March 12 (UPI) -- Thrift stores have long been hot spots for treasure hunters and bargain seekers, but sometimes the donated items turn out to have downright shocking value -- both sentimental and monetary.
Recent thrift store discoveries have included unusual finds ranging from precious photos to original works by famous artists -- and occasionally cash.
Here are five recent stories of unexpected treasures unearthed by sharp-eyed thrift store workers and customers:
Wendy Hawkins, a volunteer at the Hotline Pink Thrift Ship in Kitty Hawk, N.C., said she was going through donated artworks in the store's sorting room when an item that appeared unusually old caught her eye.
Hawkins had the piece examined by an expert and it was identified as an original Salvador Dali wood carving, part of the artist's 100-piece series based on Dante's The Divine Comedy. The store sold the piece, which bore Dali's signature, for $1,200.
Employees at the Opnieuw & Co thrift store in Mortsel, Belgium, were going through donated photo albums to ensure they were cleared out before hitting the sales floor when they came across an unusual collection.
The photos in the album depicted a woman posing with celebrities including Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie and Drew Barrymore. The store used social media to identify the woman as Maria Snoeys-Lagler, a former member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who died in 2016 at age 87.
A Belgian TV station put the store in contact with Snoeys-Lagler's daughter in California so the album and photos could be returned to the family.
A British family going through the collection of avid treasure hunter Judith Howard discovered a porcelain dish she had purchased from a thrift store in Hungerford, England, in 1982 was a rare artifact.
The plate was made in 1754 in Vincennes, France, for King Louis XV. The dish, which only cost Howard $17, was auctioned for $32,615.
Heather Gardner bought a blue North Face jacket for her fiance, Dustin, at the Real Life Ministries Thrift Store in Pinehurst, Idaho, in October 2019.
Gardner said Dustin wore the jacket several times before he opened a zipper pocket and discovered "a very sentimental item" -- a valuable engagement ring. Gardner said she is trying to track down the jacket's original owner to return the ring.
Howard Kirby bought a couch and ottoman set from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Owosso, Mich., and the furniture was in his man cave for a few weeks before he investigated why a cushion on the ottoman was unusually firm.
Kirby's daughter-in-law opened the cushion and discovered it had been stuffed with $43,170 cash. Kirby said a lawyer advised him that he would be within his rights to keep the money, but he decided to contact the store in hope of identifying its rightful owner.
The money ended up with Kim Fauth-Newberry, whose recently deceased grandfather was the original owner of the furniture. She said her family had almost had the couch and ottoman burned before deciding to donate it.