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Grail in the Garbage

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"Why is this priceless Superman comic 5 cents? If it's priceless, it should be free!"

"It's amazing to think one of the greatest mysteries of Equestria was solved with a musty old book from an antique shop."

It's an artifact of earth-shaking power. Its value is immeasurable, its history is the stuff of legends. It's... being offered at a clearance price at the local thrift shop.

Sometimes, priceless things can be found in the most unlikely places. Maybe the previous owner didn't realize what he had, maybe some higher power put it there for a reason, maybe it's just one of those unique chance encounters. For whatever reason, it's being treated as far less valuable than it really is, and it's ripe for the picking by an unsuspecting hero. If this sort of thing is actually the bread and butter of the place in question, then it's a Bazaar of the Bizarre or The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday. If found at either of these, the previous owner may sell it for next to nothing, unaware of its value.

Compare It May Help You on Your Quest, Worthless Yellow Rocks, Priceless Paperweight, Excalibur in the Rust, and Commonplace Rare.

See also Violin Scam, which is a form of The Con in which the Con Man makes the mark believe that the two of them have found a valuable item, when the item is actually worthless.

Contrast MockGuffin.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Berserk, Griffith receives the Crimson Behelit, an Artifact of Doom that is the key to world domination, from an old gypsy trader; he couldn't have paid her much if anything for it, considering he was a penniless orphan at the time. Justified; those who give the Behelit its juice control causality itself and make sure it always ends up in the hands of one destined to use it.
  • In Chobits, Chii, a rare advanced prototype Ridiculously Human Robot, is found in a dumpster.
  • Death Note. Guy finds the Artifact of Doom on the ground in front of his school? Of course, in this case, it was deliberately dropped in the hope someone "interesting" would find it.
  • Early on in Dragon Ball, Goku travels to Master Roshi's island to borrow the Bansho Fan, the one thing that can extinguish the fire on Frypan Mountain, only to find out that Roshi was using it as a tablecloth... and he had thrown it out because he spilled soup on it! Fortunately Roshi manages to put out the fire another way: by... blowing up the mountain with a Kamehameha.
  • Saito's talking sword in The Familiar of Zero was sold for dirt cheap in a weapon shop. Since Derflinger is actually the traditional weapon/partner of the Gandalfr, karma almost certainly arranged for him to be in the shop solely to end up in Saito's hands. In fact, Derflinger looks pretty crappy and likely handles poorly in the hands of anyone but Gandalfr. It's a good bet everyone else thought it was worthless junk.
  • Girls und Panzer: This actually shows up quite a bit. The school's initial tanks don't qualify, but a powerful 7.5 cm KwK 40 cannon is found being used to hang clothes on, which provides the Panzer IV's Mid-Season Upgrade. Similarly, a rare and powerful Porche Tiger heavy tank is found deep inside the ship and a Type 3 Chi-Nu is sitting abandoned in a parking lot of all places. Aya of Rabbit Team even mentions that she'd thought the Chi-Nu must have been worthless because everyone had been ignoring it.
  • Not quite priceless, but someone threw out the jackpot lottery ticket in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable.
  • In the beginning of Fancy Lala, Miho first finds Pigu and Mogu at a toy store when they attach themselves to her book bag. The mysterious man who pops up throughout the series pays for them because the store clerk thinks she's stealing them.
  • The rare medal used by Metabee in Medabots was originally found by the riverbank. The first episode opens with the Phantom Renegade stealing the medal and evading the Rubberrobos, then accidentally dropping it into the river.
  • In One Piece, one of Zoro's swords, which is cursed, but immensely powerful if it can be controlled, is found in the armory equivalent of a bargain bin, precisely because it is cursed. In fact, the store owner had no intention of selling it all, but witnessing Zoro's sheer guts changed his mind.
  • In Ressentiment, the game containing the original A.I. girl of which all others are simplified copies is found lying under a rack of disks in an ordinary game shop.
  • In Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry, Sara finds a discarded doll in the scrapyard area of a ship while looking for a pendant someone stole from her locker. The doll is pretty dirty and seemingly abandoned, and when Sara sees EMLY imprinted on the back of the doll, she gives her the name Emily, and grows attached to the doll. Emily also allows her to control a Strain, a mecha that needs a specialized MacGuffin in order to activate (Sara's was destroyed in the first episode, so she was unable to control one again until this point).
  • Tamamo-chan’s a Fox!: When the girls go to a flea market Tenko offers some "old junk" for them to sell that includes the spotted tenmoku tea bowl, the kotenmyo hiragumo, and a crystal skull.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, Godwin had three of the cards for the eponymous 5 Dragons, and quietly released them to the public to let destiny take its course. Aki is given her Plant-based deck as a birthday present by her father. Besides the more often used effect, Black Rose Dragon also has an effect which works in tandem with Plants, so it seems likely that she got it then. Yusei and Jack probably would have found Stardust Dragon and Red Dragon Archfiend, respectively, in the trash, as the two lived in the Satellite slums and had to assemble their decks from discarded cards. They also might have gained their dragons during their 'Team Satisfaction' days, where they engaged in card-based turf wars until they had beaten everybody in Satellite, with the dragons perhaps taken as prizes. The cards wouldn't have been easily detected by others since they wouldn't be particularly special to anyone who doesn't have a Sign of the Crimson Dragon.

    Card Games 
  • The Magic: The Gathering card Fountain of Youth notes "The fountain had stood in the town square for centuries, but only the pigeons knew its secret." Presumably, not too many people drank from a public fountain that pigeons bathed in.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics. Double Subversion. Jughead finds an old violin in the trash bin outside the pawnshop. When a suspicious man tries to steal it from him, Archie believes that it's a Stradivarius violin. He and Jughead head off to a music shop to get it appraised, only to learn that the violin is no Stradivarius, just a complete piece of junk. On the other hand, it really is a lot more valuable than it seems, and not in the way that the gang thought it would be: the violin's bow is the cache for stolen diamonds.
  • Cerebus the Aardvark: Happens at the end of the second book, High Society, where it turns out the priceless bird statue that Cerebus could have used earlier to unite the Church factions was given to him with a bunch of other random trash from a hobo who seemed to have Cerebus confused with someone else about a third of the way through the book. He destroys it, since he no longer has the political capital to make use of it himself. And it turns out to be a fake anyway.
  • Guardian: The Guardian's origin involves him finding a seemingly indestructible shield in a costume shop.
  • Green Lantern: The original origin story of the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, had him find an old railroad lantern while travelling by train (it was 1940, people did that), and only realize it was a powerful artifact when it kept him from being killed. Later tales established that the lantern had been on Earth for centuries, occasionally doing something odd, but mostly just being a lantern.
  • Runaways:
    • In the final issue of the series before the reboot, the team discovers that they had a hangar full of hover vehicles sitting under their house. Besides the obvious utility, Uncle Hunter points out that if they sold the things for scrap, they probably could have funded all their college educations several times over.
    • The Vision (2015) reveals that the team had a piece of Vibranium — one of the most valuable materials in the Marvel Universe — lying around in their old hideout. Chase ended up throwing it away because he couldn't find a practical use for it.
  • Tintin: In The Secret of the Unicorn, Tintin buys a model ship from a street vendor to give to Captain Haddock as a gift. It turns out the ship has a scroll concealed in the mast which, when combined with two others from identical ships, leads to a fortune in gold and jewels.
  • Witchblade: Seen in a spinoff, in which a medieval woman warrior called Katarina Godliffe (don't ask about the plausibility) discovers the Witchblade while shoveling manure in the year 1175.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bridge: One of King Sombra's spell books is stolen from him and stashed away in a hollow tree because it can't be destroyed. Starlight Glimmer eventually finds it in a thrift store, though she doesn't know who it truly belongs to because Sombra signed it with his original name, Archmage Saros.
  • Cheshire (Miraculous Ladybug): Marinette finds Plagg's ring in a mud ball.
  • Constellations: Sunny gets Taylor an old painting to hang in her shrine. What she does not know initially is that it is Zhou Maoshu Appreciating Lotuses, a Japanese national treasure that was thought lost when Leviathan sunk Kyushu. Lung and the baachans that visit the shrine later are very shocked when they see it.
  • A Dragon of the North: Jon Snow buys a rusty sword that he finds in a shop belonging to Petyr Baelish in Gulltown for a silver stag. It turns out to be Blackfyre, the sword of the Targaryen Kings. After learning the truth, Baelish spent the next two days getting drunk in one of his brothels, and later Renly begins to show him a broken ladle at random times, claiming it to be an artifact from the Doom of Valyria.
  • Gaz Dreams of Genie: Invoked at the end, when the Swollen Eyeballs are storing the genie lamp in their secret warehouse, and they place it in a crate marked "Expired Cheese!" to make sure no one can find it and use it.
  • Never Had a Friend Like Me: Norm's lava lamp winds up in a second-hand junk store. It is sold for six dollars.
  • The Rise of Darth Vulcan: The protagonist Ted finds junk jewelry in a pawn shop, and adds it to his Halloween costume. It turns out he nabbed the Alicorn Amulet. He is brought to Equestria by it, and with it, becomes a mighty villain.

