, and the company doesn’t operate out of every airport, so you’ll need to do a little research before just buying a book the next time you fly. Luckily, the company does have an online map that shows every airport it operates out of and which stores are there.

There is one real catch to remember: You must keep the original receipt of the book if you want to return it and get your money back. If you're the forgetful type, just follow PureWow’s advice and use the receipt as a bookmark and you’ll be golden.

For frequent flyers who plan ahead, this program can ensure that your inflight entertainment will never break the bank.

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The Best European Destinations to Fly to on a Budget This Summer
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Get your passport ready. According to Kayak, it's the cheapest summer for air travel to Europe in three years—especially if you're flexible about where you want to go.

Kayak crunched some numbers to discover the cheapest European destinations to fly to from each U.S. state, usually including several international airports in that calculation. Prices can vary wildly depending on where you live, but with this data, you can at least figure out the cheapest median airfare you can expect.

Across the board, Reykjavik, Iceland—a famously budget-conscious place to fly into—was the cheapest destination for the most airports analyzed. But how low that median price actually is varied quite a bit. If you're flying out of Pittsburgh, you can get to Reykjavik for a median price of $319, whereas if you're flying out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same destination will cost more like $789.

An orange map of the United States with illustrations showing the cheapest European travel destinations for the summer
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Dublin came in second for the cheapest-destination crown. It was the cheapest European destination city from 15 U.S. airports, though those airports apparently have quite expensive international flights in general. The lowest median airfare to Dublin is in the $700 range.

Unsurprisingly, though, the bigger the airport you fly out of, the more likely you are to find a cheap fare. From both international airports near New York City, you can get to Paris for a median price of just over $500. From Denver, you can get to Brussels, Belgium for $379. From Miami, you can fly to Madrid for around $545. From Boston, you can get to Stockholm for $479. (If a state didn't have its own international airport, Kayak used the nearest one, meaning that a whole lot of New England is included in Boston's cheapest fare data.)

The prices are all median airfares, so you could encounter both lower and higher fares, depending on the flight you book. But if you’re looking for travel on a budget, it looks like Reykjavik and Dublin are the way to go from most cities.

If you've gotten inspired, now is a good time to book. According to Kayak, you should book summer travel six months in advance, but other travel sites say you should book a little later. CheapAir.com recommends booking summer travel around 47 days in advance, which right now means planning for early June.

See the full list of prices and destinations below or head over here to Kayak.

State

Airport Code

Destination

Median Airfare

Alabama BHM Paris, France $1110
Alabama HSV Frankfurt am Main, Germany $875
Alaska ANC Reykjavik, Iceland $677
Arizona PHX Madrid, Spain $563
Arizona TUS Zurich, Switzerland $805
Arkansas MEM London, England $1068
California SFO Reykjavik, Iceland $442
California LAX Reykjavik, Iceland $404
California SAN Dublin, Ireland $766
Colorado DEN Brussels, Belgium $379
Connecticut BDL Edinburgh, UK $548
Delaware BWI Reykjavik, Iceland $359
Florida MIA Madrid, Spain $545
Florida MCO Reykjavik, Iceland $541
Florida TPA Reykjavik, Iceland $615
Georgia ATL Budapest, Hungary $640
Georgia SAV London, UK $830
Hawaii HNL London, UK $906
Hawaii KOA London, UK $960
Idaho SLC Venice, Italy $468
Illinois ORD Reykjavik, Iceland $450
Indiana IND Reykjavik, Iceland $788
Iowa DSM London, UK $898
Kansas MCI Reykjavik, Iceland $600
Kentucky CVG Reykjavik, Iceland $509
Kentucky SDF Reykjavik, Iceland $789
Louisiana MSY Dublin, Ireland $732
Maine BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
Maryland BWI Reykjavik, Iceland $359
Massachusetts BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
Michigan DTW Reykjavik, Iceland $409
Michigan GRR Reykjavik, Iceland $789
Minnesota MSP Budapest, Hungary $463
Mississippi MSY Dublin, Ireland $732
Missouri STL Dublin, Ireland $752
Missouri MCI Reykjavik, Iceland $600
Montana BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Montana BZN Dublin, Ireland $797
Nebraska OMA Dublin, Ireland $864
Nevada LAS Copenhagen, Denmark $563
Nevada RNO Reykjavik, Iceland $871
New Hampshire BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
New Jersey EWR Paris, France $521
New Mexico ABQ Geneva, Switzerland $705
New York JFK Paris, France $517
New York BUF Reykjavik, Iceland $740
North Carolina CLT Dublin, Ireland $739
North Carolina RDU Dublin, Ireland $665
North Dakota BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Ohio CLE Reykjavik, Iceland $457
Ohio CMH Dublin, Ireland $694
Ohio CVG Reykjavik, Iceland $509
Oklahoma TUL Venice, Italy $760
Oklahoma OKC Venice, Italy $952
Oregon PDX Reykjavik, Iceland $642
Pennsylvania PHL Reykjavik, Iceland $497
Pennsylvania PIT Reykjavik, Iceland $319
Rhode Island BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
South Carolina CHS Reykjavik, Iceland $789
South Dakota OMA Dublin, Ireland $864
Tennessee BNA Dublin, Ireland $771
Tennessee MEM London, England $1068
Texas IAH Madrid, Spain  $598
Texas AUS London, UK $642
Utah SLC Venice, Italy $468
Vermont BTV London, UK $780
Virginia ORF London, UK $845
Virginia RIC Dublin, Ireland $793
Washington SEA Munich, Germany $663
West Virginia PIT Reykjavik, Iceland $319
Wisconsin MKE London, UK $835
Wyoming BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Washington, DC IAD Reykjavik, Iceland $482

 

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