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5 More People Who Accidentally Found a Fortune

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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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How Can I Save Money During Wedding Season?
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According to one survey, the average American spends more than $600 on wedding-related costs—and that’s just to attend as a guest. If you have two or more events coming up this year, that adds up quickly! But with careful planning and some inside tricks, you can make it through wedding season without breaking the bank. Here are some tips so that you can focus on the stuff that matters.

1. PUT YOUR REWARDS POINTS AND MILES TO GOOD USE.

You’ve been racking up airline miles for months (maybe even years), and now is the time to use them. Leverage those air miles you’ve earned, rent a car or book a hotel room with that cash back, or see if your credit card offers discounts to certain retailers where you can shop with reward points rather than cash. Some credit cards let you redeem your cashback rewards for boosted value gift cards, which means you could redeem for even more value.

2. MAKE A VACATION OUT OF IT.

If you’re already traveling a long distance, consider flying out a few days early. Since weddings usually require guests to travel at peak weekend times, you can save by flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday. You will be spending more on lodging each night you are there, so factor that in as you plan your budget.

Even if you don’t add any extra days, book your transportation as soon as you finalize your travel dates. Once upon a time you could save money waiting for last-minute flights, but with so many budget airline options, you won’t be doing yourself any favors waiting until the last minute.

3. RESEARCH HOTEL RATES.

The bride and groom will likely negotiate block room rates for their guests, but don’t assume that is the best price you can find. Before booking, check around the web to see if you can secure a room at the same hotel for a lower price. You also might find cheaper options farther away from the venue. A short drive can be worth it to save $30 each night, but be prepared to take cabs or skip the open bar so you can drive yourself back at night.

4. RENT A HOUSE WITH FRIENDS.

Rather than booking a bunch of hotel rooms, find a great group house online. Depending on the location, you can find some incredible homes for less than $100 per night. Even better, you can save money by cooking and socializing at home rather than out on the town. You will need to account for transportation from the rental property to the wedding, but a cab will likely be cheaper than opting for the hotel where the couple has arranged transportation. If you don’t know many people at the wedding, ask the couple if they have other friends looking to share accommodations. Not only will you save, you might make new friends!

5. DON’T WAIT TO BUY YOUR GIFT.

Find out where the couple has registered as soon as possible. The earlier you scope out the registry, the more options you will have to find a gift that fits your budget. Guests attending bridal showers and engagement parties tend to snap up the less expensive items ahead of the wedding, so try to purchase your gift at least four or five months out. Not only will you look totally on top of things, but shopping early will give you time to get on the mailing lists for the stores where the bride and groom are registered and keep an eye on sales.

6. POOL RESOURCES FOR A GROUP GIFT.

Get a bunch of friends together and go in on a big-ticket item that no one person can afford. Not only will you each likely spend less than you would alone, you will be able to get the couple an expensive item that they might not otherwise receive. (Added bonus: You’ll be first on the invite list when they christen their new grill.)

7. GO BEYOND THE REGISTRY.

Consider giving your time and/or your talents in lieu of a physical or monetary gift. Maybe you are a skilled photographer, makeup stylist, or hand letterer. There are lots of ways to contribute to your friends’ weddings that will save both of you money. Even offering to help run errands the weekend of the wedding will be greatly appreciated, and it will ultimately be a more meaningful gift than a $50 salad bowl.

8. BUY IN BULK.

It may not sound romantic, but when you see items like picture frames and champagne on sale – stock up! Then all you have to do is slip in a beautiful photo of the couple, get some nice wrapping paper, and you’re good to go!

9. INVEST IN A GREAT WEDDING OUTFIT...OR RENT ONE.

Unless you are part of the wedding party, you should not focus too much of your budget on your own attire. Women can invest in a classic black, navy, or gem-toned dress and mix it up with accessories. (Stay away from patterns; they are memorable.) It’s also a good idea to get a good, comfortable pair of neutral shoes that you can wear to every wedding. If you’re hesitant to wear the same dress in front of your friends, swap dresses with a friend or rent a designer dress.

Men will find it easy to change outfits just by mixing shirts and ties with one great suit. If you are attending a black-tie wedding, a black suit and black tie will fit the bill, or you can rent a tuxedo from a local shop or online.