  • Lone Wolf: In The Jungle of Horrors, Lone Wolf can visit a shop where the proprietor claims to be selling legendary artifacts. Lone Wolf easily recognizes most of them as fakes, but one is a genuine magic ring that can amplify his psychic powers.
  • In J.H. Brennan's Saga of the Demonspawn series, the main character Fire*Wolf... well the poor guy is a barbarian turned wealthy sorcerer-aristocrat yet in the 10 year span between the first and final book, he somehow never finds any armour until a decision in the last book. If Fire*Wolf wasn't robbed of his coin pouch or he picked up 10 gold from fights in the city, he can go to a second-hand clothing store. There he finds a thin shirt which the shopkeeper charges at a whopping 80 gold. Fire*Wolf will haggle it down to 8 gold and the frustrated shopkeeper relents. He's disappointed at getting so little money because that shirt is made of Levenskin, a magical material. In the books, all it does is prevent damage from fireball spells but in the Visual Novel adaptation, Levenskin is as tough as leather armour. And this new armour shirt is good enough that it can actually change your chance of getting hurt in combat by a fair margin.

    Films — Animation 
  • In My Little Pony: A New Generation, the Unicorn Crystal, an Ancient Artifact that can help return magic to Equestria when combined with the Pegasus Crystal, is found in a tea shop. The owner added it to his collection of odds and ends after winning a bet with a crystal collector, making it a double case of this trope. The Earth Pony Crystal happens to be part of the lamp that Argyle made for Sunny when she was a foal, and Argyle didn't appear to realize how important it was at the time.
  • In The Adventures of Tintin (Secret of the Unicorn), Tintin buys a model of a three-masted sailing ship, the Unicorn, for a pound, but it is later discovered to contain a parchment scroll which has a map of buried treasure.
  • Woody is revealed to be an incredibly rare antique in Toy Story 2: Al discovers him in a yard sale (accidentally; Mom doesn't think Woody should be thrown out) and rejoices that he's finally found his Holy Grail, as he's been collecting a full Woody's Roundup set to restore and sell to a toy museum in Japan and it's implied that an authentic hand-crafted Woody doll was the hardest piece for him to get a hold of. In particular, the museum would not accept the deal unless Woody himself was part of the set, largely because he's the mascot that most of the other paraphernalia is based off.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This kicks off the plot of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. A small-time con artist swindles a second-hand bookseller out of an old, tattered book that's falling apart (the con-man only takes half the book), which is actually an ancient spellbook filled with magic incantations. Not believing in magic, he winds up selling the spells to chumps by mail-order, claiming to be a magical professor running a correspondence school for apprentice witches. Imagine his surprise when one of his chump customers winds up actually learning the spells and becoming a full-fledged witch, who promptly teleports to his location one day to ask about learning a more advanced spell. This Trope is even highlighted in the lyrics to the song "Portobello Road," which is where the pair wind up going to try and track down the other half of the original spellbook.
    Portobello Road, Portobello Road / Street where the riches of ages are stowed, / Artifacts to glorify a regal abode, / Are hidden in the flotsam in Portobello Road,
  • In The Forbidden Kingdom, the golden staff of the legendary Monkey King is found in a Chinatown pawn shop specializing in Wuxia DVD's.
  • Zig-zagged in Kill Bill, when we discover Bill had commissioned Hattori Hanzo to craft a sword specifically for his younger brother Budd as a gift. Hanzo's swords are the greatest in the world, and Bill describes the one he had made for Budd as "Priceless". After Bill and Budd had a falling out, the latter pawned it for $250. Bill is visibly heartbroken when he hears this. Then subverted when it's revealed Budd kept the sword after all, showing he still had some love for his brother. Then played straight when it turns out he was keeping the sword in his golf bag with his clubs.
  • Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors mysteriously appears in a plant vendor's inventory.
  • Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders is the embodiment of this trope, and it even gets more trope-y when the Lord of Evil is in the form of a monkey cymbalist that's stolen and sold to a ratty toy shop.
  • The original ending for Monty Python and the Holy Grail would've involved King Arthur finding the grail in... Harrod's. "All Things for All People, Everywhere" indeed. Unfortunately, the Pythons ran out of money (and for that matter, time) and had to end it with everyone getting arrested for the murder of a famous historian.
  • The Mansion the brothers inherit in MouseHunt. Everyone initially considers it worthless since it's very dilapidated, but it turns out to be the lost work of a famed architect, worth millions.
  • In My Science Project, a high-school student breaks into a government junkyard and finds the warp drive of a downed alien spacecraft. Since he's in danger of getting a "D" in science class, he decides to pass the "gizmo" off as his science project. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Red Violin: The object of the title is buried in someone's grave (until Grave Robbers take it out), played by gypsies (until a famous violinist notices it), and is kept in Shanghai at a shop of English goods for 30 years until someone buys it. This was also true of the real violin it was based on - a busker who owned it covered it with shoe polish to hide its worth.
  • Three Thousand Years of Longing: Alithea finds the flask containing the djinn tucked away in a pile of worthless bottles in an Istanbul shop. She is instantly drawn to it and takes it home even if the shopkeeper tries to guide her towards more valuable wares.
  • Discussed in the documentary Who The #$&% is Jackson Pollock, which is about a woman who bought a painting at a thrift shop, only to decide it was too big to fit anywhere. When she tried to sell it at a yard sale, a local art teacher theorized it might be the work of Jackson Pollock, which became a source of argument between art collectors (who insisted it was a fake) and artists (who theorized it might be one of Pollock's). The woman in question, Teri Horton, tried to sell it for no less than $50 million, and died without ever selling it.
  • In the feature-length version of The Wizard of Speed and Time, since they have to raise the initial production money themselves, Mike Jittlov (and company) have a garage sale, with some of the items being Mike's comic books. When he has to leave, his friend Brian Lucas takes over, and says, "Ancient comics! Cover price!" The pile of rare (and valuable) ones instantly sells.

  • There is a joke in which a man checks out an antique shop but is not impressed by the wares, yet just as he is leaving notices the owner's cat drinking milk out of what the man knows to be a priceless dish. Knowing the owner must not realize what he's got right under his (or rather, his cat's) nose, he tries a little ruse: He asks to buy the cat for $5. The owner immediately obliges. The man picks up the cat, and just as he's leaving stops and offhandedly says, "By the way, do you mind if I take that dish as well? He seems to like it." The owner scoffs, "Are you kidding? Thanks to that dish I've sold 75 cats in a month!"
  • A common urban legend involves a couple who are in the process of divorcing. The husband tells the wife to sell some valuable asset the two own jointly (a classic car or a masterpiece painting are common) and send him half the money, so she sells it for ten dollars (or some other trivial price) just to spite him.

