Star Wars fans in Canada had plenty of reason to geek out in June this year when a librarian in New Brunswick turned up what appeared to be an original script of the first film in a university archive. The script was dated March 15, 1976 – well before the movie’s release – and showed some major differences from the finished movie (for example, the main character’s name was “Luke Starkiller”). Unfortunately, it appears the script was a fan-made replica copy, like you’d find at sci-fi conventions. But while that one turned out to be a fake, some people have lucked into some truly remarkable pop culture memorabilia in the most unexpected places.
10. Amelia Earhart Film
In the spring of 1937, famed aviator Amelia Earhart was preparing for her fateful, doomed attempt to fly around the world. Before departing, Earhart stopped for a photo shoot at an airfield in Burbank, California with her personal photographer, Al Bresnik. Bresnik’s brother, John, came along for the photo shoot and recorded three and a half minutes of home movie footage on a 16-millimeter camera. The film then sat on a shelf in John Bresnik’s office for 50 years, after which it sat on a shelf in his son’s office for another 20 years before it was rediscovered.
Dubbed Amelia Earhart’s Last Photo Shoot, the film purports to show a more “feminine” side of Earhart, as she poses for photos and shows people around her plane. The film is being released by Paragon Agency along with an 80-page book of the same name. Publisher Doug Westfall says he plans to eventually donate the original film given to him by Bresnik’s son to an archive or museum.
9. Original Apple Computer
It turns out one person’s e-waste is another’s $200,000 treasure. A recycling company in Silicon Valley is trying to locate an elderly woman who tried to recycle an original Apple I computer in the spring of 2015. The Apple I was personally built by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in Jobs’ garage in 1976, and was one of only 200 made. They sold for $666.66 each at the time, and of those, only 50 are believed to still be in existence.
The recycling company, CleanBayArea, says the woman came in with several boxes of old electronics, telling staff she had cleaned out her garage following her husband’s death. She didn’t ask for a tax receipt, or leave any contact information, and employees didn’t open the boxes until several weeks later. That’s when they found the computer, and it was too late to track her down.
CleanBayArea says it sold the computer to a “serious collector” for a couple hundred thousand, but is still trying to find the woman to give her $100,000 as her cut of the sale. So far, though, she hasn’t been found.
8. John Lennon’s Guitar
A significant piece of Beatles memorabilia surfaced this year after disappearing more than 50 years ago – a 1962 J-160E Gibson acoustic guitar that was used by John Lennon to record the early Beatles track “Love Me Do.” Lennon also reportedly used it during early writing sessions with Paul McCartney for classics such as “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “All My Loving,” and “From Me to You.”
The guitar went missing in 1963, during the Beatles’ Finsbury Park Christmas show in London, and was lost to the band. Meanwhile, amateur guitarist John McCaw bought a guitar in San Diego in the 1970s for “a couple hundred dollars.” In 2014, a friend noticed the similarity between McCaw’s guitar and the lost Lennon guitar, so they decided to look into it. McCaw’s guitar has been officially authenticated as the missing Lennon guitar, based on appearance, serial number, and wood grain.
The guitar will go up for auction in November, and is expected to fetch between $600,000-$800,000.
7. Lou Gehrig’s Baseball Bat
Apparently protection costs a lot in New Jersey. A woman there has been holding on to an old baseball bat as a “home defense weapon” for 40 years, little realizing it once belonged to the great Lou Gehrig. Her family says a relative of a former Yankee Stadium groundskeeper gave the woman the bat decades ago – she promptly took it home and leaned up behind the front door in case of intruders. Now in her 80’s, the woman recently told her daughter she wanted to give the bat to some neighbourhood children to play baseball with. Her daughter, realizing the age of the bat, suggested someone should take a closer look at it first.
It turns out the bat not only belonged to Gehrig (his name being branded on the barrel maybe should have given it away), but it was the bat he used at the peak of his career from 1929 to 1931. The Hanna Batrite professional model is expected to fetch $100,000 at an auction later this summer.
6. Chris Hadfield’s Flight Suit
Beloved Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian to walk in space, and is credited with humanizing space travel for the general public (especially following his rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station). Which makes all the more surprising that one of his fight suits was discovered hanging on the wall of Toronto thrift store in 2015.
Dr. Julielynn Wong says she was browsing in the store when she noticed the flight suit, complete with Hadfield’s name badge – she originally thought it just was a really good costume, and bought the suit for $40. Later, she discovered it was the exact same flight suit Hadfield is wearing on the back cover of his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.
