These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops

Trista - January 31, 2020

“Pawn Stars” is one of the most popular television shows to date. You might have a favorite episode, cast member, or have an item you wish you could own. By watching the show, you can get a sense of the strange, rare, and historical things that people bring into the pawn shop – and not just on “Pawn Stars” but all over the United States.

The first Latin American Nobel Peace Prize, stolen artwork, letters from Aaron Burr, and a ship’s bell from 1692 are some of the items that make the list of rare historical artifacts. For more things that you never imagined finding in a pawn shop, keep reading.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Spanish gold coin from the 1700s. CBS News.

31. 1715 Spanish Gold Coin

Have you ever caught yourself looking at the date of a coin you think is older? You might become excited to find a coin back in the 1950s and believe this is the oldest coin you’ve ever seen.

The owner of the 1715 Spanish gold coin inherited and brought it to her local pawn shop. Through her research, she found that its price came close to $18,000. The pawn shop employee brought in an expert, who stated the coin is real. The currency came to the Americas as part of a treasure from Cuba.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Vintage gold armbands. Pinterest.

30. Antique Armbands With A Special Purpose

People kept their money in many forms over the last several centuries. One of the most unique cases features the Kurdish, who gained and lost so much land in a short period of time, that they needed to find a way to keep their money’s worth.

The Kurdish decided to make armbands out of their money and gold. They carried these armbands around wherever they went and didn’t have to quickly pack up their gold if they needed to leave during the night. Howard D. Gibbs from Pennsylvania found some gold armbands in a pawn shop in Chicago, Illinois.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Image of President John F. Kennedy and his Humidor. Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

29. A Wooden Humidor Owned By John F. Kennedy

Milton Berle and Alfred Dunhill of London wanted to do something special for his inauguration day. They created a unique walnut box that held cigars. It also had a plaque that said, To JFK. Good Health–Good Smoking. Milton Berle, 1/20/61.”

Berle stated the box cost between $800 and $1,000, close to $8,000 today.The worth of the box is way more than $8,000. It ended up in a Las Vegas pawn shop, and someone bought it for $60,000. From there, the box went to an action where someone purchased it for $575,000.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
18K gold vulture. Bid square.

28. Pre-Columbian Gold Artifacts From A Thief

It’s not every day someone walks into a pawn shop and sells a three-by-four-inch gold sculpture, especially when they only ask for $100. This happened to shop employee March Epstein, who knew the item was particular. However, he had no idea that the person stole the piece from a National Geographic Society Museum the day before.

The artifact came from a pre-Columbian exhibit that dated around 1,400 CE. Eventually, Epstein heard about the theft and immediately called the police. Epstein helped the police catch the criminal by telling him to come in to negotiate a second item he had.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Author and title page of De Natura Fossilium. Blogspot.

27. Isaac Newton’s Copy Of De Natura Fossilium

De Natura Fossilium, first published in 1546, gives you some of the most interesting information about minerals and rocks. While you can still purchase a copy of the book, one of the most special prints in the world belonged to Sir Issac Newton.

The world could see a copy of this book as it ended up on the tv show “Pawn Stars” where an expert came in and stated it was Newton’s copy. The inside of the book held a plate that showed it came from Newton’s library, and the book contained a value of $20,000.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Scented bottle made from several expensive jewels and diamonds. The Museum of London/GIA.

26. Several Pieces Of Gold, Jewelry, And Precious Stones Sent To The Museum Of London

Construction workers in London during 1912 held a problematic job that didn’t pay them enough money to put food on the table. They worked long hours and never received the benefits they felt they deserved – that was until one crew demolished a house near St. Paul’s Cathedral. The team found a large box filled with jewelry, stones, gold, and other items.

They all stuffed their pockets and brought the items to a local pawn shop. However, instead of giving the construction crew the money they wanted, the pawn shop owner, George Lawrence, contacted the museum as he recognized the items are rare and valuable artifacts.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I show in these jewels. Museum of London/GIA.

25. The Valuable And Rare Items From The Construction Crew Are Still On Display Today

After the inspector of excavations for the London Museum, George Lawrence, received around 400 rare and valuable items from a construction crew in London, he contacted the museum. Employees of the museum came at once, and together, they realized all the pieces came from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The 400 items found at the demolished site can still be found at the Museum of London. They now call the things the “Cheapside Hoard” and are some of the most unique items people will find in the world. These items include a bejeweled perfume bottle, a Swiss watch, and an emerald-studded salamander.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
The front side of the Nobel Peace Prize from the 1950s. Wikimedia.

24. First Latin American Nobel Peace Prize

In 1936, Carlos Saavedra Lamas became the first person to receive the Latin American Nobel Peace Prize. He won the prize for his work in ending the Chaco War by creating a state of peace between Paraguay and Bolivia. Once Lamas passed on, the medal became lost.

