State auction rakes in $608,000

OLYMPIA — What’s a $1,000 bill issued in 1934 worth today?

Try $3,100.

How about three sets of used false teeth? $500.

And brass knuckles? $65

Those are the amounts fetched in an auction earlier this month of collectibles, valuables and odd items abandoned by their owners in safe deposit boxes of banks and credit unions throughout Washington.

The state Department of Revenue collected $608,000 from the sale of more than 4,000 personal treasures whose rightful owners could not be found.

There was lots of interest in owning those belongings.

Nearly 400 people braved heavy snowfall to attend the auction Dec. 18 and 19 in Kenmore. Another 100 people took part online.

Brisk bidding among them pushed prices on many items above their appraised or estimated value, said Barbie Schneider, the department’s unclaimed property audit manager.

A tooth with a gold filling netted $75 while someone paid $16,000 for a set of 20 South African Krugerrand coins.

National currency issued in 1929 from chartered banks proved popular. A $10 bill issued in Everett went for $150 while one from Shelton brought in $800.

“We were pleased. We may explore doing more frequent auctions,” she said, noting the last such auction was held in 2004.

People who failed to pay rent on their safe deposit boxes for at least five years had their possessions turned over to the state for disposal. The revenue department can hold it no more than five years before selling it.

Tuesday, with the accounting nearly done, the agency had grossed $608,000. That sum, minus the auctioneer’s cut, will go into the Department of Revenue’s unclaimed property fund. By law, those who left their property in the safe deposit box are still entitled to receive the money collected from the sale of their possessions — if they prove they are the valid owners.

For one person, it could require a bit of explaining and describing.

Schneider said they sold a small safe deposit box without anyone ever seeing its contents because it had been placed inside a second metal box that was locked.

“No one knew what was in it or even if it was empty,” Schneider said.

A locksmith attending the auction offered to open it but officials declined.

It sold for $200. The buyer left with it still locked up, she said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or

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