Treasures available in state auction

December 7, 2011 4:38:56 AM PST
Get your bids ready. Starting Monday, the Illinois state treasurer begins a five- day online auction of unclaimed property.

There are some very interesting items in the state vault. Illinois may be mired in debt, but down in the basement of the capital, beyond the 16-ton door that guards the state vault, there are treasures -- gold, silver, and Beanie Babies.

"There are some people who've got lots of Beanie Babies who may be missing that special Beanie Baby that we have here in the vault of the treasurer of the state of Illinois," said state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

What's in this 16-by-32-foot safe-filled room goes way beyond Beanie Babies. There are roughly 100,000 items stored here. It's all unclaimed property left in safe deposit boxes in banks throughout Illinois. If after five years, the bank can't find the owner or heirs, the contents are turned over to the state.

"We have a crew of five people down here in the vault that inventory on a daily basis," said Roxy Hollenstine, director of unclaimed property. "Everything is under dual control."

The Treasuer's vault team spends, on average, another five years trying to find the rightful owners or heirs, and if it can't, some of those tangible items go on the auction block. And that's what happens beginning Monday online.

There's a $500 bill; they don't make those anymore. A set of gold bracelets appraised at $8,000. A five-pound silver Mt Rushmore coin. There are signed baseballs and baseball cards including Michael Jordon's short-lived minor league experience, and some rookie cards for guys named Maddux and Sandberg.

Once something is auctioned, it's still titled to the individual it was originally held by.

Which means if jewelry sells for close to its appraised value, that money belongs to its original owner or heirs in perpetuity, even if they're never found. But the state can use the interest from that sale. And coupled with interest from all the unclaimed stocks and cash that arrive here in safe deposit boxes, each year the state puts roughly $ 150 million toward its pension obligations which is a good thing.

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