Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Would you return this antique dresser you just bought for $100 at an estate sale when you discovered hidden treasure in it?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42454points) March 30th, 2017

Story.

Man buys beautiful antique dresser for $100. As he and a worker were loading it, tipping it on its back, they heard jingling. They discovered a secret drawer full of civil war memorabilia, cash and jewelry. He returned the dresser.

Would you have returned the dresser?
Would you have kept the dresser but returned the loot?
Would you have just kept it all?

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38 Answers

Patty_Melt's avatar

I bought it. That includes whatever it contains.
I would return any contents which are personal to the owner, photos, legal documents, family Bible, etc,

Dutchess_III's avatar

Would you consider the civil war stuff and the jewelry personal to the owner?

Patty_Melt's avatar

No. A photo of some great grand somebody, yes, but just random stuff, no.

ragingloli's avatar

Ferengi Rules of Acquisition:
1. “Once you have their money, you never give it back.”
2. “The best deal is the one that makes the most profit.”
10. “Greed is eternal.”
27. “There’s nothing more dangerous than an honest businessman.”
52. “Never ask when you can take.”
69. “Ferengi are not responsible for the stupidity of other races.”
181. “Not even dishonesty can tarnish the shine of profit.”
189. “Let others keep their reputation. You keep their money.”
261. “A wealthy man can afford everything except a conscience.”
263. “Never let doubt interfere with your lust for Latinum.”
285. “No good deed ever goes unpunished.”

Love_my_doggie's avatar

It seems that “finders keepers, losers weepers” is nothing more than a commonly-believed truism. Here’s a brief, but interesting, piece about an example: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1993-12-04/news/1993338061_1_kapiloff-finders-keepers-sentinel. I once had a close, long-term relationship with some members of this family.

kritiper's avatar

Contact the local authorities on the matter.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But why would you assume it’s just random stuff to them @Patty_Melt?

Why would you contact the authorities @kritiper?

Zachary_Mendes123's avatar

I would just keep it all.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I don’t assume anything. I can keep all of it if I want to.
I just told you what I would choose to return. You asked what I would do, not what I think you want me to do.
That is what I would do.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You are assuming @Patty_Melt! You’re assuming a photo would be more valuable to them than their great grandfather’s Civil War medals, or their great grandmother’s wedding ring.

Just say you’d give the stuff that has no monetary value back to them, and you’d keep the stuff that does have monetary value.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I’m not assuming. They can want whatever crap they want. If I want to return it I will, and I told what I would be willing to return to them.
I am entitled to keep it all.

And
I
Don’t
Care
If
They
Cry

chyna's avatar

@Dutchess_III You asked a question and @Patty_Melt answered and now you are arguing about her answer.

canidmajor's avatar

This is a nice feel-good story, but the man’s assertion that he “did the right thing” is a bit skewed. The people had no idea that there was a secret drawer or items located therein. Is there a follow up story? About how the owners restored the collection or donated the items to a museum?
Or maybe they sold them to a collector, and that nice man who gave it all to the previous owner just got shafted.
I might have the items appraised, or give them to a museum, or sell them, but I probably wouldn’t just give give them to the person who had sold me the dresser.
I didn’t see anything about how the stuff had personal meaning for them. Maybe it would have been interesting for them, but I don’t really see it as personal.

Aster's avatar

I heard it was jammed pack full of valuable solid gold jewelry. I might keep one piece and return everything else. Very difficult situation. Anything resembling stealing makes me crazy. Keeping one piece is stealing so I’m very conflicted.

canidmajor's avatar

But @Aster, what about personal responsibility? The dresser had been in the possession of the people, they sold it, as it was. They had as much opportunity to discover the stuff as the other guy did.
It’s not stealing if it was bought in good faith.

Aster's avatar

I know @canidmajor . I’m just going by my conscience, nothing more.

canidmajor's avatar

Ah, there we differ. If there was no obvious serious financial distress of the seller, my conscience would dictate that I use the the proceeds of such a windfall to help out a group or organization that I support.