  • The plot of The Affix was set into motion by the death of the gem's previous keeper, who left it in a storage unit away from the rest of her supernatural collection. Mike bought it at auction, and the Affix temporarily adopted him as its new keeper. This way of turning up in unlikely places is implied to be typical of the gem, which causes severe causality distortions that can also return it to its keeper.
  • The Hercule Poirot novel After the Funeral includes the character of Cora Lansquenet whose hobby is going to various yard sales and antique shops in order to buy paintings that she thinks might be valuable. She did find one of modest value once, but it was mostly luck, and her art dealer friend makes it clear that Cora didn't really have the eye for art that she thought she did. It turns out that one of the paintings she'd bought on her most recent buying spree was an original Vermeer, but she never recognized it for what it was.
  • Animorphs:
    • David was about to sell the morphing cube online before the Animorphs caught wind of it. Worse, he was about to unwittingly sell it to Visser Three, probably for way, way less than it would have been worth even if the Visser didn't intend on infesting David the moment he sold it.
    • In another installment, the Helmacrons' spaceship gets lost in a toy store and Cassie has to find it.
  • Atlas Shrugged has an anvilicious example, where Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden discover a prototype perpetual motion machine abandoned and decayed in the gutted ruins of the Twentieth Century Motor Company. John Galt actually abandoned the prototype, the plans and theoretical research that led to it because he designed it on the clock and they had a right to it - but more importantly, he knew that no-one capable of understanding it would ever work there again because civilization had ceased to value the original "perpetual motion machine" - the human mind.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson's short story The Bottle Imp: A bottle that can grant wishes has a price of only $80 because it can only be sold for less than its previous sale price. Why would someone want to sell such a bottle? Because if a person dies while owning it, his soul automatically goes to Hell.
  • Abdullah of Castle in the Air buys a plot-important flying carpet from a tattered, dirty traveling carpet salesman.
  • Chivalry, a short story by Neil Gaiman, features an old woman who buys the Holy Grail in a secondhand shop. She has a bunch of items like it, and uses them to decorate her house. After she buys it, Sir Galahad of the Round Table stops by and offers her such gifts as the Philosophers' Stone, an Apple of the Hesperides, and a phoenix egg, in return for giving up the Grail. Giving it to him, she goes to the store a second time. She considers, for a moment, buying what is heavily implied to be the lamp from the tale of Aladdin... before realizing she has nowhere left to put it.
  • Discworld:
    • Wyrd Sisters has the witches hide the crown of the kingdom of Lancre in the prop box of a troupe of actors, among several fake crowns made of painted tin and glass jewels. The real crown goes unnoticed and ignored for years, because it is a simple and plain coronet, and the others look so much fancier.
    • Variant. Harry King is in charge of all of Ankh-Morpork's sanitation and recycling, from chamber pots to dog muck to trash. He is constantly bewildered that people let him be in charge of all this. People pay him to take away their chamber pots and trash. He then sells this waste to anyone who needs it, from tanners to gardeners, then gets paid to take away their waste too, which he then sells to someone else. It barely takes him any time at all to become the richest man in the city, and all it cost him was his sense of smell.
      Harry King felt like the only man in a mine who knew what gold looked like.
    • One of these forms the entire basis of the plot in Thud!. Dwarves have access to a number of fantastical items, including items simply called Cubes: small, nigh-indestructible boxes that are able to record sounds and play them back from ages past. Considered to be completely priceless, they are jealously held, and even the rumor of a Cube is able to launch a dwarven expedition to recover it. And one of the most important ones ever, containing the official words of peace between the kings of the Trolls and the Dwarves from the infamous Battle of Koom Valley, is found at the bottom of an old abandoned well under a heap of mud and rubbish.
  • The obscure book series The Earthkeepers has two books that have plots that reference this trope,The Mystery of the Gun in the Garbage and The Mystery of the Headless Tiger. Both stories involve the protagonists finding the title item in their conservation efforts and winding up facing off against villains who will stop at nothing to get them back with the first book involving main characters Chad and Penny being shot at and kidnapped respectively and the second book involving a Hostage for MacGuffin situation with Chad's mom.
  • In Farmer Giles of Ham, after Giles become a celebrity from shooting at the giant, the King sends him a sword as a gift, choosing a plain weapon which is out of fashion. It also happens to be a powerful magical sword meant to fight dragons.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry helps Sirius throw out all of his family's relics that he doesn't want. Among them is an old locket that no-one is aware a) once belonged to Salazar Slytherin and b) contains a piece of Voldemort's soul.
    • And again in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry hides the Prince's potions book in a version of the Room of Requirement which only appears when somebody needs a place to hide something and has been filled over the years with assorted things lots of other students (and teachers!) didn't want found. One, which Harry uses to mark the place where he hid the book, is the lost diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw, and another of Voldemort's Horcruxes.
    • Harry invokes this in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when he drops the Resurrection Stone in the Forbidden Forest without telling anyone where it was. Basically, an ancient and powerful magical relic made from a stone will stay hidden on the ground where most people don't go.
  • High Fidelity: In a sequence inspired by the example in Jokes above, Rob goes to buy records from a woman selling off her husband's record collection. As soon as he looks through the records, he realizes he's struck the mother lode (rare records by Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, The Beatles, The Who, and Sex Pistols, among others), and it's worth about six or seven thousand pounds, which he doesn't have. The woman says he can have it for fifty pounds, because the man in question left her for a younger woman and told her to give him any money she got from selling the records. Rob can't bring himself to do this, and ends up only buying the Otis Redding record.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • The One Ring. In The Hobbit (written first), Bilbo finds the ring on the ground, after Gollum misplaced it. So you have an ordinary ring owned by some deformed hobbit. (As the narration says, "It was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it. He put the ring in his pocket almost without thinking; certainly it did not seem of any particular use at the moment.") Then Bilbo discovers it can make the wearer invisible.
    • Then in The Lord of the Rings, we discover that Gollum's friend first found the ring many years ago just lying at the bottom of a river. So it seems like Bilbo has an "ordinary" ring of invisibility — until we learn it is far more than that.
    • Gandalf thinks that Bilbo doesn't know the true value of the mithril mail shirt that Thorin give him, and that he left it as a mathom in the Shire. The truth is that Bilbo really knows its true value and gave it to Frodo.
    • To a lesser extent, there is the small dagger that Bilbo finds in the troll's lair. He doesn't think much of it at the time; it's a useful blade to someone his size, but doesn't seem to be anything else. As it turns out, it's an elven blade forged in Gondolin during the First Age, just like Orcrist and Glamdring. (Bilbo later gives it the name "Sting".)
    • Glamdring qualifies on its own, as it was once wielded by Turgon, King of Gondolin.
  • Myth-Gotten Gains starts out with Aahz finding a talking sword in a shop's discount bin. The sword claims to be part of a legendary set, and it takes some effort to convince Aahz of this. It takes even more convincing to get Aahz to buy it, as Aahz is a total cheapskate and doesn't need a sword anyway.
  • The eponymous book in The Neverending Story, which contains the entire world of Fantastica, is found in (or rather, stolen from) an unsuccessful antique bookstore.
  • Janet and Isaac Asimov's Norby series begins when young Jeff Wells buys Norby, a battered, apparently malfunctioning robot that the proprietor doesn't even think is worth selling. Said robot turns out to be a completely sentient alien artifact capable of antigravity, telepathy, FTL transportation, and time travel.
  • In Oathbreakers, Kethry happens to find a useless-looking dull-bladed old sword on a frozen corpse in a mountain pass, with a bunch of empty sockets all over it where gems and gilding were removed. She and Tarma assume the body belonged to a thief or a minor noble with a decorative sword, and those decorations were all stripped off by previous travelers. A scornful Tarma tosses it aside saying it wouldn't cut butter, but Kethry, on an impulse, takes it along when they leave. It turns out to be the ancestral Sword that Sings, traditionally used to choose the proper ruler of the country of Rethwellan.
    • Trust Your Instincts, a short story in the Valdemar anthology Pathways, reveals that it got there by psychically manipulating a minor noble to steal it and then perish in the mountains, keeping it out of the hands of someone who would have destroyed it.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Miranda finds a chameleon cloak in a second-hand store. Both its presence and her discovery get explained later.
  • The time-travelling Glass in Septimus Heap is found in a warehouse where everything else is random junk like sheep bones.
  • In The Serpent's Egg trilogy, Typhoon gives a busted up crown to Penelope as a reward for watching a very much alive and ready to hatch dragon egg, which she was told was a rock. It was far bigger than her. The dinky little thing turned out to be the Crown they had been looking for the entire time, but didn't realize it till she placed it on the head... of the enemy. It proceeded to kill the evil. Then, she put it on the Elf Prince's head, to no real effect. Notably, she tried to steal from Typhoon earlier, and had to clean his entire hoard with a bowl of... spittle. Which was pretty stupid, seeing as he literally saved their lives from a damn army before that. But maybe, Typhoon knew about it, being the leader of the Black Dragons.
  • In the fourth and last book of the Shadow Grail series, the heroes find various items from Arthurian myth that they need (including the Grail) disguised as ordinary items in a junk box at the Goodwill store.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • Holmes himself owns a Stradivarius that he bought from a pawn shop at a fraction of its actual value.
