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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (02/2012) Headlines (12/2011) Headlines (04/2012)   Vol. 46 February 2012 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the February 2012 edition of W&ET Magazine

Antique Hockey Stick Likely To Score Millions

Hockey lovers, curators and collectors could be queuing outside a Kings County home for a chance to bid on the world's oldest hockey stick.

Carved from a slab of Nova Scotia sugar maple more than 170 years ago, owner Mark Presley is putting the antique sporting artifact up for private sale.

The 44-year-old Berwick native declined to put a dollar figure on the important piece of hockey memorabilia in an interview recently. But scientists have determined it's older than the legendary Rutherford stick that sold at auction for more than $2 million.

"It's never been appraised, so I'm not sure how much it's worth," Presley said. "I suppose it's worth what someone is willing to pay for it."

But a small setback has surfaced in Presley's plan.

The North Sydney barber that sold him the national treasure in 2008 says he should get a cut from the sale.

"I didn't have a clue it could be worth as much as people say," George Ferneyhough said. "I think it's fair that I get a bit (of the earnings)."

The hockey stick had hung on display at his barbershop for 25 years before Presley bought it for $1,000.

Presley said he understands why Ferneyhough may have some "misgivings." But he said he was "absolutely transparent" when he purchased the relic.

"We both knew it was about a hundred years old, but neither of us had any idea its value."

The stick, more of a chunky field-hockey stick than a long, sleek ice hockey stick, has the initials W.M. for William Moffatt scratched on the blade.

After some old-fashioned sleuthing around, Presley learned the stick had been used by generations of the Moffatt family to play shinny on Pottle Lake, near North Sydney.

Knowing that he could have one of the oldest surviving hockey sticks in his hands, Presley lugged the specimen to a team of tree-aging experts at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.V.

Scientists there determined it was made between 1835 and 1838, making the Nova Scotia hockey stick older than the Rutherford stick, which was carved around 1852 and, according to media reports, sold for almost $2 million in 2006.

Presley, who has been a collector of everything from coins to hockey cards since he was young, described himself as "one of those reluctant sellers."

"It's been a very difficult decision to sell the stick... I'm really enamoured with the historical context of it, and I'd really love to do more research and write a book."

The social worker and self-taught history buff said he would use the proceeds of a sale to return to university and pen a book on the Moffatt family and hockey history in the Maritimes.

"There is really a rich oral history tied to this hockey stick that deserves to be researched and recorded for posterity," said Presley, who interviewed Charlie Moffatt, the last surviving owner of the antique stick, before he passed away last year.

"Charlie was wonderful. He told me all kinds of stories about the way things used to be. It was a real glimpse into the past, but at the same time, he provided critical clues I'd like to keep following."

Presley said he would like to see the hockey stick properly preserved and on display in a public space.

From the Chronicle Herald, submitted by Daniel Finch, Halifax, N.S.

Titanic Memorabilia Nets $100,570 At Auction

A collection of more than 100 items of Titanic memorabilia, including a rare letter written on the ship's stationery the day it sailed on its first and last voyage, sold for $100,570 recently.

The collection, which had been estimated to sell for $50,000 to $75,000, was one of seven lots of Titanic material sold by Philip Weiss Auctions in Oceanside. It was purchased by a private collector who did not want to be identified. The price includes a 13 percent buyer's premium.

The letter is on stationery that reads "On board R.M.S. Titanic" and is dated April 10, 1912- five days before an iceberg sent the ship to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It was written by passenger John Snyder of Minneapolis, who survived with his wife, Nelle, after they were placed in one of the first lifeboats launched from the ship.

A descendant consigned the artifacts to Weiss. The family thought (since this auction took place in late 2011) that next year's centennial of the sinking would increase interest.

The collection included a photograph taken April 18 after the ocean liner Carpathia had brought rescued survivors to New York. It shows the Snyders, who were returning from their honeymoon in England, wearing the same clothes they had on the night the Titanic sank. There were only 706 survivors from among the 2,223 passengers and crew.

