Here are 5 of the most incredible treasures ever discovered by accident.
5 – Enter Terrestrial
Attempting to capitalize on the popularity of The Extra Terrestrial in 1982, Atari released a companion video game for the twenty six hundred console late that year. In 2014, documentarian Howard Scott Warshaw led an excavation in the New Mexico desert where thousands of cartridges of the E.T. video game were buried by Atari in the 80s. Since nobody was buying the cartridges, the company had turned them into part of a landfill. But to Warshaw’s surprise, 30 years later collectors around the globe wanted their hands on a copy of that elusive disk. The copies have raised over a grand each at auction with the filmmaker claiming part of the booty to cash in on himself.
4 – Financial Independence
Michael Sparks saw what he thought was an ordinary reproduction of the American Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. He purchased it for two dollars and forty eight cents. However, its fountain penmanship and crusty old paper intrigued him. When he took the document to a collector, he found to his shock that a couple of bucks and change had purchased an actual, original copy of the Declaration – of which only two hundred were printed and only thirty six recovered to date. Sparks’ incredible find later sold for a cool four hundred thousand dollars.
3 – Stack of Benjamins, Oil on Canvas
In the late 90s, an anonymous man from Indiana was looking to cover a hole in his living room wall. He bought a painting of some flowers for thirty dollars. Later, he was playing the board game Masterpiece, a trivia quiz about famous artwork, when he saw a card that resembled the painting, labeled “Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth” by 19th-century artist Martin Johnson Heade. Upon investigation, the piece turned out to be the real deal – a centuries-old original by Heade which the national Museum of Fine Arts coughed up one point two five million dollars for.
2 – Forget the Beaches
When you see those old folks shuffling around with metal detectors, remember they’re all pretty much wishing their name was Eric Lawes. In 1992, a friend asked Lawes to search for a missing hammer in a field near the town of Hoxne in the United Kingdom. Lawes furnished a metal detector and commenced searching. But instead of a lowly hammer, Eric discovered an amazing treasure of ancient Roman silver and gold coins that would become known as the Hoxne Hoard. The coins are now on display at the British Museum in London and have been valued at over three million pounds.
1 – Huang’s Weird Wishes
About 50 years ago, a humble farmer from China decided to dig a new well on his land. But instead of tapping H two Oh, the man discovered an underground army. In a cavern beneath the ground were over eight thousand perfectly preserved statues of ancient generals and warriors, and a tomb. It was the burial site of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the man who united warring factions of China over two millennia ago. At the tender age of 13, the Emperor stopped playing with his cell phone – just kidding – and ordered the army of statues as protection of his tomb after death. The site is now a museum open to the public, with the lucky farmer…let’s just say “well” compensated for the find.