Each year in the United States, hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of unclaimed property - especially stock certificates, jewelry left in safe-deposit boxes, and seemingly forgotten money in checking accounts - are turned over to state governments by banks and companies that cannot locate the owners. The states, in turn, try to find these people.
The mid-South state of Arkansas even makes a game of it. It calls it "The Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt."
Each October, every newspaper in the state publishes a special section. There are no stories in it. No photographs. No advertisements. Nothing but page after boring page of names and people’s last known addresses. State auditor Charlie Daniels and his staff hope that people identified in that list will contact them and claim their cash and personal property.
Last year, that unclaimed treasure trove of everything from cash to diamonds and guns was valued at $22 million.
Charlie Daniels’ office puts the cash in the bank and the valuables in two big safes in the capital of Little Rock. It even holds onto some items that have only sentimental value, like World War Two medals, that are starting to turn up regularly, now that so many veterans of that war are dying. The state has even been known to hold onto false teeth and urns of cremated human remains.
The right of the owner - or that person’s lawful heir - to claim this property or money never expires. Each year in Arkansas alone, about 15,000 families who join in the treasure hunt discover that they have inherited valuables they never knew existed. No lottery ticket anywhere can match the Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt’s decent odds of paying off - sometimes quite handsomely.