    • Also, in The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual, the riddle passed down by the Musgrave family turns out to be instructions to locating some ostensible treasure. Holmes (and previously, the butler Brunton) follows the clues, and discovers a sack full of broken dirty metal shards and colored glass. Holmes realizes the metal is gold and the glass are gems: the sack contains the pieces of King Charles I's crown.
  • The Sixty-Eight Rooms: The key, which is not only historic (it once belonged to Christina of Milan), but can also cause girls to shrink. It was found by three children in an area behind the exhibit; Jack finds it on the floor near some cleaning materials.
  • Mirroring The Lord of the Rings, the eponymous Sword of Shannara is found in the last place you'd expect it — in a bunch of junk that a looter picked up off a battlefield. Despite every legend about it saying it was embedded in a block of "Tre-stone" in the druids' castle. Subverted, though, when the looter knows that the battered, cheap sword with the gold paint peeling off it is the most valuable weapon in the world, even though the heroes don't, and refuses to let go of it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 10th Kingdom:
    • A magic mirror that will allow the heroes to go back to their own world is for sale dirt cheap, as no one knows what it is. When its true nature is discovered, however?
    • Inverted when Wolf throws away Virginia's Shoes of Invisibility straight to the bottom of a large river (turns out that some people find valuable stuff there). The shoes were crazy-overpowered but also magically addictive, so this was the equivalent of discarding a Bong of Unlimited Magic Weed because the user was on the verge of losing their mind.
  • Rene Artois of 'Allo 'Allo! has an old painting in his cafe which Rene's mother-in-law accepted from a penniless Dutchman in return for "certain favours". He thinks it's worthless until the cultured General von Klinkerhoffern drops in and immediately realises who the penniless Dutchman actually was.
  • Antique shows like the Antiques Roadshow and their international versions are the real-life versions of this trope.
    • In one episode of Antiques Roadshow, a man who was renovating a building that had, in the late 1700s, been a roadside inn into a house. In the attic he found a collection of old registers. Figuring they might be worth something to someone, he took them to be appraised without ever really checking them out. Turns out that the building had not only been an inn during most of the American revolution, but that the Founding Fathers of the United States apparently liked staying there and nearly all of them (including George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson) had signed the registers multiple times. Later the man admitted that he thought they might be worth a couple of hundred apiece when he brought them in; the average appraisal put them at over one hundred thousand dollars apiece, and there were nearly thirty of them.
    • In another episode, a man had inherited an old home from an uncle and found an old saddlebag in the attic. When it was opened on the show, it had pristine examples of Native American tools and beadwork from the late 19th century, possibly received in trade. The presenter was halfway between drooling and shock.
    • In the Dutch show, Tussen Kunst en Kitsch, one expert even jokingly said to a person who bought a piece worth 3000€ for 2 BEF (0.05€) at a flea market: "I thought this was a fun show, this is just depressing."
  • Reality shows like Auction Hunters and Storage Wars have these found in abandoned storage units, when the owner couldn't keep up with the fees. However, just as often, these end up being subversions when the buyers get very exciting about finding a valuable item among a ton of junk but the appraisers then tell them that it is actually worth very little. In one instance on Storage Wars, Barry convinced himself that he found a Stradivarius violin when it is fairly clear to the audience that it is a fake. An expert later confirmed that it was a Czech replica.
  • In Auction Kings, When doing a pick, they never just take what they came for. Paul and Jon often find very valuable things in basements. Oftentimes, the owner didn't even know they had it.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, the geeks go to a yard sale and buy a box of grab bag items. One item turns out to be a missing prop from The Lord of the Rings movie — The One Ring (well, one of three copies of the One Ring used in the film). Hilarity ensues as they all struggle to possess this "precious".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • An orb that can restore people's souls is sold as a paperweight. Subversion here: Both the buyer and the seller are aware of its value, but it's worthless without the spell (which the buyer has) and very common. The seller admits that he sells them to people not in the know as paperweights because it's more profitable to sell as such. Becomes a Brick Joke in a later item when Giles knows all about the item by name alone, owns one, and sheepishly admits he uses his as a paperweight.
    • For that matter, Giles once bought a magical talisman from a sorcerer, convinced it was a knock-off. Not only is it real, it's used as part of an apocalyptic ritual.
    • Inversion: Giles accidentally sells a series of innocuous items to a seemingly ordinary shopper. Turns out those specific items are used in a powerful and dangerous ritual but have little value on their own. Also the woman he sold them to was actually the season's Big Bad.
  • Cash In The Attic: Some of the stuff sells for less than expected, but sometimes truly rare and valuable items are found.
  • Played for Laughs on Firefly. In "Out Of Gas" everyone almost dies for lack of a converter, a critical engine part. Three episodes later in Ariel, the crew is looking for equipment in a junk yard. Kaylee picks up a converter, looks at it for a moment then tosses it aside.
  • The Scrolls of Lodge 49, a set of priceless and mysterious ancient texts of great spiritual significance to the Order of the Lynx which have been used by a variety of people to acquire great wealth throughout history, are eventually located in a small-town auction down in Mexico, stored in a crappy old bowling bag. Apparently, the prior owner was storing them there temporarily, only for them to either die or simply lose them somehow and the lost bag to end up in the hands of auctioneers who had no idea what was inside.
  • As a show starring an antiques dealing rogue, Lovejoy often featured this without the supernatural aspect. In one example a church is facing financial ruin, none of the fittings are suitable to raise anything like the money required and as they resign themselves to failure the priest stops to feed his dogs. Cue the priceless antique he uses as a dog bowl.
  • In one Malcolm in the Middle Cold Open, Reese accidentally breaks a cheap painting's frame. Before he glues the painting back down, he gets the chance to laugh at the name of the artist who painted the one framed beneath it: "Pic-ass-o".
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The TVA in Loki (2021) has numerous copies of the Infinity Stones, which they treat as worthless trinkets because they are powerless within the TVA. They even use them as paperweights, which is about all they're good for.
    • Ms. Marvel (2022): A superpower-granting bracelet is kept in a box of random jewelry and other trinkets Kamala's grandmother sends over, which is dismissed as junk by Muneeba and stuffed in the attic.
  • An episode of Modern Marvels about garbage reclamation showed a box of seemingly ordinary gray dust; then we're told that it's over $1000 worth of platinum.
  • Motive: The motive for the murder in "Framed". A woman purchased a painting from a thrift shop, not realising it was a lost masterpiece. She used the painting as a canvas and painted a cat painting over the top of it. A gallery worker saw the painting and identified what it really was, and bought the painting; planning to strip off the cat painting. When the woman discovered the truth, she attempted to reclaim the painting and ended up killing the gallery worker.
  • In Only Fools and Horses, the Trotters become millionaires after the missing John Harrison Watch (which in real life, exists only as plans and may never have been built), ends up being found in their garage. Del likewise mentions he got it from an old woman who paid him to clear an attic.
  • Pawn Stars often have customers selling artifacts they found in their attic or at a yard sale, making the owner Rick Harrison wonder why he can never find something like that in a yard sale.
  • On Person of Interest this is invoked by the Dirty Cops of HR and then by a conman stealing from them. The Russian Mob is paying HR a lot of money to protect its drug operations and HR uses an antique dealer to launder the money. A friend or relative of one of the cops pretends to find a valuable piece of sports memorabilia and puts it up for auction. A crooked auctioneer authenticates it as real and the antiques dealer then outbids everyone at auction and uses the mob money to buy the item supposedly for his personal collection. All the taxes and fees are properly paid and the government is unlikely to question the source of the money. The conman discovers the scheme and hacks the emails HR sends to the antique dealer. He instructs the dealer to buy an autographed baseball for 2 million dollars. The dealer complies and upon returning to his store he puts the baseball into a pile of other old sports junk. A kid walks in from the street and buys the ball for a few dollars. Turns out that the baseball was authentic and really worth millions. The conman paid the kid to buy the ball and bring it to him.
  • Seinfeld:
  • Stargate SG-1: The episode "Citizen Joe" features a random guy buying an Ancient communication device at a yard sale. Unlike a lot of these things, this is actually justified in-universe: unless you have the right (fairly rare) genetics, it's functionally equivalent to a glass paperweight. It happens that the guy DOES have the right genetics, though....
  • In one episode of Superstore Glen brings a box of old stuff from his basement he'd been meaning to throw out to work and asks Mateo and Cheyanne if they think it might be worth anything. Looking through they find a Mickey Mantle baseball card which they conclude is probably worthless because it's from the first year he ever played and a copy of Action Comics #1 which Cheyanne rips a page from to spit out her gum. Later in the episode the woman from Human Resources who'd been called in due to the A-Plot noticed the baseball card in the bin and snuck it into her pocket.
  • A recurring sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Look involves a seller at a garage sale casually selling incredibly valuable artifacts for a low price. The Holy Grail itself, for instance, was sold for five pounds, as having already gained eternal life from drinking from it, he sees no reason to keep it around. And later, the wardrobe that's the entrance to Narnia, as now that he has a garden at his new house, he doesn't really need the extra space.
  • This is more or less the premise of Warehouse 13 — it's essentially a Grail in the Garbage of the Week show. Your mileage may vary as to whether the eponymous warehouse itself qualifies as an "unlikely place". The Warehouse is more of a holding place. The Artifacts themselves are frequently found in odd places, like garage sales or the like. One Artifact is found in an old collection in someone's attic because they collected doorknobs and happened to find one from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

