Penny Breth has heard stories about people finding treasures at Goodwill, like the album containing personal family photos that surfaced in March at a store in California or the $10,000 in never-circulated silver coins discovered in a book donated in January at an outlet in Illinois.

Breth's daughter and her 7-year-old grandson found a little something extra in a bag of baseball cards they bought Wednesday at the Apple Valley Goodwill: a granular substance that looked suspiciously like meth.

The discovery led to moments of angst and fear, and even the police thought the customers had found drugs stashed inside their purchase. But as it turns out, no worries. The stuff was harmless, police said, after testing the tiny crystal-like pieces Thursday.

"The consistency led us to believe that it was [meth]," said Apple Valley Police Capt. Nick Francis on Friday. Whatever they are, "they are not a controlled substance."

Francis believes the pieces might be something similar to silica and were placed in the bag to help keep the cards moisture-free.

The drama began when Adryan Felt, an avid collector of sports cards, opened the clear plastic bag of cards he and his mom, Jackie, had bought for a few dollars. A smaller bag containing white grains, stapled shut, fell onto the floor. Jackie Felt had only seen stuff like that on TV police shows and suspected the worst, Breth said.

"I'm so upset about it, it's not even funny," Breth said before learning there was nothing nefarious in the suspicious package. "It's great the people donate things, but shouldn't you go through things before they are sold? I hope this is one of those freak things."

She hopes Goodwill will take more time to inspect items before selling them.

Goodwill Easter Seals of Minnesota follows strict sorting of the thousands of items dropped off each day, and the nonprofit goes to great lengths to ensure that nothing dangerous is put on the sales floor, said spokeswoman Melissa Becker. With so many items coming through the door, people could miss something, she said.

"We open flashlights to be sure razor blades are not inside," she said. "We take safety seriously and we do our best. We hope this is an anomaly."

Becker said the thrift store would consider whether their policies need to be adjusted. The organization also will try to figure out where the baseball cards came from. But that will be extremely difficult, she said.

Becker said Goodwill has reached out to Breth and the Felts, who are frequent shoppers at the Goodwill store at 7320 W. 153rd St.

Breth said she learned a good lesson, scary as it was.

"I guess Goodwill will be like Halloween [candy]," she said. "You have to go through it before handing it to your child."

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768