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‘Peculiar’, ‘Extraordinary’ and ‘Highest-Priced’ Items Found in America’s Lost Luggage; Here’s a Peek

CEO Bryan Owens shared, "We thought it would be enjoyable to compile an annual report that showcases the most prevalent items..."
Cover Image Source: Gadgets and luxury items (representative images) | Pexels | Photo by Pixabay | Photo by KATRIN BOLOVTSOVA | Photo by Anne R
Cover Image Source: Gadgets and luxury items (representative images) | Pexels | Photo by Pixabay | Photo by KATRIN BOLOVTSOVA | Photo by Anne R

A new report by Unclaimed Baggage unveils some of the most captivating discoveries from lost luggage in 2023, per CNBC. Among the remarkable finds are live snakes, a mounted ram head, and a Halloween card bearing the signature of Richard Nixon. The report also reveals other intriguing items, including a 13-foot vaulting pole, eerie props from the "Saw" movie franchise, and a luxurious pair of Louis Vuitton Nike Air Force 1 sneakers valued at $12,000. These remarkable discoveries and more are detailed in Unclaimed Baggage's inaugural "Found Report: A Look Inside America's Lost Luggage," released on April 1.

Pexels | Photo by Antony Trivet/
Rolex watch (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Antony Trivet

CEO Bryan Owens shared with CNBC Travel, "We thought it would be enjoyable to compile an annual report that showcases the most prevalent items, the highest-priced items, and the peculiar and extraordinary discoveries." According to the report, the most costly items discovered this year include a diamond ring appraised at $37,050, a Cartier Panthère watch valued at $26,500, and a Hermès Birkin 25 bag priced at $23,500.

The company holds enduring agreements to purchase unclaimed items from airlines, hotels, trains, and rental car companies. Owens explained that they handle tens of thousands of items weekly, with approximately one-third being sold, another third donated, and the remainder recycled. Describing their realm as "the world of all things lost," Bryan Owens likened their daily operations to experiencing Christmas each day.

Doyle Owens, the father of Owen, established the company in 1970. The venture arose after Doyle learned of a local bus company grappling with an increasing number of abandoned bags from passengers. With determination, Doyle borrowed $300 to purchase these neglected bags, promptly affixing price tags to their contents. He then commenced selling the items from his residence in Scottsboro, Alabama, a town with a population of 15,700. Reflecting on these beginnings, Owens remarked, "It was off to the races."

Pexels | Photo by KATRIN  BOLOVTSOVA
Tech gadgets (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by KATRIN BOLOVTSOVA

As per Unclaimed Baggage's retail store in Scottsboro currently surpasses the size of a city block and boasts a workforce of over 250 individuals. The allure of discovery—the inherent excitement of uncovering hidden treasures—draws visitors from both nearby and distant locales. "We welcome approximately a million visitors annually, representing every state in America and spanning 40 countries," Owens disclosed. "We even have patrons from the West Coast who make multiple trips to shop. I recall a couple from the U.K. who would fly over once a year solely for the shopping experience."

He explained that discounts vary from 20% to 80%, contingent on the item, with clothes receiving higher discounts compared to Rolex watches. The company aims to offer customers attractive deals while avoiding incentives for reselling. Owens recounted an incident involving a customer, likely a cruise ship employee, who purchased a substantial quantity of Kindles for resale in port cities. "We strive to provide customers with unmatched deals, ensuring they obtain value not readily available elsewhere," He emphasized. "However, our intention is not to facilitate arbitrage."

Pexels | Photo by Xuân Thống Trần
Objects for sale (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Xuân Thống Trần

Owens noted that electronics, ranging from AirPods priced at $54 to an HP 15.6-inch laptop for $175, are among the fastest-selling items. However, fine jewelry also sees strong sales, even through online channels, he added. He mentioned that the company acquired approximately 20 Rolexes this year alone. Among his favorite discoveries was a 40-carat emerald found wrapped in rags within an unassuming bag.

He further emphasizes authentication in operations, comparing it to an "archaeological dig." Some items find their way back to rightful owners, like a customer's girlfriend who rediscovered her lost skiing boots at Unclaimed Baggage. The gentleman purchased them for her after finding her name hidden inside. Unclaimed Baggage encounters items with their tags, often lost, sold, and lost again. Owens assures that thorough checks resolve claims within 90 days. He found a $10,000 Kiton jacket tagged at $999, emphasizing the store's remarkable deals. SITA's 2023 report reveals 7.6 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers, mostly delayed and returned. He commends airlines for efficient bag reunions, noting the low rate of genuinely lost bags.