  • One of the illustrations on the back of a Reader's Digest, entitled "Treasure Hunt", has a man at a garage sale looking at a bust of Lincoln. If you look closely, you can see a copy of Action Comics #1 sitting in a box of old newspapers.

  • One Old Master Q comic strip has the titular character showing his friend, Mr. Chin, a handbook about "weird-looking sci-fi weapons" he bought in a second-hand store. Chin recognize the illustrated weapons as flintlock pistols, musket rifles, civil war-era cannons, and decide to check the magazine's publication date. And points it out to Old Master Q...
    Old Master Q: [gasping] Printed in 1844?
    Chin: Yeah, you might want to call up a local museum.


    Pro Wrestling 
  • In November '99, the WCW World Television title belt was thrown in the trash by Scott Hall after he decided he had no interest in defending it. It was randomly found in a dumpster by "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan a few months later, after which he claimed (and was recognized) as the new Television Champion. He was, in fact, the final champion, as the title itself was retired just two months later.

  • In one episode of Adventures in Odyssey, some characters accidently discover that one of paintings they received in a donated collection of painting that were only supposed to be copies is actually the original of a famous lost painting. The characters contact the man who donated the paintings and he claims that his grandfather purchased the painting at a flea market at the turn of the century, but the characters get suspicious that he is lying because of his request that they don't tell anyone that the painting came from him, and the fact that the painting appears to have been deliberately modified to conceal its authenticity. So they decide to investigate the painting's history and discover that the last known owners of the painting had it several years after the turn of the century. They also find that one of the painting's previous owners is still alive. When confronted by the surviving owner, the donor confesses the truth. The painting was confiscated by the Nazis during the Holocaust because the owners were Jews. The donor's father was a Nazi deserter who took the painting with him when he fled to America to start a new life under a false name. The donor was deeply ashamed of this and used his father's money to start a charity.

  • On NoPixel, Valentina Hops gets a Kevin toy from a Burger Shot meal, which she stuffs away, thinking it's some kind of ripoff toy. What she doesn't know is that it's super rare, and half the city — in particular, Sheriff Kyle Pred — are driving themselves crazy looking for it for their collections.