Hadfield’s son, Evan Hadfield, later told a Reddit user the suit ended up in the thrift shop after the family accidentally donated the wrong box to charity when they moved back to Canada. He says the family had intended to loan the flight suit to a science centre for educational purposes. Conveniently, Wong attends the Challenger Learning Centre at the Ontario Science Centre, and she plans to bring the suit with her for show and tell.
5. Marvin Gaye’s Passport
An avid Motown collector got the deal of a lifetime when he bought some records at a garage sale. The unnamed collector was working at a label’s museum when he visited a garage sale held by the family of a late musician. Not only did he pick up a stack of records for a couple quarters each, he also got a bonus when something fell out of one of the album sleeves: Marvin Gaye’s 1964 passport. At the time the passport was issued, Gaye was 24-years-old, had just changed his last name from Gay to Gaye, and had just released “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”.
The collector brought the passport to a 2014 filming of Antiques Roadshow, where appraiser Laura Woolley advised him to put no less than $20,000 in insurance on the passport.
The late musician who owned the records is believed to have worked with Marvin Gaye, but there’s no indication of how the passport ended up in the record sleeve.
4. Reese Witherspoon’s Boot
A couple of Oregon hikers used their outdoor skills to turn up a Hollywood prop in the spring of 2015. Wild, based on the bestselling memoir by Cheryl Strayed and starring Reese Witherspoon, documents a young woman’s journey along 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. In a pivotal scene in the opening sequence, Witherspoon’s character takes off her hiking boots and angrily hurls one of them off a cliff, continuing on without it.
Hiker Chris Kesting saw the movie, and immediately recognized the location where the scene was filmed on the south side of Mount Hood. He and a friend hiked up the trail and, after about 15 minutes of searching, found the size 6.5 women’s Danner boot with the tell-tale red laces.
The Wild film crew was noted for its low-impact filming, so Kesting speculates the crew weren’t able to find the boot to remove it after filming. He now keeps the boot on a bookshelf in his house.
3. Texas Pre-War Cars
In what’s been called the “Holy Grail” find of the car world – five cars and a travel trailer, all manufactured before World War II, were rediscovered inside an old barn in Austin, Texas in 2015. The owner moved to Texas from Wisconsin in the early 1970s and stored the old cars in his new barn, hoping to eventually get the time and money to fix them up. Roughly 40 years later, the cars were still there, sitting under a thick layer of dust.
The collection includes a 1932 Cadillac 370B V-12 Victoria Convertible, a 1933 Cadillac Model 370C V-12 Town Coupe, a 1938 Cadillac Series 90 V-16 Fleetwood Limousine, a 1923 Milburn Electric Model 27L, a 1908 ROE Model G Boattail Roadster/Sedan Tonneu, and a 1937 Kozy Coach Travel Trailer. The rarest of the collection is the Victoria Convertible – it’s only ever had three owners and has never been offered for public sale. It’s estimated to be worth as much as $350,000.
The owner reportedly is having a hard time letting the cars go (he’s holding on to two more for sentimental reasons), and has asked that his dream of making them road-worthy is fulfilled before they hit the auction block. The pre-auction value of the collection was estimated between $625,000-$810,000.
2. Babe Ruth’s Letter
In 2014, an estate sale shopper paid a single dollar for an Elk Lodge leader’s scrapbook of celebrity letters. The woman thought they were replicas, but the letters turned out to be genuine. The gem of the collection was a letter typed and signed by baseball legend Babe Ruth in 1942. At the time, he was working as a consultant on the set of the movie The Pride of the Yankees. He was also undergoing treatment for cancer, which would claim his life five years later.
The content of the letter is compelling, with the Babe saying: “There is only one nice thing about being ill and that is the number of friends who are kind and thoughtful enough to send cheering messages. Such messages, including your own, did more good than any medicine.”
The letter sold for $9,750 at a 2014 auction, held on the 100th anniversary of Ruth’s Major League debut.
1. 1870s Baseball Card Collection
Hey look, it’s another Antiques Roadshow find. In 2014, a woman brought in a collection of old baseball cards she had inherited from her great-great-grandmother, who ran a boarding house in Boston in the 1870s. Among her tenants were members of the 1871 and 1872 Boston Red Stockings, among the first to ever be paid to play baseball. The owner was once offered $5,000 dollars for the collection, but according to the Antiques Roadshow appraiser Leila Dunbar, the collection should be insured for at least $1 million. Dunbar called it “the greatest archive I’ve ever had at the Roadshow.”
While most news reports focused on the incredibly rare baseball cards (among the first photographic baseball cards), the jewel of the collection is arguably a letter from May, 1871 that includes notes complimenting the landlady’s cooking from three future Hall of Famers – future sporting goods giant Albert Spalding, and brothers Harry and George Wright.