Years later, an American collector heard that a pawn shop had Lamas’ Peace Prize for sale. He went to the shop and bought the item for the worth the price in gold or $9,000. The prize weighs 222.4 grams and is a 23-karat medal.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Gold shavings. Pinterest.

23. Many Pawn Shops See Various Forms Of Gold

When someone comes into a pawn shop saying they want to sell a gold item, the first question is whether it’s real gold. For many shop employees, they have purchased various gold pieces, other than your typical rings. But, for one pawn shop, the amount of gold they received made them nearly faint.

The son of a former pawn shop owner brought several pieces of gold shavings into a local pawn shop. When the employee asked how he had so much gold, about 500 grams, he told the employee that his father recently passed and had more gold than he knew what to do with.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Aaron Burr portrait. Wikimedia.

22. Vice President Of The United States, Aaron Burr, Killed Alexander Hamilton In A Duel

From 1801 to 1805, Aaron Burr held the position of Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson. While Burr is best known for killing Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in a duel, he lived a very lonely life after his charge of treason in 1807.

During his adult life, Burr spent much time writing letters to many people. Some people knew that Burr made history and took care of the messages he sent. Not only did they frame the notes, but they also made sure to tell the story of the letter to the next generation for safekeeping.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
A letter from Aaron Burr. Susan Holloway Scott blog.

21. A Couple Of Aaron Burr’s Letters Had A Temporary Home In A Pawn Shop

The notes in the pawn shop discussed how he felt about the duel and killing Alexander Hamilton. Burr sent them to his lawyer, whose family continued to pass the letters down from one generation to the next. The last generation of the Abbott family to hold the notes kept them in a dime store frame, but this didn’t stop the thieves.

While the letters and other items stolen from the house made it to a local pawn shop, the owner only paid $300 for the things. Someone came in and bought the letters before the police could reach them.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Ancient Greece Golden Death Mask of Agamemnon. Ancient Origins.

20. A Pawn Shop Owner Makes Up His Own Stories To Explain Why He Has So Many Rare Items

It happens to nearly every pawn shop – someone walks in wanting to sell a rare item they found. The story is that they saw the article in an attic or received it from an elderly family member. They are down on their luck and need money for bills.

John Shaw once owned his own pawn shop and came across many people with similar stories. In fact, he often told his customer who looked at rare items in his store the same stories, but not because he received them from someone else. He needed to explain how he brought the articles into his pawn shop.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
A satellite view of Panama. Wired.

19. John Shaw And His Wife Quickly Realized Where They Could Find Rare Artifacts To Sell

John Shaw owned a pawn shop, but the community knew him better as a teacher. At one time, Shaw taught at a US Military Base in Panama. Because of his work, he could spend some of his time looking for artifacts around the world.

It didn’t take long for Shaw and his wife, Fatima, to find a great location to start digging around the Panama area. During the digging, they found an artifact that helped lead them to a lot more artifacts buried deep into the ground. They decided to keep these artifacts a secret from the authorities.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
A scene from the movie “Indiana Jones.” Medium.

18. The Shaws Started Calling Himself Indiana Jones

Pawn shops love receiving artifacts because there are a large number of collectors that will purchase these items at a high price. In fact, it’s these types of things that help keep the doors to most shops open. Therefore, it didn’t take long for Shaw to start selling the artifacts at pawn shops, online, and at American flea markets.

When people started to question Shaw, he gave them an Indiana Jones type story, but the FBI didn’t buy his story. With a search warrant, authorities found hundreds of ancient artifacts around the Shaw home.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Ancient pottery pieces. Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.

17. Shaw Smuggled All Of His Artifacts

The authorities couldn’t believe how many artifacts they found when they started looking at John Shaw and his wife. Other than the couple’s Pelican Pawn Shop, they had dozens of objects in their homes. Not only did they have gold figurines and other pieces, but they also had pottery. Many of the pottery pieces had decorations and were used for cooking, such as serving pots.

Because Shaw gave all the artifacts from his home and shop back, authorities didn’t file charges. However, a piece of Panama history is forever lost due to the selling of many artifacts and removing them without permission.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
World War I gas mask. Pinterest

16. Gas Masks Showed Up During World War I

While many wars came before the First World War, the gas mask made its first appearance during this time. Military personnel needed to find a way to protect soldiers from dangerous fumes during the war, especially from the effects of chloride gas.

When German troops first released chemical warfare that included chloride gas, around 1,100 American soldiers died because of the gas. Many more soldiers and civilians became injured due to the gas, which made them feel as if their head burned and needles pierced their lungs. Without the masks, soldiers couldn’t continue their fight.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Soldiers from World War One wearing gas masks. JStor.

