-- Man Buys an Old Dresser at a Yard Sale for $100 - Finds a Secret Drawer with Treasure Inside

 Participating in your local garage sale can leave you with a bang for your buck or a hunk of junk. While some have found items at a steal while sifting through old clothing or dented furniture, a few have gotten lucky and literally uncovered diamonds in the rough. 

Some of the most astonishing garage sale finds ever include an ancient Chinese ceramic bowl bought for $3 and later sold for $2.2 million, and a $2.48 copy of the Declaration of Independence that later sold for a whopping $477,650!

Man Buys an Old Dresser at a Yard Sale for $100 - Finds a Secret Drawer with Treasure Inside

The rush of finding a fortune hidden in ordinary household items in a yard sale is indescribable. In most cases, the auctioneers have no idea of the gems hidden right under their noses, and they’re thus available for any lucky chap to discover.

One person who knows this feeling well is Emil Knodell, a 67-year-old retired marketing director from Bellville, Texas. Knodell has a hobby of buying and collecting antiques, so when he heard that there was going to be a sale of things close by, where the owner was deceased, he decided to drop in and see if he could find anything valuable. Boy, was he in for a surprise!

A 125-year-old marble top dresser with three drawers caught Knodell’s attention. But just as he was about loading it onto his vehicle, he heard weird jingling noises coming from it. He had acquired the piece of vintage furniture for less than $100, but what he was about to discover hidden inside would take his breath away.

An Estate Sale with a Secret

Knodell’s hobby is discovering vintage items, and this has led him on expeditions to countless estate sales. He enjoys spending time rummaging through the tons of items on auction, hoping he would stumble upon things with great value. As they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and the US veteran would soon make a startling find.

Man Buys an Old Dresser at a Yard Sale for $100 - Finds a Secret Drawer with Treasure Inside

It was in one of Knodell’s treasure hunting trips to yard sales that he visited the city of Missouri, Texas. At a glance, the estate he wound up at didn’t look extraordinary, but little did he know that he was about to make the purchase of a lifetime at a ridiculous discount and also become a national sensation.

A Slim Chance

Knodell is no stranger when it comes to yard sales. He knows the chances of finding a million-dollar Picasso painting or anything worth a fortune at such events are slim. Then there’s also the fact that this particular estate sale wasn’t being handled by novices but by professionals in the name of Premier Estates Sales Network.

Man Buys an Old Dresser at a Yard Sale for $100 - Finds a Secret Drawer with Treasure Inside

The company has years of experience in the area of estate sales. They would have double-checked every item they put on display and run them by the books to ensure they’re valued fairly. Needless to say, they wouldn’t let anything of fortune slip through their fingers. Well, not on purpose. Some furniture were specifically designed to act like a safe and conceal the valuables of their owners, and they do their jobs extremely well.

Under the Radar

The presence of Premier Estate Sales didn’t deter Knodell from participating in the event. He was hopeful that he could still snag up a good deal on some vintage items. Finding something over the top would just be a bonus.

Man Buys an Old Dresser at a Yard Sale for $100 - Finds a Secret Drawer with Treasure Inside

“I always come to a sale with an open mind because you never know,” he later said to reporters. That is precisely the frame of mind that people who attend sales need⁠—you won’t always find treasure. But that’s actually what makes finding one exhilarating, isn’t it? And Knodell would soon experience this first-hand with his amazing discovery.

Something Special

One object, in particular, stood out from the rest as Knodell combed the sale—a vintage wooden dresser. Sporting a marble top and three drawers, it wasn’t an over-the-top piece of furniture, but being 125 years old surely got him curious. As he checked out the piece, nothing extra special caught his eye. Perhaps with a bit of polishing it could be restored to its former glory, but basically, that was it.

Man Buys an Old Dresser at a Yard Sale for $100 - Finds a Secret Drawer with Treasure Inside

Opening the drawers, he found out they were empty. Although the piece had caught his attention, he wasn’t totally sold on it yet. But fate had other plans because for three whole days, no one else at the event fancied the dresser. So it remained untouched until something extraordinary happened.

Day Three

By the third day, the old dresser was still sitting at the sale. It hadn’t caught enough interest to be whisked away to a new home. At this time, Premier Estate Sales were desperate to cross the dresser off their list, even though it meant slashing the price significantly lower.

