Sometimes, I’ll find myself sitting around in the middle of the day, perhaps waiting for a parcel. I’ll find myself half drifting in and out of some kind of show whereby people ring through trash and mess to try and find a few items that have genuine value. Most of the time, I laugh and cringe at the absolute tat that people try to sell off at auction houses, with inevitable failure. Sometimes, though, I’ll see someone make so much from a finding that I start gazing around Google Maps to find local sites to start scrounging around in.
While I never do it myself, some people do it plenty – including Max Brown. Max was picking through a dumpster for a part of a community project in Incline Village. As he kept digging, he found an old classic set of 1980s cassette tapes: as a bit of a collector, he had a quick look to see what he had found. Underneath them, he found a pile of about 15 books – well-worn, but very important looking. As the rain began to pick up, he grabbed the books and made for safety. A massive snow-storm hit that night, and wiped out the dumpster’ remaining ingredients.
What Brown did pull out, though, would be mildly life-changing.
After a good few months had passed, Brown decided to take a look at the cover of the books. On the first page, he found the words “from the library of Thomas Jefferson” written down. For three years, Brown spent his time analysing the books and eventually going through close to 220 years of American history to find some answers.
Sadly after going to an appraiser, he was told that these were not real: fakes, he was told. A waste of time, effort and money.
However, Brown was later watching an episode of Pawn Stars and came across a book that seemed to match the one that he had found. Invigorated by the contradiction in what he was previously told, he got back to investigating the book.
After much searching in the Library of Congress, Brown found that the books in the dumpster appeared to be re-bound by Jefferson himself in 1818. Upon further investigation, he found that this was none other than Pierre Charon’s “De la Sagesse”, a hugely important 17th century book on topics like morality and wisdom.
Claiming to have ‘inherited’ the books, he took them to Endrina Tay, who works part of the Jefferson presidential library. After some back and forth, it was confirmed: these were indeed the books of Thomas Jefferson himself.
Sadly, he had already sold the books on for a decent but undervalued four-figure sum when he was low on cash. For another two years, though, he spent some time looking closer into how the books had been thrown out in the first place.
All the books he had found, upon further investigation, belonged to the Kellogg family. The books remained in their family for generations, before the trail runs cold at the name of Violet Cherry: a descendent of the family themselves.
While it means that Brown missed out on the chance of holding on to a rich part of American history, he was able to give back a photo album to the Cherry families living relatives. It might not have ended in the life-changing fortunes or fame that some would hope from finding something so special, but it’s a life experience that Brown is unlikely to ever forget.
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