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_III Because there are certain legal matters concerning valuables that one finds. Better to ask the people who know rather than break the law.
I heard of some guys here who were digging a trench for a sprinkler system. They found a stash of gold and silver coins, and kept them. Illegal. The coin’s owner was the property owner, by law, not the people who found them.
Any items found, it the manner you described, may be able to be kept, but, again, the authorities will know what to do to make it legal.
There are lots of treasure hunting books that will tell you what to do, legally. (Like “Treasure Hunter’s Manual #7” by Karl von Mueller.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

@chyna I’m not questioning her answers, just the logic behind them. She would return personal items, but calls the rest of it “random stuff,” and suggests that there is nothing in that “stuff” that the original owners would consider personal. It is illogical.
I would give almost anything for someone to find my mother’s wedding set and return it to me.

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
Coloma's avatar

I’d be conflicted, and would probably feel the items should be given to the sellers. Most likely, even if they went undiscovered, they probably had something to do with the family history.
Now if the dresser had been bought and sold before that would be a different story and I would keep the items. This is too taxing for me ethically, I’d just like to find a satchel full of drug dealers money. haha

That’s an easy one. Big satchel clearly marked “Drug money.” Keep it and gloat! lol

ragingloli's avatar

what if it was a big leg of Cocainum?

Seek's avatar

Hubby did a job once for a house flipper. There was stuff from the previous owners left inside, and hubs and his crew were given permission to take whatever they liked.

Hubby came home with a box of books.

We went through the books and found among them a photo album full of Victorian-era funeral portraits. Very cool stuff.

Behind one of the photos was a newspaper clipping from the 50s – an obituary.

Using the info from that obituary, I tracked down the number of the cemetery, and asked if they had any contact information for the family. I left my number and email address and waited.

Couple days later I’m neck deep in a fascinating conversation with the “family historian” of this rich Boston family. Sent him scans of the pictures and told him I’d love nothing more than for the album to go home. So it did.

No, I didn’t get a reward. Guy didn’t even reimburse my shipping.

Tl;Dr – yes, I’d return any family heirlooms I found, if they weren’t sold to me on purpose.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think I would too. I’d return it all. And it sucks that they didn’t give you any kind of reward @Seek.

Patty_Melt's avatar

@Seek, that is a wonderful story. You did the right thing.

Pandora's avatar

Depends. If it was an estate sale where there are no living relatives and the state gets to keep all profits, then I’m keeping it all.
If it’s a yard sale of some sort or there are relatives selling stuff off, then I would return the personal stuff, but keep the rest.
If it is a yard sale for some elderly person who needed the money, then I would return everything in it if it is valuable. I would keep the dresser though. I bought that fair and square.
Though I think I would’ve offered more than 100 for that dresser. Especially if the person looked like they could’ve used the money.

Seek's avatar

@Dutch – meh, it wasn’t about the reward. It was important to me that the photo album went home, and I’m glad it did. During the whole process I learned a lot about a neat old fad that I’d never heard of (funeral photography) and hopefully made someone happy.

jca's avatar

@kritiper: But these items are not “found,” they’re “bought.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Pandora He didn’t offer $100. It was the last day of the sale and the seller had marked the price down to $100. I would have snapped it up too!

@jca I don’t know the legalities, but the dresser was bought. The jewelry was found.

jca's avatar

The jewelry was inside the purchased item, therefore the jewelry was bought too.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m sure there is a law covering that kind of loophole. They didn’t know it was there so they didn’t know what they were selling.
I defer to @kritiper on this one.

jca's avatar

I’m going to ask an attorney. It’s an interesting issue.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Let me know what they say! It is interesting. I mean, if there was an exceedingly rare Picasso in a hidden drawer, that art dealers had been looking for for decades after it was stolen from someone’s house, does it really belong to the person who paid 5 bucks at a garage sale for the dresser? Or does it go back to it’s “rightful owners.”

jca's avatar

I just pm’d him on FB. I’ll let you know!

jca's avatar

This is what he wrote, word for word. “Very generally, not a legal opinion on a hypothetical, I think the buyer owns the content. If a written bill of sale describes what you are buying and not in the bill of sale then the seller gets the benefit of the doubt.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Excellent! Sounds just right. I wish I thought more like a lawyer.

Patty_Melt's avatar

That covers me.
I never bought anything at an auction with an itemized bill of sale, just a recept with the lot number written on.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Our auction puts our auction number, short description, and the amount it sold for on a ticket, which they then give to the gals in the office. That suffices as a bill of sale.
I never get bills of sale from garage sales, though.

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