Man Buys an Old Dresser at a Yard Sale for $100 - Finds a Secret Drawer with Treasure Inside

When the sales began, the unique dresser had been priced at $300, but having been overlooked by customers for a couple of days, the organizers were willing to let it go for under $100. That was a heavy discount on an already low-priced piece of furniture, but sadly, no one showed interest still. This was only because no one knew its true worth yet.

A Fantastic Deal

At under $100, the old-fashioned dresser was, in fact, a bargain. And it was hoped that it would be snagged up within hours. The problem, though, was that its contents weren’t as obvious to the eye as its aesthetics. No one had an idea it was hiding something remarkable.

Lady Luck was about to smile on Knodell with a fantastic buy. She wasn’t just going to give him a stash of treasure, he’d also be getting a staggering amount in returns on his investment too! To Knodell, the vintage dresser had a lot of potential as an addition to his collection and, knowing this, he headed back to purchase it.

A Hidden Compartment

Having finally acquired the latest piece to his collection, Knodell began the process of hauling it into his vehicle. But just then he realized that something strange was going on with the dresser. On the outside, it appeared normal in every way. But, coincidentally he was about to encounter something much greater than he expected.

The antique dresser was excessively heavy for Knodell to carry all by himself, so he requested for help loading it into the back of his truck and a guy named Jeff Allen stepped up. It was right then that the secret stash in the dresser literally started to make themselves heard.

A Metallic Waterfall

It was just when the men began moving the vintage dresser into Knodell’s vehicle that they noticed something weird about it. Being made out of wood, the dresser was overwhelmingly heavy, but that’s not all that made them puzzled.

When they set the dresser down again to check what was wrong, they heard it⁠—a racket of sounds sprung from deep inside it. This left the men baffled, as they thought the dresser was empty all along. They were dead wrong.

Evading Detection

In a bid to locate where the racket was coming from, Knodell and Allen checked the dresser twice. In spite of their attempts, they were unable to discover anything inside it, much less anything that would make such a metallic rattling sound. Still, they probed further.

By now a crowd had formed around the dresser. Having been ignored for days, it was all of a sudden the center of attention. Everyone was curious to know what secret this unaesthetic piece of furniture was hiding, but more importantly, where.

A Real Mystery 

“As soon as we laid it down, it started making all this racket on the inside,” Allen told ABC News. “Obviously we were very intrigued with what was happening with the dresser.”

Then from the gathering of people that had formed, someone suggested that there was likely a hidden compartment someplace inside the dresser, considering every one of its drawers was totally vacant. This actually made sense, but then again, where was it? Now the intrigue had grown, and not one person in the crowd was prepared to leave without having that question answered.

An Astonishing Discovery

After struggling to pinpoint the source of the sounds, the group decided to try another strategy. They laid the dresser on its back, and then bingo! It turned out that that was exactly where the secret compartment had actually been all this while. It was hiding in plain sight.

Apparently, besides the three drawers with molding that are easily noticeable on the dresser, there was a plain wooden slab right at the bottom. All things considered, it looked just like any other flat piece of wood. But when turned bottoms up, it can clearly be seen that there is a cut-out of a handle. The question lingered⁠—what would they find inside?

The Perfect Hideout

“When you look at the front of it, it looks like it has three obvious drawers with molding on the base,” Knodell explained, “but the bottom has a secret drawer that opens up.” Thinking about it, it indeed was an ideal hiding spot. It wouldn’t occur to anyone looking at it that there was a secret compartment right under their noses.

What's more, it clearly didn’t occur to the other sale attendees to check that bottom part of the dresser either. Not even when it was being moved in and out of the house did anyone notice anything unusual about it. They would have been so jealous when Knodell finally opened the drawer because it held a pile of gems that were worth a pretty sum. 100-year-old treasures even unknown to the deceased’s own son were about to be exposed.

A Little Background

The estate sale that drew Knodell to Missouri and where he bought this life-changing dresser was being held to sell off the possessions of a man who had recently passed away. Such possessions are usually sold because the deceased’s family members don’t want them or don’t have enough room to keep them. 

Sales like these can be treasure troves where people can pay next to nothing for antiques and other valuables, as sometimes the owners’ families have no idea of the true worth of the items. This also applies to individuals or families who organize yard sales and put up items at a great discount so they can free up space in their homes.

