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Treasure Hunting

Richard Connor  |  June 5, 2020

MANY OF US HAVE found ourselves with free time on our hands. I’ve read that folks are filling their days with shopping, baking, exercising and binge-watching TV. May I suggest another activity, one that may prove profitable?

Over the past few years, I’ve found significant amounts of money in unlikely places. These treasures often come not just with monetary benefits, but also great memories. Here are four places to look:

1. Forgotten savings bonds. I’m old enough to remember when paper savings bonds were a common gift for birthdays and holidays. Many companies also had savings bond buying programs, encouraging employees to invest and pitching it as an act of patriotism. If you signed up, the money to be invested was taken out of your paycheck.

Paper bonds were then mailed to you and you’d dutifully tuck them away for the future. I’ve been organizing my financial documents lately and I came across an envelope with a bunch of Series I savings bonds. I entered the required information in the Treasury Direct savings bond calculator and, much to my surprise, found they were worth nearly $10,000. I’ll bet many folks have old savings bonds hidden in the back of desk drawers.

2. Lost assets. Each state has unclaimed property that it holds, waiting for the owners to come forward. I haven’t checked every state, but I can attest to Pennsylvania’s efficiency. I recently found almost $1,000 in my father’s name. There were funds from an insurance company’s demutualization, an old savings account and the return of a security deposit from the Philadelphia Gas Co. Most of these were from the 1950s and 1960s. My father died in 1999, so the funds were divided between my two brothers and me.

A decade or so ago, we also found almost $17,000 in my wife’s aunt’s name. They were shares she received in 1984 from the breakup of the Bell telephone companies.

Searching for and claiming lost assets takes a little effort. You’ll want to try variations on your and your relatives’ names. I’ve seen claims with and without middle names. It helps if you know relatives’ old addresses. Be prepared to prove your right to inherit. We’ve had to supply death certificates and have our signatures notarized.

3. Gift certificates. I recently found several hundred dollars in unused gift certificates. Some were for local restaurants. There were also a few iTunes gift cards. I checked and all are still valid. I’m looking forward to a nice brunch with family after things reopen.

4. Spare change. Perhaps the most prosaic of hidden treasure, spare change is often ignored or forgotten. When my father-in-law died, we cashed in several huge bottles of change. It was about $900, which more than paid for the post-funeral luncheon.

My wife and I have an old coffee can we fill with spare change. Right now, it easily contains $100 or more. While a student at Penn State, our son got involved in THON, a fantastic student-led charity. The charity is renowned for raising millions by collecting change, so we dedicated the contents of our coffee can to that cause. A bit of unused change added up to a nice donation.

I’ve noticed that members of the Greatest Generation often hide cash in their homes. Why? Many were immigrants or the children of immigrants. They also grew up during the Great Depression and knew hard times. If your parents are still around, you might ask if they have a hidden stash. Got a stash of your own? Perhaps you should let your children know—before it’s too late.

Richard Connor is a semi-retired aerospace engineer with a keen interest in finance. Rick enjoys a wide variety of other interests, including chasing grandkids, space, sports, travel, winemaking and reading. His previous articles include Taking the HitBuyer Take Care and Numbers Game. Follow Rick on Twitter @RConnor609.

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R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago

Boy does this post hit home. I have many years of payroll deduction savings bonds. The oldest are thirty years old. I wonder if people realize that once they mature there is no more interest but you have to pay income tax on the accrued interest even if you do not cash the bond. The other thing I’m guilt of forgetting about, occasionally until they were no good is gift cards. I found a trick with Starbucks cards. I immediately transfer them to my account as credits and they are never forgotten.

james mcglynn
james mcglynn
10 months ago

Richard I also check the unclaimed credit regularly and check for my friends as well.Nice tax-free money and easy to collect. In addition to gift cards which are never used , credit card companies often have free benefits that are unused also.

davebarnes
davebarnes
10 months ago

Change?
What is change?
Do you mean coins?
How do you get coins if you buy everything with credit cards?
I have not used cash in the USA in the last 18 months. Not once.

Ginger Williams
Ginger Williams
10 months ago

Remember the 50 state quarters program? I found a dozen filled collector booklets while clearing bookshelves after my mother passed away. She also stashed coins in artificial plant containers, which I discovered when I tipped a heavy container over expecting to find pebbles used as ballast. The grandchildren found at least $400 of loose changed in candy dishes and such.

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