15. One Stolen World War I Gas Mask Showed Up In A Pawn Shop

The curators of Wyoming State Museum searched high and low for almost a century for their stolen World War I gas mask. Formerly owned and donated by US Army Sgt. Robert O. Pennewell, the gas mask disappeared nearly immediately after its placement in the museum’s collection.

While searching online, officials found the mask for sale by a pawn shop owner in South Dakota. The owner listed the costume for sale on eBay for $300. While his heart sank to the bottom of his stomach when he found out the mask belonged to the museum, he happily gave it back to them.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Right maxilla with 2nd and 3rd molars of American Mastodon. Wikimedia.

14. One Customer Brought A Prehistoric Mammoth Fossil

People head to the pawn shop with their precious possessions because they need a little extra money. Sometimes it’s only meant as a temporary loan, and they want to purchase the item by slowly paying off the loan. Other times they are willing to part with the articles. Usually, people bring in their antiques or jewelry, but not always.

One Virginia pawn shop employee thought it was a typical day when a customer walked in, asking for a short-term loan. When the customer placed their collateral on the counter, they gave the employee a woolly mammoth fossilized tooth.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Fossilized mammoth tooth. The University of Kentucky.

13. The Customer Never Came Back For The Mammoth Tooth

There is a rare possibility that you could still see the mammoth tooth at that Virginia pawn shop. The customer who requested to sell it for a short-term loan never bothered coming back to purchase the tooth. While the only information the employee has about the tooth is that it’s thousands of years old, he doesn’t plan on selling it.

According to the new owner of the tooth, there are some things that you receive in a pawn shop that you don’t put back out for sale, and a fossilized mammoth tooth is one.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Painting by NC. Wyeth. Inquirer.

12. One Pawn Shop Received Stolen Artwork By A Famous Illustrator

Beverly Hills is known as a high-end city with a lot of wealthy residents who only want the best. This is often proven everywhere you look, including their pawn shops. Because people want the best and theft is high, authorities regularly check out the items in pawn shops to make sure they are not stolen.

Six oil painting by one of the greatest illustrators of all time, NC. Wyeth hung in private art collection of Portland, Maine. In 2013, the unthinkable happened when someone stole these paintings, collectively valued between $1 to $2 million.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
NC. Wyeth painting. The Saturday Evening Post.

11. The Paintings Came From The Most Significant Theft In Maine History

The detective who recovered the art, Michelle Fieler, went through the receipts of over 70 Beverly Hills pawn shops because of a lead that the pictures came to the area. She found four out of the six paintings in the Dina Collection pawn shop.

To try to find the last two paintings, the FBI mentioned they had a $20,000 reward for anyone who discovered the previous two pictures. Eventually, these paintings showed up in Boston. To this date, the NC. Wyeth theft is known as the most significant theft in Maine history.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Peter Tosh. Hip Hop Canada.

10. Music History Shows Up In Pawn Shops

If you enjoy Reggae music, you probably like a song or several by Peter Tosh. Born in October 1944, Tosh became a famous musician through a band known as “The Wailers.” Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer are also notable members of this group. Like many musical groups, the members decided to go their separate ways. Just as Marley took on a solo career, so did Tosh.

One of Tosh’s most popular tracks became “Legalize It” in 1976. This track focused on legalizing marijuana and is still considered one of the anthems for several support groups for the drug.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Peter Tosh’s guitar and grammy. Boston Magazine.

9. Tosh’s Posthumous Grammy Makes Its Way To A Boston Pawn Shop

In 1987, Peter Tosh continued to climb the charts with his newly released CD, No Nuclear War. When Tosh took a break from the tour, he went to his Jamaican home. Upon his arrival, three men waited for him and demanded money. After hours of torture, they murdered Tosh.

During the 1988 Grammys, Tosh’s cd won the Best Reggae award. Over the next couple of decades, it seemed that people started to forget about Tosh – that was until his Grammy showed up in a Boston pawn shop window. Because it’s illegal to sell the award, it continues to sit in the pawn shop.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Academy Awards, also known as Oscars. Britannica.

8. Hollywood History Continues To Show Up In Pawn Shops

Hollywood is full of lights and glamour. There are thousands of celebrities that people dream about every day. Some people will do anything they can to meet their favorite actor or musician while other people will do anything they can to become as famous.

However, the need to become famous doesn’t stop with fans; many struggling actors in Hollywood often find themselves frustrated by their lack of success. There are also well-known celebrities that are the star in several feature films and still haven’t received a precious Grammy, Academy Award, or another type of notable award.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Hollywood, California pawn shop. Traders, loans, and jewelry.

