Iowa to Auction off Unclaimed Valuables on eBay

By James Q. Lynch, Reporter

An old bank note will be part of the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt eBay auction on Cyber Monday. All the items up for auction were turned over to the state treasurer's office after they were found in bank lock boxes. The original owners of the items can still claim them up until the action otherwise they will receive the proceeds from the sale if they make a claim. (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Liz Blood

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Add The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt to your Cyber Monday shopping list.

Just in time for Christmas shopping, Iowa Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald will put 100 lots on the online auction site eBay Nov. 26 as part of his office’s attempt to dispose of unclaimed property it has acquired.

“Iowans lock away what’s valuable to Iowans,” Fitzgerald said in Cedar Rapids Nov. 14. However, some of what his office has accumulated “is worthless -- and strange.”

The unclaimed property includes gold teeth, people’s ashes, baseball cards, old photos, religious items and a pair of denim jeans.

“We get lots of pocket watches,” Fitzgerald said. “Every Iowan’s grandpa must have had a pocket watch.”

His inventory from abandoned safe deposit boxes also includes deeds to property, jewelry, silver coins and foreign currency as well as the occasional gun.

“We never know what we’re going to pull out,” he said.

Unclaimed property can be any financial asset that has been abandoned by its owner for a period of time specified by state law. If banks are unsuccessful locating the owners of the safe deposit box items, the property it turned over to the Treasurer’s Office.

Over the years, the state has returned more than $154 million worth of unclaimed property, Fitzgerald said. Last year, the state took possession of $27 million in unclaimed property.

Iowa law also dictates the property should be sold periodically and the proceeds deposited in the state treasury.

He’s taken the view that “periodically” means whenever the vault is full.

“It’s full,” said Fitzgerald, a Democrat first elected in 1982.

He’s had auctions before. This time he’s using eBay to take advantage of the technology that makes an auction accessible to people all over Iowa and beyond.

There will be 100 lots of property available Nov. 26. After a week, each lot will go to the highest bidder.

All items have been appraised although some don’t appear to need it.

“We’ve had rock collections,” he said. “I don’t mean gems. I mean rocks.”

There will be minimum bids on many lots, Fitzgerald said.

Some property needs no appraisal.

For more on the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, visit their site. For more on the auction, click the eBay button at the top right of the page.

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