I Found Old Cash Hidden Under Floor Boards in this Attic!
I Found Old Cash Hidden Under Floor Boards in this Attic!
If grandpa grew up in the great depression, there are probably tales of hidden silver certificates somewhere in the house. DO NOT disregard these rumors of hidden loot! After years of failed attempts, this family grew tired of figuring out if a metal detector would work indoors and even hired a construction contractor to find the treasure supposedly hidden under the floor. The family eventually found me online and hired me to figure out where grandpa hid his money.
When I arrived, we began by touring the attic. The family members showed me where people have looked in the past and where a recently hired contractor pulled up the floorboards. I reopened some of the floors where the carpenter previously worked. Now I could better look at the floor joists and see any potential metal objects under the floorboards. Turning on my metal detector, I walked over to where light from the two windows intersected. The rumor was that a person could see the box through the floorboards when the light shined into the room. Naturally, I started in the middle of the floor, looking for cracks where light could shine through. As I swept and my metal detector just above the attic floor, I realized every signal I heard so far was directly underneath and damaged piece of the flooring. The damage was either claw marks from a hammer or split wood where someone recently pulled up the flooring. The damage told me that someone already looked there, so I didn’t waste much time in the center of the room. I did notice some loose floorboards, so I took the opportunity to open the floor and tune my metal detection equipment. As I moved across the attic, I used a crayon to mark every significant signal I came across. I also identified the floor joists to make sure I knew where the center of each cavity was underneath the floorboards. The next step of my plan was to go back and investigate floor markings by drilling a pinky-sized hole in the board above the potential target. Finally, I would view the underside of the floor by dropping my 8.5-millimeter endoscope camera into the hole. Using this process of drilling a small hole and using a snake camera, I could see the floor cavity and see if I was dealing with electrical wiring, piping, or treasure without causing excessive damage or wasting much time. The old pine tongue-and-groove floorboards were fragile, and I did not want to remove them unnecessarily.
As I approached an hour of searching with my XP Deus metal detector, I had already heard many signals and seen even more evidence of other people removing floorboards. But I hadn’t heard any signals I felt were worth stopping and conducting an immediate investigation, mostly because of the fresh claw marks in the wood above almost every signal heard. I decided to inspect outside the rumored area and get closer to the attic space’s sloped ceiling. I figured focusing on the outskirts of the attic might show me something new, considering everybody else before focused on the center of the room. I started checking closely in the areas where the roof slope intersected with the attic floor. Due to the lack of headroom, I got on my hands, knees, and belly to check this area. I noticed a loose board, so I popped it up and shined my flashlight inside. I could see some insulation, but we only had rumors of the treasure being hidden under the floor, so I didn’t want to make a mess by removing insulation unless I heard an excellent signal. I reached inside to gently move the insulation and see if it was even possible to hide something underneath. I learned of a few spots across the whole attic where there was space to hide something under the insulation, so I was not too concerned about checking underneath. I figured the treasure was big enough that it would take up a decent amount of space.
I heard a choice signal in the very back corner, so I slowed down and began inspecting closely, looking for other clues. I also noticed there were four rough cuts at 45-degree angles in the floorboards. The two sets of jagged saw marks were side-by-side and lacking the fresh wood color of all the other recent board cuts I had been checking over the past hour. Each of the four saw cuts had a slight bow in the cut direction. Cuts of this nature were done with an older type circular saw or by someone inexperienced in woodworking. Maybe even a reciprocating saw or possibly a hand saw. Something else that looked odd was one of the boards had two parallel splits down the center. Splits like this typically happen during forced removal, possibly with a prybar. Splits like this would not have been done during the installation of the floor seventy years ago. My conclusion – this looked like the work of a homeowner hurriedly removing boards and warranted a closer inspection. I grabbed my endoscope camera and set it up. This particular endoscope camera wirelessly connects to my phone, allowing me to record directly to my iPhone. I figured whatever the suspect target is, there are a couple of different ways to access it. I wanted to check four or five other access points, so I took a hammer and popped up a few trim pieces covering up these places. I began inspecting under the floor and behind the walls with my endoscope camera. When I finished with the first hole, I realized many spider webs were obstructing my view, so I used a stick to clear some of them out. With a clearer image, I thoroughly inspected a couple of spaces. I decided to call the family member over to see what I was doing and understand the benefit of my technology. I pointed at my screen and explained what we were viewing. She seemed to understand what was in the floor cavities. When I dropped the endoscope camera into the next access point, I saw a small round, shiny circle displaying letters and numbers. We discuss the object for a moment as I brought my camera into focus and began to use the recording feature. The family member was observing the screen and suggested a pipe of some sort. My first thought was a coin was dropped and slipped through the flooring. Bringing the object into focus, I realized a slot in the center of the silver hole. OH MAN, THIS IS A KEYHOLE, I yelled! The first question that came to mind was, what is a keyhole doing under a floorboard? I pulled the camera further away from the item, and I could now see the edges of the box wedged between the floor joists and on top of the insulation. Call it denial if you want, but I still was not ready to admit that I had found a lockbox hidden underneath the floorboards.
