Think there’s nothing in the landfills but junk? Think again! As junk haulers and movers, we’ve seen a lot of precious objects kicked to the curb. From the rare Renoir that was almost worm food, to the wedding dress that was saved by sanitation workers, a lot of precious stuff makes it into the trash—and makes its way back to its rightful owners, in the case of these twelve crazy landfill oddities. Check out some of the weirdest, most daring landfill rescues below!
The Renoir That Was Almost Landfill Fodder: In 2011, a shopper picked up an old painting in a gaudy frame at a flea market. A year and a half later, she was ready to toss it, but her mother convinced her to have it appraised first—just in case. Turns out the picture was by none other than Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The painting, titled “Paysage Bords de Seine,” had been stolen from the The Baltimore Museum of Art over 80 years before, potentially by well-known Baltimore art collector Saidie May! The museum and Saidie’s descendents continue to argue over the painting to this day—while an ongoing FBI investigation tries to uncover what really happened to this mysterious painting while it was missing.
Scrap Metal or Faberge Egg?: In 2015, an anonymous man found a strange find at a rummage sale: a strange golden orb on an elaborate stand. The man snatched it up, hoping to make a few hundred bucks selling it to scrap metal dealers. What he didn’t know? The odd-shaped piece was actually a faberge egg that had escaped from the Russian tsar’s Winter Palace, and was now valued at over $33 million dollars! Although many of the royal family’s famous Easter eggs have wound up in art dealer’s hands, there are still two more that are unaccounted for—so another one could be uncovered any day now!
The Bank Haul That Wound Up in a Gas Station Garbage Can: A leisurely stop at a South Carolina gas station wound up producing thousands of dollars in stolen bills—and it was found and reported by a seven-year-old boy! The boy says he knew something was up when he discovered a $20 bill covered in ink lying next to the trash can. So he looked in the trash and saw that it was full of money! The boy immediately reported the stolen dollars to the police who connected it with a string of robberies that had occurred earlier in the week. Who says kids these days don’t have integrity?
Reddit User Strikes Gold: Reddit user punkwalrus recounts the story of how their grandfather came to be the proud owner of $55,000 Tiffany lamp. “It was kind of ugly and coated with scum that had been pouring down from a leaking ceiling,” punkwalrus says. After his grandfather cleaned off the lamp, a friend suggested that they have it appraised, and he subsequently discovered it was an original from the famous Louis Comfort Tiffany design studio.
No-hitter Jersey Almost Gets Scrapped: On Oct. 3, 2015, Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer pitched his second no-hitter in the season, making him the first player since Nolan Ryan to do so. You wouldn’t know it talking to his wife, though—Scherzer later found the jersey sitting in the trash, thrown out by Mrs. Scherzer because it was “dirty.” Scherzer rescued the priceless jersey in time, of course, but we wouldn’t have wanted to be the ones in that hot seat!
Ch-ch-change: A penny saved is a penny earned, especially when you’re saving that penny from the trash! Garbage incinerators pull an estimated $61.8 million in loose change out of the trash every year. Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration gathers up $675,000 annually in left-behind coins, which they keep and add to their budget.
The Designer Wedding Gown That Almost Bit the Dust: Dumpster diving—illegal activity or new wedding tradition? It might be the latter, according to this story from The New York Post: apparently, building workers in the bride’s Upper East Side apartment mistakenly dumped the garment bag in the trash—almost destroying a $4,000 Oscar de la Renta gown! Luckily, apartment staff and sanitation workers were able to recover the dress, after digging through the trash for an hour. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime event!
And the Wedding Ring That Was Accidentally Pitched in the Garbage: For one of the most important commitments they’ll make in their lifetimes, people sure are cavalier about what they do with their wedding treasures. That was the case in this case, reported by William Goldberg jewelers, of a local woman who accidentally tossed her diamonds in the trash while teaching a painting class in NYC’s Battery Park. Thanks to the collaboration of some very dedicated NYC park department employees and some very determined sanitation workers, the woman’s ring was recovered. Bet she never let it out of her sight again after all of that!
Is This Trash Bag Meowing?: Sanitation workers deserve a lot more praise for their efforts to reclaim cast away items, like this Palm Beach, Florida team, who rescued a litter of kittens from their trash haul. The garbage men heard mewing and rustling while processing garbage at their facility. Turns out it was four curious, loveable kittens that had somehow gotten into the trash! The team took them to the local Animal Rescue Center, where the four babies—renamed Jet, Topaz, Garnet, and Ruby—are doing well and are now parasite-free. Thanks, trash men!
The Gift of the Magi: When TSA agents made traveler Michael Moore toss out a treasured snowglobe destined for his adopted daughter’s hands, he thought he’d just pitched a priceless gift in the trash. Thanks to some onlookers, though—and a little help from social media—the thoughtful present was returned to its owner and later delivered to his daughter. Good job, internet!
One Man’s Garbage is This Trashman’s Treasure: Travel to 99th Street between First and Second Avenues in Manhattan and you’ll find the NYC Sanitation Department garage where the trash collectors display their favorite treasures. A Winston Churchill portrait, electric guitars, a Harvard MBA diploma—you name it, they’ve seen it! Too bad you can’t throw out your student loans, though!
Well, At Least Something Good Came Out of That: A garbage worker strike is generally pretty nasty. Trash piling up on the sidewalks, in driveways—it’s enough to get the city to negotiate pretty fast. But for at least one Chicago family, a sanitation workers’ strike yielded a golden ticket, literally! This family found a $10.5 million lottery ticket in the growing trash heap in front of their home. Pretty nice for a day’s haul!
Of course, there’s a fine line between rescuing treasures and hoarding them. If your home could use a little decluttering, give us at Humpback Junk–the leader in Austin junk removal. You never know what you might find!