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Unclaimed property auction to include $14,000 diamond ring

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A diamond ring appraised at $14,000 will become the most expensive item of unclaimed property auctioned online by the state Treasurer's Office later this month.

The auction will start Wednesday and run until May 30. It features unclaimed items left behind in safe-deposit boxes by people who died.

"We're excited because you just don't see many rings like this," said Treasurer John Perdue in a statement. "To date, this is the highest appraisal an item offered in any of our auctions has ever received. I hope West Virginia residents see what's offered because all the items came from here."

Anyone is eligible to bid by visiting and clicking the "Unclaimed Property Online Auction" icon. The site includes photographs of all items up for bid.

Money from all the safe-deposit box auctions and sales remains in the accounts of people who died.

"We continue to try to find the people entitled to inherit these items and this money," Perdue spokesman Greg Stone said Friday. "The money from safe-deposit box sales stays in the accounts of people who died. A good many people who died forgot to tell their relatives that they kept valuable things in their safe-deposit boxes."

After safe-deposit boxes are dormant for five years, Stone said, banks drill those boxes open and send their contents to the Treasurer's Office.

"So many people are leaving so many things behind that we don't have the physical space to store all the things we get," he said.

Perdue urged people to look at the items available for auction. "Go online and have a look. It can't hurt."

Other items going on sale during the auction later this month include the April 1910 issue of "The Modern Priscilla," a magazine catering to fashionable women, and two tickets from the 1966 World Series, when the Baltimore Orioles beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"People tend to find safe-deposit box items interesting because of the variety of items left in them," Caroline Atkinson, deputy secretary for unclaimed property, said Friday.

"This time, we have a 1976 South African Krugerrand on our site, as well as some Mexican gold coins from 1945," she said. Postage stamps and costume jewelry will also be up for bids.

"We get different kinds of items," Atkinson said. "We also get a lot of different things like savings bonds and wills, which we can't auction. We keep those for the owners.

"We find baby teeth, dolls, military medals, mink stoles and letters people have written, which have sentimental value."

Bank deposit boxes vary in size from small ones the size of a typical shoebox to boxes several times that size -- and not everything found gets auctioned.

"We also find occasional contraband, which we have to turn over to the police," Atkinson said. "When we find weapons, we have to run them through the NCIC [National Crime Information Center] to see if they were involved in committing a crime."

The treasurer's first online auction took place in June 2001. Since then, Perdue's office has held 40 auctions.

During the 2012 fiscal year, online auctions brought in more than $88,000, according to the Treasurer's Office. In the nearly completed 2013 fiscal year, they have brought in more than $140,000. That includes bids of $75 for a Persian knife and $700 for a $5 bank note issued in 1902 during the last online auction, which ended in March.Reach Paul J. Nyden at or 304-348-5164.


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