You never know what thoughtful gifts prior tenants will leave when they vacate a property: broken flower pots, an expired can of beans, a half-deflated soccer ball in the garage, a rusty umbrella in the hall closet. Sometimes, though, the treasures left behind can be valuable, and even inspiring. Take Charlotte Morrison, a British home-improver who decided to freshen up her living room with a coat of paint. She had to start by peeling off all of the layers of old wallpaper, which is when she found a tongue-in-cheek note from a previous resident.
Morrison’s Essex property was once home to a gentleman known simply as “Jon.” Days before Christmas in 1997, Jon was working diligently to update the same room Morrison was working on, when his supplies came up short. In his frustration, he scrawled, “If you ever need to wallpaper this room again, it will take eight rolls of wallpaper. I bought just six rolls at £17 per roll on [12/5/97] & didn’t have enough. (It really p***ed me off.)” Whether the note was for future tenants or to remind Jon himself, we don’t know, but nearly 20,000 Facebook users have engaged with the practical advice since it went viral.
Pay it forward
As Morrison’s post made its rounds, commenters had loads of questions for Jon, such as why he was wallpapering days before Christmas and why he spent so much on wallpaper? While Jon himself is social-media shy, one of his relatives contacted Morrison and confirmed the messenger’s identity. According to Fox News, Morrison asked the relative to convey the wild online response to Jon’s advice, and let him know that “social media thinks he is a legend.” While Morrison originally intended to paint the room, she was considering switching back to wallpaper, saying, “I would like to test Jon’s math.”
Accounting for inflation, Morrison’s discovery may not save her any scratch, but plenty of homeowners have found valuables stashed away and forgotten by prior residents. In 2010, The Daily Mail reported on an anonymous American couple who were preparing to leave their home due to foreclosure. As they cleaned out the eaves in their home, they found “the holy grail” of comic books: a 1938 Action Comics print in which no less than Superman appears for the first time. While the terms of the sale for that particular issue are unknown, the couple made enough from the discovery to keep their home. (A pristine copy of the issue later sold at auction for $2.16 million.)
In 1985, Christie’s of London auctioned off 200-year-old bottles of wine that had been found bricked behind a cellar wall in Paris. According to The New Yorker, the bottles were sold under the belief that they belonged to Thomas Jefferson, as Jefferson frequented the neighborhood in Paris where they were found and “Th. J” was etched into each bottle. While the actual provenance of the bottles has been an ongoing saga in wine collector circles for decades, one sold for £105,000 by Christie’s remains the record purchase price for a single bottle of wine. A selection of four bottles from the same collection went for $500,000 in the U.S.
Not all abandoned objects are valuable or practical, however. For every Antiques Roadshow mystery, there are piles of Halloween decorations, broken records, and even literal garbage for new residents to contend with. Bed, Bath & Beyond compiled a list of some of their customers’ most disturbing finds on their website. Those treasures include a set of false teeth, a drawer filled with human nail clippings, and a colony of snakes numbering in the thousands. The latter discovery even forced the new homeowners to relocate!
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