No One Else Knew

Now, many different people had seen, handled, and examined the dresser before it was put up for sale. And every one of them⁠, including Premier Estate Sales staff and the deceased man’s family who had inherited the estate⁠, missed its amazing little secret.

If you think about it, it’s pretty incredible that even the late man’s close relatives didn’t know about the secret drawer, or that he himself may not have known about it either. How come? Apparently, he had acquired the dresser from his parents, who once lived in Michigan. So, it does suggest that the treasure had remained undiscovered for many decades. That’s not all. There were still a lot more shocking details about the hidden dresser’s spoils to be uncovered.

Hitting the Jackpot

Veteran Emil Knodell got a pretty big and unexpected bonus from purchasing the dresser. He bought the antique three-drawer piece of furniture at a huge discount, just to find that it was really a four-drawer piece. What's more, the fourth drawer could come quite handy as a stash.

Emil Knodell was already satisfied with his dresser, which features an exquisite marble top and detailed molding. He thought it would make a great addition to his dining room. However, he got lucky and wound up with a lot more than that, even a lot more than many people can dream of because, as it turned out, the mystery cabinet was just the start.

A Fantastic Bonus

Everyone looked on anxiously as Knodell and Allen began to open the mystery drawer. Suspense filled the air, as did different imaginations about what could possibly be inside the drawer. Although Knodell had no idea yet, he was seconds away from discovering he had gotten way more value for his $100 with this vintage furniture.

After what seemed like forever, the drawer finally slid open. Everyone was left stunned at what they saw. It was unmistakably more than they could have imagined. The men didn't just discover treasure, they also found snippets of American history lying among the stash. What precisely these items were would leave everyone at the event stupefied.

Adrenaline Rush

Recalling the very moment he first opened the mystery fourth drawer, Knodell said that he felt an enormous adrenaline rush. Everyone present was holding their breaths, waiting to see a pile of solid shimmering jewerlry that had been waiting to be discovered. And their guess wasn’t far from the truth.

The secret fourth drawer now laid open like a pirate’s treasure chest that had been unearthed for the first time. It was shining with the radiance of gold and other gems. Speaking on the moment, Knodell said they "were in shock for a second." The amount of treasure that had been found was jaw-dropping. No one present could have imagined they would encounter such a fortune that day.

Treasure Trove

As an expert in hunting antiques, Knodell was thrilled with his accidental find. His conviction about the seemingly ordinary drawer had paid off handsomely. A treasure chest now laid open before him and he ran his fingers through its eye-catching contents: all sorts of jewels, outdated money from different countries, and personal memento. It was like he had stepped way back in time.

A portion of the items dated as far back as the Civil War; for example, military awards and dog tags. But there were also strange items among them, such as a lock of hair that was still in perfect condition. No doubt, Emil Knodell had won the jackpot with his discovery, considering the stash was worth a whole lot more than the meagre $100 he had shelled out for the vintage dresser. But how much in total the entire fortune was worth would be nothing short of remarkable.

Assessing the Treasure

Although not all the contents in the secret fourth drawer were professionally appraised, they were evaluated to be worth about $15,000. Well, that's a huge profit for a $100 investment! In addition to that, he got the vintage wooden dresser itself, which was worth a tidy sum, considering it’s been around since the 18th century.

To be a little more specific about how old the dresser was, the estate sales company made initial assessments and concluded it would have been made around 1890. This would fall in line with the dates written on some of the possessions that were inside it. But given that some of them go as far back as the Civil War, it was also possible that the dresser was even much older. With such fortune laid out in front of him, what Knodell would do with them all would be astonishing.

The Way Forward

Although he had purchased the dresser, one question remained concerning the riches and memento inside it⁠—What would Knodell do with them all? For one, he could simply sell them all and make himself significantly richer, but would that be the ethical thing to do?

This was an unavoidable question that hung not just on Knodell’s mind but on the minds of the other people who had witnessed the incredible reveal. The fact was that he had just bought the dresser, not the properties it held. On the other hand, seeing as nobody had any idea about the mystery drawer or the stash in it before Knodell purchased it, there was the question: who was its rightful owner?

A Dilemma

Given the fact that the dresser alone had been put up for sale and not the exquisite items in it, Knodell had a critical decision to make. He could either keep the valuables for himself, after all he had purchased the dresser fair and square, or he could return them to the closest relative. The peculiar dilemma lingered.

