Unclaimed safety deposit box treasures to be sold at auction

A small-scale version of the TV show "Storage Wars" is coming to White City next week.

Unclaimed property from abandoned safety deposit boxes across the state up for bid. The auction starts at 9 a.m. Friday, April 4, at 855 Industrial Circle in White City. An auction preview will be held 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 3.

Oregon Department of State Lands public relations manager Julie Curtis says this year's items up for grabs include silver bars, a $20 bill from the Confederacy, Michael Jordan basketball cards and antique tools.

All proceeds go into the state's Common Schools Fund — which distributes funds to Oregon K-12 public schools twice a year — but are not spent. Instead, they are left to generate interest in the fund until the right parties come to claim the original proceeds.

"That money is available for claim forever," Curtis says.

The property up for auction comes from the hundreds of abandoned safety deposit boxes around the state. A safety deposit box is considered abandoned if the owner fails to make rental payments or can't be found for two years. Then banks and other financial institutions turn over unclaimed contents to the state.

Before auction, department officials post property owners' names on an online database.

"We have had cases where we have reunited the contents of those boxes with an owner," Curtis says.

Unclaimed contents have included valuable property like antique jewelry and rare coin collections. Curtis says personal belongings like photographs are sometimes left behind. More eccentric items are also found. A pittance of cat hair was once found in one of the boxes.

"It's surprising what people think is valuable or is valuable to them," Curtis says. "Sometimes there are unusual things."

— Ryan Pfeil

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