One man’s trash….

Unclaimed Property
Mar 31 2015

By Regina Higginbotham, Unclaimed Property Division

Most people have heard the idiom: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” but the opposite can also be true, especially in the world of safe deposit boxes reported as unclaimed property. The West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office receives hundreds safe deposit boxes per year. Several of these boxes contain valuable items such as cash, coin, or collectibles, others may be empty and then there are those that contain really bizarre things!

The Unclaimed Property safekeeping staff has the task of opening the packages of contents from the banks and logging the details into the unclaimed property system. Some of the more interesting items found by staff include war medals and documents signed by past Presidents. They are donated to the Division of Veteran Affairs if the owners are not located.  Wedding rings, jewelry, Valentine cards from the 1930’s, love notes, stamp collections, pocket watches and a Mitchell Travelers Guide dated 1848 have all been found.

On the flip side there are some really odd items too. For example, why would someone put their dentures in a safe deposit box? It is great to have an extra set but would you really want to go to the bank without your teeth to get the spare?? Yet in another box for a different owner, there was toothpaste. Not even a tooth brush, just the paste. It might have made more sense if it was in the same box as the dentures…

Speaking of teeth, there have been numerous baby teeth, locks of hair from first haircuts and even some from the last haircuts - yes, it was in with funeral papers. There have been X-rays, unidentifiable vials of fluids from various health tests, 3 single sticks of gum, rubber bands, eye glasses, phone books, and toe nail clippers. Several boxes contained logs and journals documenting everything imaginable and a host of unmentionables. One box contained 3 soft packs of unopened cigarettes, maybe a reminder of finally kicking the habit?

It is easy to let your mind wander about what might have been the story behind these items and why they were so important to the owners that they felt the need to keep them safe. An antique doll comes to mind. It had a porcelain face and was wrapped in a blanket, very life like. It reminded me of a female version of “Chucky”, the doll from the 1988 movie “Child’s Play”. Yet, as much as I didn’t like it, the truth was that this doll was once loved very much by someone. It was after all, one man’s treasure….

The owner names of all boxes containing contents are advertised in an effort to reunite the owner with their property. If the rightful person or their heirs do not come forward, the items are eventually auctioned off on West Virginia Unclaimed Property Auction website. New properties are reported annually on or before November 1st of each year so even if you have checked before, click here to search again for free - we just might be holding your treasures. 

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West Virginia State Treasurer's Office
1900 Kanawha Boulevard
Capitol Complex Building #1, Room E-145
Charleston, West Virginia 25305
304-558-5000 Toll Free: 800-422-7498

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