The exciting thing about antiquing is the thrill of finding a piece of the past to call your very own. But some pieces are a lot more valuable and important than others. Sometimes true treasures and priceless historical artifacts slip through the cracks and end up out in the world where any antiquer can find them.
Four Dollar Frame
Sometimes artifacts can be found by happenstance. For instance, in 1991 a man bought a thrift store painting for four dollars because he liked the frame. When he opened up the frame he found a copy of the Declaration of Independence printed in 1776 that later sold at auction for seven million dollars. We cannot promise that you will be that lucky when you come and shop with us at the Old & New Shop or elsewhere on your antiquing journey. However, just in case, there are a few missing national treasures that you should be keeping an eye out for as an antiquer.
Stolen from The National Archives
One major way that historic artifacts become lost to time is theft. The National Archives in DC, for example, has had many of its priceless records and artifacts stolen over the years and maintains a website dedicated to educating the public about what’s missing. The missing documents include numerous letters, and pardons documents signed by presidents George Washington, John Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, and more. Other presidential artifacts currently missing include FDR’s official painted portrait, LBJ’s class ring, and several swords bejeweled with precious gems gifted from the Saudi royal family to Truman. However, perhaps the most significant artifacts stolen from the National Archives are some of the original maps used during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WW2. It is likely that they were stolen for sale on the black market but it is very possible that you may come across them while antiquing.
Other Missing American Artifacts
Some irreplaceable and historic artifacts never made it to the National Archives or any other museums or archives. The Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, also known as the Seneca Falls Declaration or simply The Declaration of Sentiments, is one example. The document started the American woman’s rights movement and nobody knows what happened to it. The original copy, signed at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, and 97 other women’s rights pioneers, has been lost to history. The Declaration borrowed the language of the Declaration of Independence to declare that “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal.” The Obama administration launched an effort to find The Declaration of Rights and Sentiments and compared their efforts to the National Treasure franchise but their nationwide search was unsuccessful. Antique collectors may have more luck. Sometimes a shopper is just in the right place at the right time and successfully runs across this national treasure.
Missing American Artifacts – Pop Culture
Not all of America’s missing historic artifacts involve presidents, wars, or suffragettes. Many involve America’s artistic heritage and the missing pieces of cinematic history are among the most interesting. In the early days of Hollywood, most movie props were simply repurposed, thrown out, or burned after shooting. In the 1970s MGM started auctioning off movie props to private collectors exposing the lucrative money-making opportunity of the collectors markets. Today movie and TV props from popular works are often held in private collections and even museums. However, even in recent years valuable props are put out on the open market, thrown away, or even stolen. This means that keen antiquers and collectors can make money or lifelong memories by snatching up the right prop. Many stolen and missing film props could be in a local antique shop. For instance, of the four known surviving pairs of ruby slippers worn in The Wizard of Oz one pair was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in 2005 and the museum has offered a $1,000,000 reward for information on its whereabouts. Other valuable collectibles missing include the suit from Iron Man, the map from Goonies, and costumes from the original Star Trek series.
Antique and Vintage Finds
Shopping for antiques, vintage and retro collectibles can be exciting, and finding a valuable missing American antique would be even better! But for most antiquers, it’s best to practice and love antiquing for its own sake. You may not find a multi-million dollar artifact, but you can definitely find beautiful and unique items that link us to our collective past. You can definitely find a piece of the past that you and your family can cherish and call your very own. If you do find an antique item you believe to be valuable you can have it appraised at the Old & New Shop.