    Video Games 
  • Will inevitably happen sometimes in just about any game with a randomized loot system. Sooner or later, if not all the time, you're bound to find a magical weapon or artifact worth a fortune in the trash, unceremoniously stashed in a random barrel that looks no different from the last ten thousand you smashed, in a large pile of monster droppings...
  • In Aveyond: Rhen's Quest, Rhen finds Talia's Priestess Ring in a junk shop for 10 G because everyone thought it was a fake. The shopkeeper mentions that a real Priestess Ring would have been priceless.
  • In Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Barkley at one point visits Spalding Building, where he can find a character's Infinity +1 Sword in one of the trash cans. He also lampshades it when he finds a powerful healing item in another can: "It's B-Ball Juice! Who the hell throws B-Ball Juice away?"
  • In Borderlands, you can sometimes find a really good gun when you open up a dumpster or dung pile. Borderlands 2 also does this with Eridium, which is the Unobtanium that drives the entire economy of the planet: you can find ingots, individually or in stacks, sitting around in lockers, dumpsters, and the refuse piles of wild beasts.
  • Castle Infinity: The discontinued game itself was resurrected after a server was recovered from the hosting company's dumpster.
  • Invoked constantly in The Darkness II, with Jackie collecting various incredibly powerful and amazingly rare religious artifacts just laying around New York. Sometimes justified by the fact that he is fighting an old cult that has dedicated themselves to controlling The Darkness, and would have collected these artifacts. Other times... why are the ashes of Cain hidden in a New York Cemetery? Why is the seashell containing God's lament at the great flood, lying on the subway floor? Why is a pair of swords forged from 2 of the angels of death in a mob warehouse? And why is the device for capturing and controlling the Angelus located inside The Darkness itself?
    • And WHY does Jackie's Aunt Sarah have THE BROTHERHOOD'S VERSION OF THE BIBLE?!
  • In Dead Island, the vendors will sometimes sell white, common weapons, which have much, much better stats than the rarer, colored weapons. For instance, you could see them selling a blue colored machete which does 500 damage, then the white colored machete right below it does 650 damage...
  • Diablo III: Regular demons and breakable objects have a small chance to contain Legendary items, top-tier gear whose true power can be unleashed by a nephalem. Justified by the lack of nephalem in the past millennium - in the hands of a mortal or demon, these items are still killing machines but don't show noticeable superpowers. Also, most of them are copies - superpower copies, but copies nonetheless.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Far Song, generally considered one of if not the best bow in the game, has apparently spent decades sitting buried in the stockroom of a tiny podunk blacksmith shop in Redcliffe. It's so well-buried that the only way to get it is to kill Owen, or get him to commit suicide by failing to find his daughter, and wait for his replacement to move in and go through his stuff. Evil Pays Better indeed...
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind:
    • There are ten ancient Dunmer strongholds dotted in a rough circle around the island of Vvardenfell. Each has been taken over by bandits, undead, or worse, though each has a working "Propylon Chamber" on the roof. If you have the proper Propylon Index, you can use the chamber to zap to one of the two adjacent strongholds. Unfortunately, the Indeces are scattered across the island with few clues in the vanilla game as to where to find them. Several characters are using them as bookends or paperweights, while another is found in a dark basement storage room with no other loot of value and that you have no plot/quest related reason to enter. A free DLC, Master Index, adds a quest with an NPC who will point you to them. Once you find them all, he'll create a "Master Index" for you which will allow you to use all of the chambers as well as travel from the Caldera Mages Guild to any of the chambers (which are all quite remote). Because of how isolated they are, there isn't much value in using them outside of two situations (a Tribunal Temple quest where you have to traverse the island after taking a vow of silence and as a vampire where all other fast travel options are not available).
    • Two Swords of White Woe (Ebony Broadswords with a Drain Health enchantment) can be found in separate guard towers in Balmora and Suran. One (Balmora) is on top of a closet while the other (Suran) is tucked under a bed. Guards are present in both areas, but timing your thefts and utilizing their blind spots will allow you to swipe the swords freely. Both can be acquired quite early and will carry you into at least the mid-game before becoming outclassed (at which point they can be sold for a pretty penny).
  • Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan: In an early sidequest, you are tasked with recovering an armor set that was used as collateral in a bargain; the merchant only agreed because the armor was said to have been created by a minor master. When retrieved, it's unusable, and the merchant will angrily bestow it upon you, thinking he's been cheated. Unfortunately for him, a quick visit to the local blacksmith will reveal that the armor was indeed created by said master, and it's repairable for free!
  • Can be done deliberately in Evil Genius. You just stole The Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail? Eh, put it in the break room.
  • In Fable II, Murgo the merchant has the MacGuffin... he actually knows it's magic, but he has no idea what it can actually do. It is revealed in a DLC that it was given to him by your mentor, Theresa, which set the whole plot in motion.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, there is a powerful Kill Sat, but the controller and targeting device is long lost... You find it in the hands of a street urchin in East Side, who's using it as a toy gun because... It looks like a toy gun. Good news; the system is down, meaning it is just a toy gun. Bad news; you can re-activate it. Without even meeting said urchin. Thankfully, when you acquire the targeting device, companion dialogue from Veronica suggests it has a safety, and has had the safety on the entire time.
  • In Icewind Dale, the best longsword in the game, Pale Justice, is found on the corpse of a hapless adventurer in Dorn's Deep. What's more is that its inventory icon is the same as any regular longsword (by the time you're using +3/+4 weapons) and shopkeepers will buy or sell it for a pittance.
  • Happens often in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, not only because the involved items do seem unimportant, but also because Link is actually unable to carry them on his own. And very fittingly, the player doesn't happen to suspect about these items until Fi's dowsing ability indicates that they are indeed important:
    • In the sacred spring behind Skyview Temple, there are several waterfalls adorning the place. One of them is spewing the Sacred Water Faron needs to heal her wounds.
    • During the search for the Key fragments through Eldin Volcano to open the Earth Temple, Link gets past a seemingly out-of-place metallic pinwheel in a crag that houses a watchtower. This pinwheel is necessary to make one of the wrecked windmills work again in Skyloft, so a podium activates and Link can play the Song of the Goddess there to gain access to the Thunderhead.
    • Also in Eldin Volcano, there is a crystal ball that adorns the entrance to the Earth Temple. A good replacement for Sparrot's crystal ball when it breaks.
    • In Lanayru Desert, there is a color wheel in a hill southeast. This is the wheel Dodoh lost while he was preparing the last details for his flight minigame.
  • In “Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand”, a museum assistant goes looking for a jade carving that is both financially and historically priceless. It turns out that a postmodern artist, not knowing what it was, covered it with shoe polish and incorporated it into an artwork of miscellaneous objects. When the assistant explains the situation to her, the artist readily agrees that they can “take” the carving off the painting- as long as they leave something new in its place. The carving’s financial value, and her artwork’s current form, don’t matter to her.
  • Pokémon:
    • Most games have the Leftovers, one of the most useful held items in the series, hidden in a trash can. It is just a small pile of half-eaten food... that just so happens to be able to regenerate itself, giving the Pokémon an infinite supply of free health. It's even found in a trash can in Pokémon Gold and Silver and Pokémon Black and White.
    • Pokémon Black and White have a rather literal example. Wild Trubbish and and their evolution Garbodor, which are garbage bags and piles come to life respectively, sometimes hold valuable gold Nuggets and Big Nuggets.
    • In Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire one house in the Battle Resort belongs to a guy who says he in charge of picking up the trash around the resort and that the items in his house (which you're welcome to take) are just junk he picked up today. They actually contain one of each item that permanently raises a Pokémon's stat, and a Gengarite.
  • The original Apple ][ Prince of Persia source code, which Jordan Mechner had lost circa 1989, was found 20 years later on some floppy disks inside his dad's closet.
  • Charade's Backstory in Soulcalibur says he bought shards of the Artifact of Doom Soul Edge from a random merchant.
  • In Stardew Valley, the player can find valuable gems and metal bars in the trash cans around town. No wonder this place is having money troubles.
  • Character-based example: The seemingly mute dinosaur in Star Fox Adventures, located next to the underground caverns south of Thorntail Hollow is the fourth Gatekeeper, giving access to Dragon Rock.
  • Before the events of Super Princess Peach, a merchant finds Perry — a boy who had been turned into an umbrella by an Evil Sorcerer — lying on the ground. Later, unable to sell it, he offers it to Toadsworth for free. In the actual game, Perry is an Empathic Weapon that Peach uses to rain destruction on enemies, rescue Mario and Luigi, and save the Mushroom Kingdom.
  • Team Fortress 2 has a heavily hat-based in-game economy between the players, where some virtual hats can cost several hundreds of real life dollars. This also means that there are varying degrees of currency, including using other expensive hats as a large denomination of metal (the primary currency) to free up spaces in one's backpack. One of the common things newbies do is to trade away a pair of earbuds or a Bill's Hat for a bunch of weapons. Both are promotional items that seem worthless, but on the hat market are worth 40 and 20 real life money (or 40 and 20 in-game refined metal). By comparison, any given weapon in the game is worth 1/18th of a buck (18 weapons to make 1 refined metal).
  • In the Touhou Project printed side-story, Curiosities of Lotus Asia, one chapter revolved around Marisa asking Rinnosuke to reinforce her Mini-Hakkero with some of his rare Hihi'irokane so that it would never rust. In exchange, Rinnosuke asked for... the pile of scrap iron that Marisa obsessively collects for no reason. Why did he want Marisa's pile of junk? Rinnosuke had identified the Sword of Kusanagi amongst them.
  • In An Untitled Story, one of the plot coupons can be found... in a shop in SkyTown. The shopkeeper charges about 500 crystals for it however.
  • In Yooka-Laylee, the Plot Coupons are Pagies, pages from a magical book. Many NPCs consider the Pagies garbage, and are willing to let Yooka and Laylee have the Pagies because they want nothing to do with them. For example, one Pagie is swirling around in a whirlwind in Tribalstack Tropics. One NPC demands Yooka and Laylee to clean up the "garbage" before his wife gets home and sees it.
  • In Ys IV: Mask of the Sun, the Gold Pedestal that Adol sold to Pim's Trading Shop in the first game is the key to raise the Ancient City.

  • Drowtales:
    • Ariel ends up "purchasing" a random slave-girl. Said girl is possessed by the QUEEN; she was usurped and left to die, and used the slave Ragini as a living phylactery.
    • Also, Ariel's friend Faen has some game-breaking empathy attacks, but she was banished because they killed someone by accident. Most of the cast, including herself, don't realize the level of power that lethal empathy overload or emotion-trading mind control have.
    • Everyone recognizes that Kharlaggen is effectively the Drowtales equivalent of a Warhammer 40000 Chaos God, but for over ten in-universe years nobody realizes that her sister Kiel is possessed by a medium to the Drowtales forums, which gives her stupidly overpowered Genre Savvy that allows her to defy all logical reasoning and become the tyrant queen of a Wretched Hive of insane demons.
  • In How I Killed Your Master, Liu Wong pulls the governor's seal — which will grant its bearer a claim to rule the region — out of a random well when he goes to get a drink.
  • In Petty's spinoff of Nuzlocke Comics, Barb the Nidoqueen collects pieces of paper she finds. At one point, trainer Locke is depressed over recent deaths, and Barb tries to cheer her up by sharing her collection... in which Locke finds the SS Ticket and the Bike Voucher. To most Pokémon players and to Locke, these are priceless, but to Barb, they're just paper.
  • In Something*Positive, Monette makes a collage using Fred's incredibly rare comic books, unaware of their true value. When she visits a vintage comic-book store to see if she can replace them, the owner is rendered speechless when she reveals that she cut up such valuable comic books.

    Web Original 
  • A frequent result of Gaia Online's economy system. Limited-release items such as Monthly Collectibles or subsidized advertisement freebies can become popular and explode in value long after most users who actually got them have stashed and forgotten them, or possibly even left the site.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • Some of the artifacts held by the Foundation were discovered in this manner. In fact, certain documents suggest that the Foundation's "standard channels" for discovering potential SCP objects take this as a rule rather than an exception, especially for mundane-looking objects with more subtle properties.
    • In the Foundation story Spring Cleaning, a number of items which might have anomalous properties have been taken in, analyzed, and stored by the Janitors — and then, upon reflection, binned, irrespective of their historical value. You know, little unimportant cultural artifacts like the Muramasa, Caledfwlch, and the Holy Grail. They'd just been locked in a dusty proverbial attic the whole time.

