What treasure is hiding in your closet?

By Hector Cantú

For four decades, Louis DeVito had a treasure up in the closet of his Pittsburgh home. Only he didn’t know it.

It was the 1950s when he paid off a pawn shop loan and took home a box of items that once belonged to a friend. In the box were medals. Louis kind of knew the story. They once belonged to Jesse Owens, who had stayed at his friend’s hotel. Otherwise, they were nothing special. Remember, this was 1956.

“These all meant very little to us,” Louis says, “as the medals had no value that we knew.”


So up into the closet they went, where they stayed for 40 years before Louis’ son figured out they might, just might, be valuable.

The line between treasure and trash can be thin. One path begins with a house-cleaning and a decision, maybe by children, to toss the stuff grandpa or grandma kept in the attic or up in the closet. The other path has a happier ending, an ending that usually begins with curious relatives. What is that? Is it historically significant? Is it valuable?

The DeVitos went down the second path, a path that might net them at least $1 million when Owens’ Olympic medals go to auction in August (see “Discovering Jesse Owens’ Gold”).

What treasure is hiding in your family closets? And, more importantly, will you recognize it when you see it? 

YES, GEORGE BENSON is just as charming as he sounds in our Auction Preview interview (“The George Benson Collection”). The legendary musician is a natural storyteller, especially when it comes to his beloved guitars. “They’re my babies, man!” 

DROP ME A line at HectorC@IntelligentCollector.com to share your stories. I remain interested in your discoveries.


HECTOR CANTÚ is editor and publisher of The Intelligent Collector.