Before the Titanic left London, Snyder, then 24, used the ship's stationery bearing the red White Star Line flag to write to the owner of a London tobacco shop, thanking him for supplying the cigars he was enjoying on board.

Even more important in historical terms is a letter Snyder wrote his father after returning to Minneapolis. He wrote: "We were both asleep when the boat hit... When we reached the top deck, only a few people were about and we all were told to go down & put on our life belts... We were almost the very first people placed in the Lifeboat. Only a very few people were on deck at the time and they thought it much safer to stay on the big boat than to try the life boat."

He continued that he could tell the ship was going down because he could see fewer lines of lit portholes as time went by. "Finally, the bow went under," he wrote, and "the finest boat in the world was doomed."

Other separate Titanic-related items of interest included:

A 1906 half-dollar coin recovered from the Titanic sold for $3,850; the estimated sale price was $1,000 to $2,000.

A portrait of the Titanic's captain in his wife's locket. It sold for $3,500; the estimated sale price was $1,500 to $2,500.

A small piece of the ship's carpet taken by steward F. Dent Ray during the ship's construction in Belfast. It sold for $1,600 and had an estimated sale price of $2,000 to $3,000.

From The Daytona Beach News-Journal, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.

Plumber Returns $20,000 Found In Duct

Holmes Beach- What would you do if you found $20,000?

For a plumber in Manatee County, the answer was easy. He made sure to give it back to its rightful owner.

Jerry Laliberte was working on a leak between floors in a home on Holmes Beach when two packages wrapped in aluminum foil fell out of an air duct.

At first, he said, he thought it was drugs. But then he unwrapped the foil to find $20,000 in cash and travelers checks. He says he called his boss right away.

It turns out this isn't the first time something like this has been found in this home.

"The lady that originally owned the home had died in the house and she had hid the money around the house, they said that that wasn't hardly anything compared to what they had found in the house," Laliberte said.

The new owners of the home inherited it from a relative. They say she left a list of places where they should find money but must've missed this one.

From FN, submitted by many readers.

Man Reported To Find $500,000 Worth Of Treasure In Storage Unit

A San Jose, CA man needed no treasure map when he reportedly stumbled on to $500,000 worth of gold and silver after bidding on an abandoned storage unit. The man, identified only as John, apparently paid $1,100 for the unit only to see his blind investment turn into a goldmine after a number of rare coins and a few gold and silver bars were found in the blue Rubbermaid container.

The reported find, in Contra Costa County, was so unexpected that even though the auction was held by American Auctioneers, the subject of A&E's Storage Wars, there were no cameras present when the cache was discovered.

Even without cameras Laura Dotson, the co-owner of American Auctioneers along with husband Dan, still said she was delighted.

"It helps, it solidifies what we're doing in the business," Dotson said. "It shows hope that with all these units, that there is treasure to be found."

Although the buyer wants to remain anonymous, Dotson said he called her after getting the gold and silver appraised. According to Dotson, the first thing he said was, "Wow, this is a wonderful life."

In recent years storage unit auctions have gained wide-spread recognition after becoming reality fodder for shows like Storage Wars and Spike TV's Auction Hunters.

In California, where American Auctioneers is based, a storage unit is available for auction if rent has not been paid in three months. Bidders are able to view the storage unit from outside for five minutes to glean what they can, and then the bidding starts. While some units are worth little, the possibility of a big payoff draws in participants who are willing to take a chance.

John Cardoza of Storage Auction Experts, which was not involved in the auction, told ABC News that for people who know what they're doing, "Six out of seven units can make money." However, he stresses that the chance to make half a million dollars off a $1,100 bid is a bit rarer. "I hear similar stories about once a year," said Cardoza.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the unit was owned by a recently deceased elderly woman. Cardoza says that since the storage units must be listed in the paper prior to the auction, some bidders use names to try to decipher what's in the unit. "What some people do is, they look at the names. If it's Ethel or Myrtle, it sounds older," said Cardoza, who says an older person may have more collectibles than a younger person.

