State Treasury partners with Morphy Auctions

By on January 23, 2013

Rather than sitting in a vault, a treasure trove of rare and precious unclaimed valuables will be auctioned next month under a new partnership between the Pennsylvania Treasury and Morphy Auctions of Lancaster County, according to State Treasurer Rob McCord, who explained the auction is part of Treasury’s ongoing effort to maximize revenues to the Commonwealth from property that is unlikely to be claimed.

Treasury selected Morphy Auctions, which is a world-renowned Pennsylvania auction house, through a competitive bid process in order to sell valuables that were turned over to the department as unclaimed property.

"This is the first live unclaimed property auction in more than a decade for treasury, so we want to get it right, which is why we selected an auction house with a sterling worldwide reputation and one with a proven track record of getting the best price for valuable items," Treasurer McCord said.

"Morphy Auctions lends us the expertise to properly evaluate and price the items from our vault, which enables our team to focus their efforts on the work to search and reunite the remaining property in our possession with its rightful owners."

Morphy Auctions’ hand-selected items valued over $300 from Treasury’s vault to include in a February fine and decorative arts sale. These items have sat unclaimed for more than three years and have undergone the required due diligence and advertising.

Items to be sold include bags of silver coins, precious-metal bars, 1,500 watches and timepieces by Rolex and other makers, antique firearms and swords, musical instruments, historical documents — including one signed by Benjamin Franklin — and a large selection of fine jewelry.

"There are more than 75,000 items to inventory. Going through it all is like an amazing treasure hunt that produces one surprise after another. People don’t put cheap things in their safe deposit boxes, and some of these items have been untouched in 20 years. That’s what you call ‘fresh to the market,’" said Dan Morphy, CEO of Morphy Auctions.

Treasury’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property receives an average of 15,000 tangible items per year from police departments, banks and credit unions, hospitals, nursing homes, educational facilities, correctional institutions, and other holders. These items often include jewelry, collectible coins, and medals, among other items, which are stored in the department’s vault.

Treasury undertakes a number of due diligence measures to identify the rightful owner of property in its possession, including letters and advertising. If after three years those numerous attempts to locate the owner prove unsuccessful, Pennsylvania’s unclaimed property law authorizes Treasury to appraise the items and sell them to the highest bidder. Proceeds of the auction are then maintained in perpetuity for the owner or heirs to claim.

Since 2001, Treasury has sold tangible unclaimed property exclusively via its eBay auction site, which has generated more than $4.7 million in sales for the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania was the first state to have a continuous eBay unclaimed property auction.

To learn more about the unclaimed property program, visit More MORPHY, page A10

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