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Gold teeth, Elvis stamps among items sold at state auction

October 23, 2005|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

FALLING WATERS, W.VA.

A woman's gold, bottom front teeth sold for $400 to bidder No. 136, a pawn shop owner from Maysville, W.Va.

Those teeth, plus several gold and diamond rings, belonged to lot No. 244 at an auction of unclaimed goods the State of West Virginia held Saturday at Spring Mills Middle School.

The state auctioned 420 lots of items that had been left unclaimed for years in safe deposit boxes.

"People die, move away, they just forget about the stuff," said Richard Fisher, chief investigator for the state treasury.

The last safe box auction was held in 2001, said Paul W. Hill, deputy treasurer for electronic government.

Goods included Elvis stamps, which sold for $9; two empty jewel cases to antique, which sold for $2; and a ring of white gold, which sold for $4,300.

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Most of the items were antique and vintage currency. A clump of federal reserve notes, some dating to 1934, sold for $16,130.

People were able to view the items on the state's Web site four weeks before the auction, Hill said. The highest minimum bid made online was used as the opening bid for the auction.

The teeth's new owner, Wanda Kesner, said she and her husband were looking for things to sell at their pawn shop in Rig, W.Va. Kesner said they were more interested in the jewelry and old coins that came with the teeth.

"I always wanted gold teeth," Kesner said, adding that they probably would melt them down.

Gary Bowman of Bunker Hill, W.Va., said it was his first time coming to an auction. He said he was attracted by an advertisement that featured a $23,000 ring.

"Not that I have any interest in that kind of thing," Bowman said. "I was just curious to see what came out of those deposit boxes."

Bowman's eyes were set on some Indian arrowheads, though he hadn't decided how much he was willing to spend on them.

Antonette Lawson, 48, of Inwood, W.Va., said she got a bargain on a fur hat she purchased for $27.50.

"Because I ski, I thought it would be a lot of fun," Lawson said.

Abandoned goods generate $10 million in state revenue per year, Fisher said.

It can take as many as seven years before an unclaimed piece of property gets auctioned off, Fisher said. Owners who discover that their stuff was auctioned can get money for the item if they can sufficiently prove they owned it, or were an heir to the original owner, he said.

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