    Web Videos 
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd acquired a copy of the gold cover Nintendo World Championship, the absolutely rarest game in the world in a sale where the previous owner bundled it in with other other much more common games. The bundle contained two copies of the game, the other being a much more common reproduction.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventure Time episode "The Real You", Finn buys the magical, intelligence-enhancing Glasses of Nerdicon from Choose Goose, who is willing to part with them in exchange for hearing a funny joke. Of course, the glasses end up making Finn go temporarily insane, but while wearing them he also manages to concoct a Batman Gambit to impress Princess Bubblegum and make her science exposition a success.
  • American Dad!:
    • In "Return of the Bling", Roger finds what is apparently the One Ring near the site of a plane crash... and then promptly throws it away.
      Roger: Wait, this turns people invisible? Who needs to be invisible in the middle of nowhere? Where were you when I farted at Danny's wedding?
    • In the Omen parody, Roger is seen drinking eggnog out of a bejeweled chalice he calls his "pimp cup". It's eventually revealed to be the Holy Grail.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • One episode of Batman: The Animated Series has the Clock King steal a priceless antique clock to test his time-warping device. Once satisfied it works, he nonchalantly tosses the clock in the trash and heads off to take out Mayor Hill. No-one ever said he was a profit-minded villain.
    • A bizarre intentional example from Justice League Unlimited in which Grodd breaks Luthor out of prison so that he and a small group of other super-villains can break into a hidden island base and steal the fabled Spear of Longinus, which pierced the skin of Christ as he lay on the cross and supposedly would make whoever wielded it invincible. It's soon revealed that Grodd only arranged that heist as a test to see if Luthor could follow orders. Rather than wield the spear and attempt to conquer the world, or at the very least sell it to the highest bidder, Grodd intends to hang it on the wall of his office.
  • In The Fairly OddParents! episode "Beach Bummed!", Cosmo and Wanda lose their wands in the sand at the beach and try to find them. While digging, Cosmo finds a Honus Wagner baseball card, a magic lamp and Elvis Presley, but dismisses them.
    Wanda: Cosmo, I found something!
    Cosmo: Let me guess. Another Holy Grail?
  • The Planet Express gang from Futurama witnesses an auction house sell The Milky Way to "the being of unimaginable horror." He's the only one who puts in a bid.
  • Ghostbusters: In one episode of The Real Ghostbusters, Ray finds himself in possession of the shears belonging to the Three Fates, finding them on the ground just as he needs to cut something. He keeps them, forcing Clotho to chase him all over New York to try to (discreetly) get them back, because she's the one who dropped them in the first place. As far as he can tell, they're just a pair of scissors, but they're really awesome scissors.
  • In Megas XLR, the eponymous Humongous Mecha is left in a scrapyard for several years, before Coop buys it for two bucks. Which he never pays.
  • My Little Pony:
    • In Season 7 episode "Uncommon Bond" of Friendship Is Magic, Sunburst purchases a "blind buy barrel" at an antique store. One of the books it contains happens to be the journal of Starswirl the Bearded, the most powerful unicorn archmage in history, and provides clues about his disappearance as well as those of other legendary figures collectively known as the Pillars of Equestria. This starts up the whole overarching plot of the season finale that occurs immediately next after this episode, "Shadow Play".
    • In the future Equestria of Generation 5 starting with My Little Pony: A New Generation, while the Pegasus Crystal is the centerpiece of Queen Haven's crown, the Unicorn Crystal is found in a much more humble location: in Alphabittle's collection of odds and ends in a tea shop in Bridlewood. The Earth Pony crystal is also this; Argyle built it into Sunny's lamp, and there's no indication he had any idea how important it was.
  • The Owl House: When we are first introduced to Eda the Owl Lady, she's rummaging through a bag of "Human Artefacts" that Owlbert has just recovered from the Human Realm. In order, she throws out: a functioning smart phone ("Garbage"), a golden ring with a huge diamond, complete with Audible Gleam ("Garbage"), and what is implied to be the actual Holy Grail, with Ethereal Choir ("Garbage").
  • Razzberry Jazzberry Jam: In “Music Is Universal” Billie finds a small alien spaceship (which just so happens to look exactly like a disco ball) in the dumpster behind the House Of Jam.
  • In Rocky and Bullwinkle the Kerwood Derby, a hat that makes whoever wears it absurdly smart, is found in a store.
  • Double Subversion in one Saturday Supercade episode. (Donkey Kong Jr segment.) Junior and his friend win a teddy bear at a carnival game booth, and all of a sudden, two thugs are chasing them trying to get it. When they have a breather and try to figure out what's so special about the bear, they find out that it's just a plain old toy, but it's stuffed with money, and it doesn't take them long to figure out it's stolen money.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The episode "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" begins at a swap meet, in which Homer finds a treasure trove of such items in a 5¢ box. He dismisses them all: "Junk, junk, the airplane's upside down, Strad-di-who-vious?!..."
    • In "Worst Episode Ever", Martin's mother tries selling some random stuff she found in his room to Comic Book Guy. Said "stuff" being the original handwritten script for Star Wars, "Princess Leia's anti-jiggle breast tape" and a film reel labeled "Alternate ending — Luke's father is Chewbacca". CBG tries to scam her by offering $5, only for Bart and Milhouse to inform her that it's worth thousands. Mrs. Prince replies "Well! If this is valuable, then back to the leaky basement it goes!" This enrages CBG, and Bart and Milhouse end up getting banned from his store.
    • In "'Tis the Fifteenth Season", instead of a Christmas bonus Mr. Burns gives Homer a baseball card featuring Joe DiMaggio for Bart, not realising it's a vintage card worth a small fortune.
    • In "Co-Dependent's Day", when Homer and Marge order wine at Moe's tavern, he finds the only bottle he has is Chateau Latour 1886, which he reasons is so old he can't sell it, but Homer and Marge decide it'll have to do. He only thinks to check if it was valuable after he's opened it and charged them a total of four dollars. He then proceeds to wipe his tears on the last copy of a lost Shakespeare play.
    • "The War of Art" revolves around Homer and Marge purchasing a painting from the Van Houtens and discovering that it was worth $100,000. Only to turn around and find out that it was actually a bootleg copy worth nothing.
  • The Spongebob Squarepants episode "One Krabs Trash" has Mr. Krabs sell the contents of a nearby dumpster to SpongeBob and Patrick. One of the items is a soda-drinking hat, which he charges ten dollars for. Moments after SpongeBob leaves with his new hat in tow, a group of antiquarians show up and inform Krabs that the hat was actually an incredibly rare collector's item that they're willing to pay thousands or millions of dollars for. Unsurprisingly, Krabs spends the rest of the episode trying to get the hat back. This then gets subverted at the end of the episode, where it's revealed that while Krabs was tracking down the hat and fighting off a horde of undead to keep it, someone unearthed a warehouse full of the hats, and their value has plummeted to worthlessness as a result.
  • The Venture Brothers:
    • Dr. Venture and Billy Quizboy find the ORB, an artifact which might have devastating consequences just sitting out in the open. It turns out it was broken for about a hundred years and completely useless.
    • Subverted in another episode, when Monarch Henchmen #21 and #24 find what seems to be a working lightsaber at the Venture Compound garage sale, and use it to challenge Brock Samson. Unfortunately, it's just a prototype and can't actually cut anything, which they'd have known if they hadn't been too busy geeking out to listen to Rusty when they bought it. Fortunately, Brock was too busy and/or bemused to actually kill them over it.
      Dr. Venture: [on why he's selling the Lightsaber] Kenner wasn't interested in a toy that costs two mil in parts alone. And the army told me they don't swordfight anymore.
    • This trope is a recurring trend of The Venture Brothers, where items of indescribable power and fame inevitably wind up rusted and forgotten, gathering dust for one reason or another. In a later episode Dr. Venture is given a rare comic book worth half a million dollars that he casually hands off to one of his sons, who likewise is disappointed by the lack of Batman. It winds up being used as toilet paper and chewed up by a dog.
  • W.I.T.C.H.:
    • Hay Lin picks up the Horn of Hypnos out of the dumpster behind the Silver Dragon. She experimentally blows into it a few times, accidentally hypnotizes a few people (without noticing), and then cheerfully donates the mysterious golden horn to her school band. This doesn't end well, since Lord Cedric is looking for it.
    • The next time the Horn of Hypnos turns up, it's at a camp in Meridian, where Blunk is trying to trade items. He recognizes the Horn and, knowing its value (and danger), quickly trades several items to obtain it from the man who had found it — who, incidentally, has no idea what it is.

