Dumpster Diving: 14 Amazing Finds

Dumpster Diving's Greatest Hits

The holiday rush may be over, but if you’re still searching for the perfect gift, maybe you should try looking in the nearest garbage can. Okay, we admit this sounds like something you’d only do if you were very desperate, but these days, more and more of us fall into that category. Beyond that, you can find some pretty great stuff in the trash. In fact,  there have been enough amazing finds in the trash to make even the most clean cut citizens consider taking a dive into a nearby dumpster. Here are 14 of the coolest trash finds and the stories behind them. Photo Credit: SpecialKRB


Winning OTB Ticket Stubs

One man has managed to turn dumpster diving into a full time profession, but he’s done so by looking for one very specific treasure: discarded Off Track Betting ticket stubs. For the past decade, Jesus Leonardo has spent ten hours a day fishing in the trash behind a Manhattan OTB parlor for stubs of horse racing bets. This might sound like a colossal waste of time, except that he’s found many stubs that turned out to be winning bets. When that happens, he goes to the OTB and cashes out. According to the New York Times, Leonardo has made close to a half million dollars this way, and averages about $45,000 a year. Not a bad annual salary. However, if you don’t feel like making that big a time commitment, check our next slide. Photo Credit: Bob Jagendorf


Winning Lottery Tickets

There have been several cases of people finding winning lottery tickets tossed away in the trash. In 2005, one man in Rhode Island found a ticket worth a reported $1 million. He later had to give away $140,000 of the winnings to the family that claimed to have thrown it away initially, though that’s still not too shabby. Similarly, an Indiana couple won a $1000 jackpot after finding a lotto ticket in the trash, and a man in Vermont found a lottery ticket in the trash worth $650,000 – the only catch is that the trash was actually his own (he had accidentally thrown it away a couple days earlier). Photo Credit: wetwebwork


New Moon Script

Vampire-romance lovers went crazy last month when the newest Twilight movie, New Moon, was released in theaters, but one woman got a sneak preview of the movie when she found a copy of the script of New Moon in the garbage. She was waiting to meet her fiancé outside an upscale Hollywood hotel when she happened to spot two scripts lying in a nearby trash bin (the other was for a movie called Memoirs). She later returned the scripts to the studio producing the movies and didn’t seek any reward. Photo Credit: zandland


The Masterpiece

While on her morning walk in Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 2003, Elizabeth Gibson noticed a colorful painting (seen here) in the trash on the street. She didn’t know anything about art, but decided to take it home and spent several years trying to find out more about the painting. Finally, in 2007, she found out that the painting was actually a lost masterpiece by Rufino Tamayo, a renowned Mexican artist. The painting was eventually sold for $1 million in an auction, of which Gibson received an unknown percentage. Photo Credit: Todo Arte


Valuable Drawing

Eugene Delacroix was one of the foremost romantic painters in the 1800s and his art is currently housed in some of the most celebrated galleries, but in 2005, one of his drawings was stolen from the Louvre, only to be discovered two years later in the trash in Wisconsin. The man who found it turned it into a local gallery and took a $100 reward. The drawing itself was worth a reported $45,000. After the fact, there was some speculation that the man who returned it may have been the same person who stole it from the museum originally. The world may never know. Note: The picture here is a different piece by Delacrois. Still, it's very pretty. Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org


$100,000.. in Cash

If it sounds like too much work to go rummaging for junk only to have to invest time in selling it, maybe you’d prefer to just find some cash lying around? Earlier this year, three highway workers were cleaning up some trash in Indiana when they noticed a bundle of cash lying in an abandoned tire on the side of the road. The cash totaled $100,000 in $5 bills and $100 bills. The highway workers chose to be good Samaritans and notified police. Photo Credit: borman818


Nuclear Weapons Material

While workers were cleaning up a garbage dump in Washington state, they uncovered a glass bottle that contained “plutonium made for the Manhattan Project in 1945.” Aside from being dangerous (it was reportedly enough for to make a small bomb with,) it’s also an interesting historical artifact. This was the very same plutonium used to make the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan during World War II. Photo Credit: Dano


Diamonds and Wedding Rings

Apparently people are often clumsy when it comes to their most treasured possessions. There have been several cases of couples losing their wedding rings, diamond rings, and diamond earrings in the garbage. In the latter case, the earrings were only discovered after sanitation workers dug through heaping mounds of trash in the Staten Island landfill. Photo Credit: Ken_Mayer


First Edition Books

A couple years ago, the New York Daily News interviewed a handful of sanitation workers to find out what treasures New Yorkers throw away. Many of the answers were funny, but mostly mundane - record albums, washers and dryers. Yet one worker confessed that he’d found a first edition copy of John Steinbeck’s book, Cannery Row. If that sounds absurd, consider the case of Margaret Mary Cranwell, a Louisiana woman, who found a rare first edition 17-volume set of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable. And the books were signed, too. Photo Credit: Amazon.com


Designer Chairs

Last month, Blu Dot, a Minneapolis-based designer, decided to leave 25 of their chairs on the sidewalks of New York City. The chairs, known as the Real Good chair, usually sell for $129 each. Essentially, this is all part of a big publicity stunt, planned by Mono, a marketing agency that partnered with Blu Dot. There were several promotions online afterwards advertising the chair giveaway. Photo Credit:

Xbox 360



Blueprints for the Freedom Tower

Last year, a homeless man in Manhattan found two “confidential blueprints” for the Freedom Tower that is supposed to be built at Ground Zero. The blueprints were 150-pages each and very detailed. Yet, for some reason they were lying in a garbage can in Greenwich Village. Maybe this has something to do with why the tower has yet to be built. Photo Credit: jebb


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