I took a deep breath and convinced myself we have something serious. This is the essence of treasure hunting – it’s game time. The family member notified her relatives, telling them I was inspecting something of interest. My next move was to figure out the best way to access the box. I removed a piece of plywood covering the floor joist, rafter, and header joist’s meeting point. I managed to view the box by sliding on my belly and squeezing my head between the rafters. I reached for the cash box with a clear view down into the joist cavity. This was the most incredible treasure I’ve ever seen! As the event unfolded, I explained my every move to the family members as they have been very patiently waiting to find out what is inside the lockbox. As treasure stories go sometimes, the contents turn out to be time capsules, pictures, notes, and other keepsakes. Just because you find a lockbox doesn’t mean there’s necessarily something of monetary value inside. I try not to get a person’s hopes up, at least in the beginning. When you find a hidden lockbox, you hope for a hidden fortune but suspect the least exciting content. This way, the people are not as disappointed if the contents end up being something other than valuable treasure.
I grabbed the box and pulled it, and to my surprise, it was longer and heavier than I initially thought. After a few attempts, I realized I couldn’t remove the box due to the confined space and angle of the roof. I had to go back and remove those two suspiciously cut floorboards that I saw earlier. After removing the floorboards, careful not to do any additional damage to the pine boards, I could access the cavity just as the original pirates did. At this point, I realized the rumors of light shining through the window, into the floorboards, and onto the box was impossible. This metal cash box was covered up with multiple pieces of loose trim and scrap wood. Whoever put this box in here thought that it would help disguise it some more. Possibly like a type of camouflage in case someone pules up the floorboards in the future. I slid the box into view for the family to admire. Of course, I had to get a selfie with the treasure! As I pulled on the heavy metal box and felt it break contact with the surface below, a wave of guilt came over my body. I thought, “I am undoing what the original manager of this treasure intended.”
Anticipating a treasure guardian dropping through the ceiling, I remove the box from its 63-year old hiding place. In shock, we all stared at the box in disbelief. There was a brief second of panic when we realized there were no keys for the lock. I recognized the type of lockbox and knew the piano hinge was its weak point. Disassembly of this type of hinge was easy due to the construction around the spline. I used a small punch to tap out the spline. The two parts of the hinge could now be separated with a pull of the lockbox handle. As soon as I cracked the box open, I saw the old banknotes bundled with currency straps and knew I had found the treasure.
Cash was packed to the lid. All denominations were in the bundles, and individual bills were dated 1934, 1935, and 1950. The date “December 19, 1958,” along with the teller number, was stamped on each currency strap. Silver certificates were visible in three of the bundles. The highly collectible silver certificates are banknotes representing a stated amount of silver bullion payable to the bearer on demand. Silver was viewed as a type of insurance, just in case the dollar value suddenly dropped. Four other packages included bundles in fancy currency packaging labeled “$5,000” each. The cache of vintage banknotes totaled $46,000 in face value. The purchasing power of $46,000 in 1958 was equivalent to $421,603 in 2021. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a price increase like this means 2021 prices are 9.17 times higher than the average prices in 1958.
Most people know of The Great Depression and the hard times brought on by this period. People born during this period endured pain that would scar them for life. Perhaps the children of the depression were hit harder, or at least as hard as the adults. Being an adult and the family provider was a heavy task due to little work and money available. But more so than the adults, the kids would spend the rest of their long lives with the hard times taste in their mouths.
After a 2021 discussion with my grandfather, Louie, I learned about the life of a depression baby. Louie remembers growing up on the fifth floor of their 49th Street apartment in the Bronx. Railroad apartments were the low-cost option his family had. In 1941 his father made 8 dollars a week and paid 11 dollars a month in rent, so low-cost living was their only option. Louie lived in railroad apartments which were a series of connected rooms with public bathrooms. The kerosene heater was the crown jewel of these rooms and the lifeline of the apartment. To survive the winter months meant sticking as close to the heater source as you could. The bathrooms were outside in the hallway, requiring a cold walk he didn’t want to make very often. “Leaving the kerosene heat meant the possibility of getting sick.” Things didn’t get easier once someone finally arrived at the bathroom. “We couldn’t afford toilet paper, so we used old crinkled news newspaper. We rubbed the papers together to make it soft enough to use,” said Louie. The bathroom and other odors were never really an issue because the smell of kerosene took over everything. Clothing didn’t smell like laundry detergent and choice fragrances as they do now. Clothing only smelled of heating fuel. “The families that didn’t smell like kerosene were the rich families,” said Louie. “We couldn’t afford long pants, so knickers and stockings are what we wore. I got my first pair of long pants when I was 18 years old.” Living on a low income and the government home relief program didn’t leave many options for Louie and his family.
According to a 2012 interview with Delbert Keith Gordon, The Great Depression settled into peoples’ lives even if they were well off. Living on the family farm, Dilbert remembers going into town on Saturday nights with ten cents his parents gave him to spend. Dilbert dreamed of that big ten-cents Hershey bar or that nickel ice cream cone. As the great depression tightened its grip, the allowance dwindled to a nickel. Then suddenly, the spare change was gone, and Dilbert’s parents broke the news. The family couldn’t afford to give a child spare change; the amount of coins people nowadays don’t bother picking up off the sidewalk.
Could events like this follow Louie and Dilbert into adulthood? How could they not! Along with the cash hidden in this attic were antique tins of flour and boxes of nails from the original 1950s house construction—evidence of even the wealthiest of families being touched by these challenging times. To most, it might seem strange to save nails and baking flour when you can afford to hide a stockpile of cash. Unless you grew up during The Great Depression were survivors and clung to every material in their possession.
If you are in search of something valuable, contact Keith Wille now.
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