Nobody can find the owner of the white-gold ring with the heart-shaped diamond.
It sat in a safe-deposit box at the bank for at least five years after the owner stopped paying rental fees, then it spent another three years in the possession of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Neither the state nor the bank could ever locate the ring’s rightful keeper.
But soon the ring will find a new home: It’s one of almost 500 items for sale in the state’s auction of unclaimed property from abandoned safe-deposit boxes.
This year’s auction is being held online for the first time, with the goal of attracting a larger audience of potential bidders, said Ross Corson, a Commerce Department spokesman.
“These items can now sell worldwide,” he said. “You’re more likely to secure the best market prices for the items than if you were to just do it at a local, physical location.”
Along with a Joe Montana rookie card, an 1882 Liberty Head gold coin and a chromatic harmonica, the ring was put up for sale Wednesday evening on the website of Fahey Sales, a Glencoe, Minn.-based company brought in to manage the auction.
Bidders can jockey to win the forgotten trinkets and treasures until the auction closes Aug. 1.
State law requires that an auction be held at least every 10 years for “tangible unclaimed property,” Corson said. The last one was held in 2013.
“We only have so much storage space,” he said.
A safe-deposit box is typically considered abandoned when its lease or rent has gone unpaid for five years. At that point, the financial institution must open the box and send its contents to the state’s unclaimed property program.
The state then makes every effort to locate the property’s rightful owner, Corson said, listing descriptions of the items and the names of their last-known owners on an online database.
If items are still unclaimed after three more years, they are auctioned off at the next sale. Proceeds are kept indefinitely in a trust until a rightful owner or heir comes to claim them.
Shareif Eisa, vice president of operations for Fahey Sales, said he expects some types of items to fare better than others. Coins and precious metals often sell close to retail value, he said, while art and jewelry tend to go for about half their original price.
“We don’t know anything about these items, as far as the story behind them,” he said. “It was interesting, as we cataloged them, to wonder how they ended up with us.”
Things often wind up in the unclaimed property program when the owner of a safe-deposit box dies without letting friends or family know of its existence, Corson said. He encourages Minnesotans to keep information about their safe-deposit boxes with other important financial papers.
The Commerce Department also safeguards abandoned bank accounts, unpaid insurance benefits and uncashed refund or payroll checks until a rightful beneficiary comes forward. During the past five years, the state has returned nearly $180 million in unclaimed property.
“It happens very often,” Corson said. “As long as they can prove they are the right person, they are entitled to that unclaimed property.”