10. IT IS OKAY TO RESPECTFULLY DECLINE AN INVITATION.

As much as you would love to attend every wedding, shower, or bachelor(ette) party, it isn’t always practical. You might have already taken a big vacation this year, so you cannot afford to attend a destination wedding in the Bahamas. Or maybe your friend’s fiancée invited you to her shower just to be polite. It is acceptable to say no. True friends will understand.

11. REMEMBER WHY YOU ARE THERE.

Don’t forget that you are there to celebrate your loved ones and the fact that they have found their partner in life. It’s not worth overspending and risking feeling resentful over what should be a happy occasion. Remember, your friends do not expect (nor want) you to go into debt so that you can be a part of their big day. They would much rather have the pleasure of your company than an expensive gift. Stick to what works for your personal budget and have a great time honoring your friends.

It’s that time of year: Wedding bells are ringing. And ringing. And ringing some more. Feeling overwhelmed by all the events on your calendar? The Discover it Miles Card will automatically match all the miles you earn at the end of your first year, which means 20,000 miles can turn into 40,000. The best part: There’s no limit to how much they’ll match. Terms apply. Visit Discover to learn more.

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5 Ways to Avoid Extra Rental Car Fees
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Walking into a rental car dealer should be a simple task. Walk in with a reservation, your ID, and your credit card, and walk out with a set of keys. But more often than not, picking up and returning a rental car is a dizzying array of add-on offers and potential fees. How do you make the most of your vacation without getting tripped up by unnecessary costs? Condé Nast Traveler has some smart tips for keeping it under budget, and we’ve added a few tips of our own as well. Because you can never save too much money.

1. DON'T BUY EXTRA INSURANCE.

Are you paying for your rental with a credit card? Your credit card company likely provides its own rental car insurance. Your own car insurance, too, will often cover rental car trips. Check with both to determine whether you really want to spend extra on the rental company’s collision damage package. No, you don’t want to be fully liable if you total your shiny rental car. But that doesn’t mean you need to shell out a pricey daily fee for peace of mind. In fact, some credit cards don’t offer rental car insurance if you’re also covered under the rental agency’s collision damage waiver, so you may be shooting yourself in the foot if you get it. Make sure to check whether your credit card coverage is primary or secondary insurance, though.

2. DON'T BUY THEIR GAS.

At some rental car agencies, you can prepay to have them fill your tank after you drop the car off. That means you’ll save time on the way back, and generally, the price-per-gallon seems relatively cheap. The problem? You’re probably not going to run your rental car down to empty right as you pull into the return lot, and then you’ve just given the agency free gas. It’s never a good idea to leave filling up to the agency. Unfortunately, that’s doubly true on the return end if you've opted for the prepay—you’ll get hit with a huge premium if you forget to fill the tank and have to buy gas from the company when you’re handing over the keys. You don’t want to get stuck paying $15 per gallon.

3. AVOID THE AIRPORT.

It’s super convenient to hop off the plane and go right to the rental car agency, but that convenience comes at a price. Airports charge rental agencies concession fees to operate on their property, and those costs get passed along to you. If you can take a quick (and cheap) train or cab ride to a nearby agency a few miles away from the airport, you’ll probably pay lower rates.

4. FIND A DISCOUNT.

If you’ve got a travel credit card, you might get a discount at some rental car partners. Citi cardholders, for instance, get up to 20 percent off Hertz rentals, while Visa cardholders can get up to 25 percent off National car rentals. Chase’s Sapphire Reserve credit card gives discounts at Avis, National, and Silvercar.

Your employer may also provide rental car discounts, as do some airline and hotel rewards programs. You can even find a discount on Groupon. So don’t reserve blindly. A little research into coupons could save you significant money.

5. DON'T BOTHER TO RETURN EARLY.

In most cases, it’s better to show up early than late. But with rental cars, you can be penalized for returning your car too early. Depending on when you return it, you could be charged a different rate than what you originally planned. If you return a car on Saturday morning instead of Sunday morning, you might end up with a weekday rate charge instead of a weekend rate. If you have a weekly rental, you’ll be paying for a full week whether you return it after five days or the full week. If you return a weekly rental after four days, you might end up paying the day rate, which could be more expensive. In short: You want to stick to your original plans as much as possible, and if you do need to return your car early, call the agency first to check how it will affect your bill.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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