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Florida Asks 'Do you Have Lost Treasure?' Auction is Today

10:00 AM, Sep 17, 2011   |    comments
A 1927 St. Gaudens Double Eagle gold coin goes on the auction block next week in Ponte Vedra Beach as part of Florida's Unclaimed Property Auction.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The state of Florida is preparing to hold its version of a treasure hunt and the lucky hunters will get some real bargains on gold, diamond watches and even a vintage camera.

PICTURES: What's on the block

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater toured the state's super-secret vault earlier this month to get a closer look at some of the valuables heading for auction.

MORE: See the Catalog of Items for Sale

The vault is so well protected that even Atwater, who's in charge of Florida's checkbook, had to sign in twice before being allowed to enter.

About 37,000 items go on the auction block today as part of Florida's Unclaimed Property Auction.

Some of the valuables include: a Hamilton ladies platinum bracelet-style watch containing 127 diamonds totaling 2.67 carats, a Leica vintage Camera from around 1957 with accessories, a one ounce gold coin, a letter written and signed by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from 1914, and a handmade Native American belt containing 200 grams of silver.

The valuables ended up in the state's vault after the original owners left the items behind in safe deposit boxes. The owners failed to pay the rental fee, prompting banks to drill the boxes and remove the contents.

Banks and credit unions hold the items for three years before sending them to Florida's Bureau of Unclaimed Property. Then the bureau tries to contact the owners for two more years before placing the property on the auction block.

Atwater says cash from the auction will still go to the rightful owners if they come forward.

"Those dollars will still be set aside and they're set aside forever for the family that will someday, if they learn of that particular item that has been lost to the family, misplaced, that they can still claim that through the state."

The estimated minimum value of all the items is around $350,000 but Atwater says they'll probably sell for much more.

"If historical patterns play out that would probably be somewhere close to $900,000 in purchases people will make that we would then preserve for the families to reconnect those assets, or at least that value, back to them at some point."

Florida created its Bureau of Unclaimed Property in 1948. Since then, the state has returned $2.2 billion to Floridians.

Atwater said returns are running ahead of pace so far this year.

"Year-to-date, just the first seven months, has returned about $134 million. So we're actually on a stronger run rate than last year to try to reunite assets to families."

The auction is on Sept. 17 in Ponte Vedra Beach. Treasure hunters will be allowed to view the items on Sept. 16 at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort.

MORE: Search for unclaimed property 

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