From Mental Floss:
We’ve all been there—a week until payday, the rent is due, and you’re rummaging in your parents’ attic to find Dad’s Mickey Mantle rookie card. If you’re in need of some quick cash, here are six stories of people who found a fortune when—and where—they least expected it.
1. Lose a Hammer, Find a Horde
In November 1992, a farmer living near the village of Hoxne in Suffolk, England, lost a hammer in one of his fields, so he asked Eric Lawes to use his metal detector to search for it. While looking for the hammer, Lawes happened upon something else of interest – 24 bronze coins, 565 gold coins, 14,191 silver coins, plus hundreds of gold and silver spoons, jewelry, and statues, all dating back to the Roman Empire.
As required by British law, the so-called “Hoxne Hoard” was reported to the local authorities, who declared it a “Treasure Trove,” meaning it was now legally the property of Britain. However, the government is required to pay fair market value for a treasure trove, meaning the farmer and Lawes split a cool £1.75 million. The Hoxne Hoard is now on permanent display at the British Museum, drawing thousands of people every year.
Sadly, there is no word on whether or not the hammer was ever found.
2. Arkansas is a Girl’s Best Friend
W.O. Bassum found a giant of a gemstone in 1924 – a 40.23 carat diamond. It might surprise you to hear that he wasn’t digging in one of the famous South African diamond mines at the time, but was near Murfreesboro, Arkansas, at a site that is now the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Sitting on top of a volcanic pipe (a geologic tube formed by an ancient underground volcanic explosion), the park is the only diamond site in the world that is open to the public. Best of all, the park’s policy is: “You find it. You keep it. No matter how valuable it is.”
Bassum’s big find – nicknamed “The Uncle Sam Diamond,” the largest diamond ever discovered in North America – was later cut down to 12.42 carat and sold for $150,000 in 1971 (About $800,000 today). But his wasn’t the last valuable rock dug out of that Arkansas soil.
In 1964, “The Star of Murfreesboro” was discovered at the same site, weighing in at 34.25 carat. Then, in 1975, came the 16.37 carat “Amarillo Starlight Diamond.” The 6.35 carat “Roden Diamond” was found in 2006. And the crown jewel of the park has been the “Strawn-Wagner Diamond” (pictured), a comparatively small 3.09 carat diamond, that was dug up in 1990, and expertly cut down to 1.90 carat. Despite its smaller size, the Strawn-Wagner stands out because it was given a “Perfect” rating by the American Gem Society – the first diamond to ever receive such a high grade.
But don’t think this list of big gems means the site has been tapped out. On average, two diamonds are found every day at Crater of Diamonds. They’re not all as big as The Uncle Sam Diamond, but maybe you’ll get lucky. There’s only one way to find out….MORE