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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 20 pieces of "junk" that made their owners rich on Antiques Roadshow.
- Watch out for these 15 coins worth thousands of dollars.
- Soldier is left speechless when he learns how much his old watch is worth.