7. Oscars And Other Awards Are Secretly Sold In Many Pawn Shops

Since 1929, over 3,000 Oscars made their way to the homes of thousands of celebrities. These awards are so hot that the Academy Award officials decided to make the sale of the awards illegal in 1951. However, this doesn’t mean that actors, film developers, and other people cannot get their hands on an Oscar.

As long as they know what Hollywood pawn shop to contact, and have enough money, they can purchase an Oscar through the pawn shop. According to some pawn shop owners, these awards go for as low as a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Drawing of a Dutch East India Company ship. Thoughtco.

6. The Old Dutch East India Company Made Its Way To A Pawn Shop

Also known as the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), the Dutch East India Company focused on trade, colonization, and exploration. Established in 1602, the company lasted until 1800 and historically remained one of the most influential international corporations.

The company started to decline in the late 1600s, especially once they lost their silk trades with China, and wars took over. Even with the decline, the company continued to use over 30 ships to successfully trade with various countries because of its robust business model that is still used today.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Dutch East India Company bell. Pinterest.

5. One Dutch East India Company Shipwreck Bell Made It To A Pawn Shop

For nearly 200 years, the Dutch East India Company sat well when it came to trade, even throughout their declining years. With over 30 ships throughout their history, they made over 5,000 trips to Asia to trade silk, gold, and other goods. While some boats didn’t return, the ones that did bring over 2 million tons of products with them.

While most of the shipwrecked items are rarely found, especially in good condition, one 1602 bell made it to a pawn shop in Nevada. After a specialist stated its a real bell from the company, its estimated worth is over $15,000.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Portrait of Edward Curtis. Wikimedia

4. Photographs Of American Photographer Edward Curtis

Edward Curtis is an early American Photographer who focused on capturing Native Americans and the American West. Years before Rick Harrison from Pawn Stars started making his money off a television show, he paid $50 for four sets of American Indian photogravures done by Edward Curtis.

Unknown to Harrison at the time, Curtis’ work was worth thousands more than what his customer asked for, and he paid for it. In fact, after some research, Harrison learned the value of the rare photographs were close to $20,000.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Order of the White Eagle from Poland. Wikimedia.

3. Poland’s Order Of The White Eagle

To most people, Poland’s Order of the White Eagle seems like a regular pin, but it’s far more than this. Since the 1300s, Poland’s symbol remained the White Eagle. When Russia took over part of the country, they added their two-headed eagle at the bottom.

Created around the 1790s, Poland’s Order of the White Eagle is from a time when the country is split into three parts, and Russia gained control of most of the land. This emblem came into a Vegas Pawn Shop after a $6,000 purchase when it’s worth closer to $30,000.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
1554 Spanish gold bar from a shipwreck. Pinterest.

2. Spanish Gold Bar From A 1550s Shipwreck

It’s impossible to know how many shipwrecks happened throughout history, even over the last 500 years. However, some pieces from these shipwrecks continue to come to light through people who look for the parts. Sometimes these items make it to a local pawn shop, which is the case of a 1554 Spanish Gold Bar.

After the owner of the pawn shop had an expert look at the bar to determine its authenticity, its value went close to $40,000. The owner sold the item for $35,000, but the pawn shop employee soon learned the real value of the gold bar – close to $50,000.

These Precious Historical Artifacts Were Discovered in Pawn Shops
Egyptian cartonnage mummy mask. Sothebys.

1. Egyptian Cartonnage Mummy Mask

Over the last several years, the television show, Pawn Stars, showed the world dozens of rare and unique artifacts from various eras in history. One of the most unusual items that came in was an Egyptian cartonnage mummy mask.

Of course, the crew brought in one of the best experts they knew to take a look at the mask. Dr. Phineas Kastle not only gave the viewers a lot of information about the mask but stated it is the real deal within seconds. He also said that the value is over $30,000.


How did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“13 Extremely Rare Historical Artifacts Discovered In Pawn Shops .” Brent Sprecher, Ranker.

“Expensive items featured on Pawn Stars, ranked.” Megan Liscomb, Finance 101. July 2019.

“15 Rare And Expensive Items Sold On Pawn Stars Like JFK’s $575,000 Box.” Lucas Wesley Snipes, The Richest. February 2018.

“The Dutch East India Company: The Rise and Decline of an Early Global Corporation.” Amanda Briney, Thoughtco. April 2019.

“WWI Gas Mask: Protecting against early chemical warfare” The Story of Texas.

“Pawnshop Employee Reveals The Rarest Items They Have Received Over The Years, And Some May Surprise You.” Rokas Laurinavičius, Bored Panda. 2018.

“Panamanian artifacts found in Klamath Falls going home.” Lynne Terry, The Oregonian. January 2009.

“Pawn Stars: The 30 Most Expensive Things To Come Through The Shop.” Thomas Delatte, Screen Rant. March 2019.