Knodell could have effortlessly taken the loot home, but he had already been seen by others at the event opening the hidden drawer and finding the fortune. Then from an ethical standpoint, he could just return the items. That would appeal to his conscience more. Knodell didn’t have to think too much about the solution to this quagmire; it was a choice he would make over and over again if the situation repeated itself.

A Man of Integrity

Others would have been more than happy to keep the loot to themselves, but not Knodell. The ‘finders keepers’ ideology didn’t sit right with him; neither did the 150% profit entice him to go against his values. As a treasure hunter, he knew how important such items are to their owners sometimes.

As Knodell mentioned, he always tries to do the right thing. What's more, as a US veteran he has solid moral principles he wouldn’t go against. All in all, what he decided to do with all the treasure worth about $15,000 is simply amazing.

No Big Deal

Knodell hadn’t been freaked out by all the dazzling jewelry and other fine items he had seen and felt in the drawer that day, and he made it evident by giving them all back. He returned all the treasure to the late man’s closest relative to decide what to do with them.

“I bought the chest [of] drawers. I didn’t buy those things,” Knodell said. “If I kept them, I would never feel right about it. There would be a cloud over the whole thing. It’s a feeling more than anything else.” Strong morals prevailed in this amazing story. Knodell’s strong perception of right and wrong helped him make a selfless decision. It was an easy choice for him, despite what he could have gained. Now, that’s a man of integrity!

Hauling it Back

Jeff Allen, who was also a Premier Estate Sales staff member, felt the same way. Whether or not Knodell should have kept the treasure was never an issue. They were both of the opinion that the possessions should be returned to their legitimate owner.

What's more, fortunately for them, they didn’t have to look too far to find the treasure’s rightful owner because he was in the building. He was actually the son of the deceased and the executioner of the estate where the sale was occurring. Not surprisingly, he was as stunned as they once were to find out about the secret stash in the hidden fourth drawer.

Filled with Gratitude

The son told Knodell and Allen that he could remember seeing the dresser as a child in his grandparents’ house in Michigan, but it would never have crossed his mind that it contained a mystery drawer or that it contained such a staggering amount of treasure. He was very thankful that Emil Knodell had chosen to return the items rather than keep them.

Man Buys an Old Dresser at a Yard Sale for $100 - Finds a Secret Drawer with Treasure Inside

Speaking to reporters on his decision to return the treasure, Knodell said, “I’m an old ex-Marine, and I try to do the right thing.” He added that the minute he discovered the fortune, he asked for the owner. There was never an issue of keeping them for himself. He also said that although it was a phenomenal discovery, it belonged to someone else and thus, he couldn’t keep it. But not everyone agreed with him.

Varied Opinions

As they say, different people have different opinions. While Knodell was positive he had made the best choice by returning the fortune, others thought it would have been wiser if he had kept the chest and the precious stones, gems, money, and Civil War memento for himself.  

Man Buys an Old Dresser at a Yard Sale for $100 - Finds a Secret Drawer with Treasure Inside

Even though some held on to the ‘finders keepers’ idea and think that Knodell missed out on a fortune which could have positively affected his life, at the end of the day it doesn’t make a difference what others’ perceptions are of what he did. He followed his heart and his conscience and did what he thought would bring him peace of mind. It doesn’t always have to be about the money. Thankfully, many concured with Knodell.

An Honest Man

Emil Knodell was immensely lauded for his honesty, given the delicate situation he was in. Technically, he had paid the full price for the drawer and could easily have hauled his treasure home without a care in the world, as he hadn’t broken the law. But then, that would go against his principles. He instead decided to do the ethical thing by returning the items to their owner.

Man Buys an Old Dresser at a Yard Sale for $100 - Finds a Secret Drawer with Treasure Inside

Further applauding Knodell’s decision to give back the loot, some believe the owners of long-lost treasures probably have an emotional attachment to them, and that was enough to give back the surprise find. Besides, the owners could have given up hope of finding their precious items and would be both surprised and delighted to have them in their hands again. In all, although Knodell didn’t go home a minimum of $15,000 richer that day, he at least went home with a clear conscience and with his reputation still intact. And you can’t put a price tag on that.

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