While the coins were apparently found in the unlikeliest of treasure chests- a Rubbermaid container- it was said to have been heavy enough that three men had to carry it out.

Dotson says the plastic container initially piqued the buyer's interest, although for more pragmatic reasons. "He said that he liked it was in [plastic] and clean and easy to move," said Dotson. "It's a chance of a lifetime."

From ABC News, submitted by many readers.

Husband Searches Landfill, Finds Missing Diamond Ring

It was a simple but heartbreaking mistake.

Still, the story of how Brian McGuinn accidentally threw out his wife's $10,000 custom-made wedding ring has a happy ending. After plowing through dirty diapers, broken glass and several unmentionables at the county landfill, the 34-year-old financial adviser found the family jewel.

The misadventure began when McGuinn's wife, Anna, who is 5 months' pregnant with their first child, handed him the ring to put in her jewelry box while she showered.

He grabbed it at the same time he was getting ready to throw out an old razor. Without thinking, he chucked both things in his hand.

"It was so thoughtless," he said.

The couple, married for five years, didn't realize the mistake until the next morning. By then, Waste Management had already collected the garbage from their Margate condo.

"The waterworks began," Anna McGuinn said. "My husband looked on in horror."

Desperate, Anna McGuinn, 31, called Wheelabrator North Broward- the division of Waste Management that processes the garbage. Officials there said her husband could come and search.

Plant worker Joel Ryan figured out where the ring would most likely be, based on where that neighborhood's trash was dumped. Then, he got McGuinn suited up: protective vest, goggles, a suit. He even leveled off a 10-foot pile to make it easy to search.

And he warned McGuinn: People coming to the county dump looking for items they accidentally tossed usually go home empty-handed.

Ryan said McGuinn was sifting and trudging through the county landfill for more than 30 minutes.

"Nastiness you wouldn't believe," McGuinn said. "It was absolutely disgusting. It stunk beyond belief. The smell was God-awful. Everything unsanitary you could think of crossed my path at least a couple times. I took an extraordinarily long shower and toothbrushes were used."

But he found it- a tiny glimmer surrounded by black sludge wedged between two brown bags.

"It looked like a screw, and I reached down and it looped around my index finger," he said. "I was ecstatic. It was like winning the lottery. It was probably one of the best moments ever."

He said he let out a whopping yell that made the Wheelabrator crew jump. "I think they were startled by the shrill I let out," he said.

Ryan was impressed. "Record time for sure," he said.

The moral of the story: "Perseverance," Brian McGuinn said. "A lot of people don't find things; it's gone. But I knew I had to try."

From The Daytona Beach News-Journal, submitted by Marty Maher, Langlois, OR, and Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.

These Diamonds Will Lose Lustre

Diamonds aren't necessarily an investor's best friend.

The Nova Scotia Securities Commission is warning investors about a diamond investment scam reported to it by local investors who have been given the pitch.

Natalie MacLellan, the commission's investor education and communications co-ordinator, said the scam artists are pitching diamonds to investors as a safe alternative to the stock market and are shown an appraisal for a diamond, which is offered to them for sale at a discounted price.

The buyers don't see any diamonds and don't take possession of any gems. Instead, the seller provides the investor with an appraisal certificate and they are told they can sell the diamond back to the seller later.

The commission isn't aware of anyone in Nova Scotia falling for the scheme, which has also been reported in other parts of the country.

"But it only takes one," said MacLellan.

If it was a legitimate offer, buyers should be able to see the diamond and have an independent appraisal done, she said.

"Also, if the gem is not in your possession, you are unable to shop it around at a later date to ensure that you are getting the best price if and when you decide to sell."

The scheme is similar to gold scams in which people buying gold ingots as an investment are encouraged to let the scam artist keep them for safe keeping because if it was stolen from the buyer's home, they would be out of luck, MacLellan said.

Because the diamond scheme is being sold as an investment contract, it is a security and sellers of securities are required to be registered with the commission, she said.

From The Chronicle Herald, submitted by Daniel Finch, Halifax, N.S.

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