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He Found 15 Books In A Dumpster - Then Learned They Were Worth A Bundle

Max Brown

The next time you're praying to make a valuable find at the swap meet, mention Max Brown's name and see if it helps your luck.

Brown, 37, was just digging through the trash when he made the kind of discovery dedicated yard sale trawlers dream about.

But the lucky guy is not filthy rich thanks to his discovery, for an unfortunate reason.

Dumpster Diving For Gold

Max Brown
Brown found his books piled inside a dumpster.Max Brown

Brown's unbelievable true story began in 2014, when he was digging through the garbage in Lake Tahoe, Nevada as part of a community service project.

He found a box of 1980s cassette tapes in a dumpster, then discovered a pile of antique books underneath the box.

A sudden snowstorm struck, and Brown could only rescue 15 books from the dumpster.

They sat in his home for six months, until Brown finally peeled open the cover on one of them and made a shocking discovery.

Thomas Jefferson Book
A note inside this book said it once belonged to Thomas Jefferson.Max Brown

Written inside the cover was the inscription, "From the library of Thomas Jefferson."

Brown was skeptical, he claims. "I didn't think it was real," he told Inside Edition.

But the French book had been published in 161, so it was definitely possible that Jefferson had owned it.

A False Negative

Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson was one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence.White House Historical Association

Brown did what any hopeful antique owner would do: he sent his books to be verified by an expert.

Along with vintage family photos stashed inside the books, Brown had found a supposed signature of Jefferson's, so he had reason to believe they were the real deal.

But the expert told Brown his signature was a forgery, and his dream of selling the books for a bundle were dashed.

Thomas Jefferson Book
A similar book appeared on 'Pawn Stars.'History

Surprisingly, it was an episode of Pawn Stars that gave Brown new hope.

A book owned by Jefferson featured on the reality show was bound in the same way, and had Jefferson's initials on certain pages, just like Brown's books.

"That's when I began to get really excited," he said.

Brown passed information on his books along to Jefferson experts working at Monticello, the museum based in the founding father's famous home.

Monticello
Brand New Day - Pixabay

They finally confirmed that the books did belong to Jefferson's library, but the news came too late for Brown.

"It’s nowhere near the value of American history."

Before the historians wrote back to Brown, he sold the Jefferson books to an auction house for just $8,000.

At the time, Brown badly needed the money, but he's still sore about the deal.

"$8,000 seemed like a lot at the time, but it’s nowhere near the value of American history," he said.

Some of Brown's books contained vintage family photos.Max Brown

Still, Brown realizes the moldy and aging books were losing value every day they spent in his home.

The other books recovered from the dumpster weren't as valuable. A rare 19th century bible found by Brown is on display in a museum.

The rest were handed back to descendants of the collection's original owners.

Brown is not sure how the books wound up in the dumpster.Max Brown

Research by Brown has traced the books back to the wealthy Kellogg family, who must have purchased Jefferson's old books.

As for how they ended up in the dumpster in the first place, Brown says he has "no idea."

"I do believe that somebody didn't know what they had," he said.

Bad luck for Brown! But what a great discovery.

Here are more stories about lucky antique finds:

[H/T: Inside Edition, Sacramento Bee]

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com