    Real Life 
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc, one of cinema's greatest classics, was thought to have been lost until a nearly perfect print turned up in the closet of an insane asylum.
  • Oskar Schindler's list of names (the real one) was found in an attic in the late 1980s.
  • The winning $200,000 game-piece for a 1995 Wendy's contest was found on a discarded fries container by garbage man Craig Randall.
  • A Tennessee man visiting a museum gift shop wound up buying a copy of the Declaration of Independence as a souvenir. He paid $2.48. After noticing it didn't seem all too fresh, he had it appraised. It turned out to be an an official government draft ordered up by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and printed in 1823. It was appraised at $200-300K.
  • An even more extraordinary Declaration of Independence was found in 1991. A man shopping in an Adamstown, PA flea market bought an old painting for $4 because he wanted the frame. He removed the painting and found underneath it a copy of the Declaration of Independence. It was one of approximately 200 "Dunlap broadsides", the first ever printing of the Declaration, produced by Philadelphia printer John Dunlap when the handwritten copy was brought to him from Congress on July 4, 1776. It was the 25th Dunlap broadside known to survive. It sold at auction for $2.42 million.
  • One of the lost episodes of early Doctor Who was found in a church basement. Nine other episodes were also found in a Nigerian television relay station in Jos.
  • Fishermen in the Union of Comoros, an African island country in the Indian Ocean, were routinely catching a certain ugly, inedible, useless fish, which they threw back (unless they needed sandpaper — its scales did quite nicely). Then a marine biologist recognized the ugly, useless fish as a coelacanth, of tremendous value to the scientific community.
  • An antique dealer bought a Roman bust at a Goodwill in Austin, Texas in 2018, and paid $35. It was an authentic Roman bust, approximately 2000 years old. (It's believed to have been looted from Germany by an American soldier in 1945.)
  • A Sturmgewehr StG 44, the grand-daddy of the modern assault rifle, was encountered at a Hartford Connecticut police gun buy-back. The police who accepted it knew what it was, and convinced the owner to hold on to it and explore options of selling it to a historical museum instead of subjecting it to the melt-down that all the other guns at the buy-back were heading for.
  • In May of 2013, an old scroll that had been lying around in plain sight in the Bologna University library was identified as an 800-year old copy of the Torah, likely the oldest complete copy in existencenote , and possibly worth millions.
  • The 19th-century American landscape painter George Inness was commissioned by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad early in his career to do a painting of their roundhouse. The painting, The Lackawanna Valley, was never actually used for advertising as intended, and while a number of prints were available, the original canvas was lost. But in 1885 Inness himself found it in a junk shop in Mexico City, with its gilt frame valued more than the painting itself. He bought it, and after his death it passed through a number of hands before finally being donated to the National Gallery.
  • Continuing in the world of art: the famous masterpiece of Caravaggio's, The Taking of Christ, was long thought lost, but was eventually rediscovered in 1990, hanging in a Jesuit residence in Dublin, where it had been confused by both the Jesuits and the lady who donated it for either a print or a copy made by the artist Gerard van Honthorst. Interestingly, the story of how the painting was rediscovered contains a second moment: the manner in which the conservator of Ireland's National Gallery found it, and could prove its authenticity, was due to the work of two graduate students in Rome who had found proof of its commissioning by the Italian family that originally sold it as a copy — in an ancient and decaying account book, kept in the cellar of a palazzo in the small town of Recanati.
  • Likely the most valuable photograph in existence, auctioned for $2.3 million in 2013, expected to auction for $5 million in late 2015, is a photograph of outlaw Billy the Kid taken in 1878. Its current owner claims it was originally found at a thrift shop in Fresno, California, where a customer bought it for two dollars.
  • Someone in Alabama sold an extremely rare lunar rover to a scrap yard. Luckily, a junk dealer recognized it and spared it from being cut into little pieces.
  • A woman in San Francisco brought a $200,000 Apple I computer to a recycling center, unaware of its rarity.
  • The Third Imperial Fabergé egg was found in 2014. It had been bought in the United States by a man hoping to get $500 to melt it down for scrap.
  • William Harnett's painting Ease was caught in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. It was assumed to have been destroyed. That is until it turned up in some lady's basement in 1971. It had been damaged in the fire and had been trimmed during repairs, also removing the artist's signature. The woman ended up selling the painting for $350,000 and it's now prominently displayed in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
  • A man in South Yorkshire, UK found vintage comics worth £20,000 (US $24,972) in a dumpster... and used them to make a papier-mâché sculpture.
  • A group of renovators found a sealed room in Los Alamos National Laboratory that contained several million dollars worth of plutonium as well as priceless Manhattan Project era equipment. Apparently during the late forties someone decided to seal the room to save on heating and cooling and forgot to check if they had removed everything valuable first, or, alternatively, simply didn't want to fill out the paperwork to move nuclear material at an ultra high security lab.
  • This story in Russian. A guy has been working in a department dealing with electronics in the '80s. One day, they threw out a huge old computer. He was away for the day, so by the time he arrived, every single useful/interesting part was taken by others, and then the scavengers at the dump stripped away their share... in short, the only thing he managed to get was a spool of some wiring. Then he tried to measure its resistance... just about zero. Finally, some jeweler told him (in return for half the wire) that it's about a kilo of pure silver.
  • Sleeping Lady with Black Vase, a Robert Bereny painting lost in the 1920s, was found when the set designer of Stuart Little brought it secondhand and used it as a prop in the movie.
  • In 2009, a first edition copy of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was found sitting on a shelf in a bathroom in a London house, where it had been left for decades. it was sold at auction for $171,000.
  • Jamestown NY, birthplace of Lucille Ball, is the location of the Reg Lenna Center For the Arts. During one of their renovations, large advertising posters for Buffalo Bill's Wild West traveling show were found, hidden behind the walls. It is now possible for the public to view them in their splendor.
  • In 2013, David Gonzalez of Elbow Lake, MN was renovating a house he had bought for $10,000, and found a copy of Action Comics #1 in a wall, the comic being used for insulation along with some old newspapers. He was able to get it sold to an anonymous bidder for $175,000 (the low price was due to the condition the comic was found in).
  • On October 31, 1919, Joseph-Émile Bourdais of Paris bought three skulls for the sum of 3 francs. Some years after, he started to believe one of them was the head of King Henri IV, robbed during the sack of the Saint-Denis Basilica by revolutionaries on 1793, and spent the remainder of his life trying to demonstrate it. On 1955, his sister sold it for 5500 francs (or 115€), and on 2009 this head was rediscovered and finally found to belong to Henri IV.
  • A literal case of gold in the garbage was the subject of a court case in Britain. In the early The '80s when manufacture of computer parts as we know them today was a new thing, an enterprising employee wondered about scrap parts and failed components from the production lines that were simply being thrown away. He experimented to see if reclaiming the gold from scrapped circuit boards was feasible and in a bit of backroom chemistry in his garden shed, realised it was. Each individual component might only have a tiny scrap of gold in it. But from several hundred at a time, it built up into a nice little earner. After several months, the company wondered why this guy was loading its bin-bags into his car. When it cottoned on, it accused him of theft and sacked him. A court ruling found him not guilty, pointing out the company, by putting the garbage out at the end of the day, had implicitly surrendered its title to it and therefore no theft had taken place. (The law has changed since; nowadays it would still be considered the company's, then "belonging" (generally speaking) to the the disposal company that takes it away.)
  • A German man found two original 17th Century portraits in a garbage bin at a Bavarian gas station.
  • A mosaic decorating a coffee table in New York turned out to be a priceless Roman relic that had once belonged to Emperor Caligula.
  • The violin belonging to Wallace Hartley, the band leader of the RMS Titanic who along with his orchestra were famous for playing music during the ship's sinking to calm panicking passengers was discovered in a British man's attic. It was in its case on Hartley's person when his body was recovered after the sinking and was given to his fiancée. After her death in 1939, her sister donated it to charity where it changed hands until it ended up in the attic, forgotten for nearly 70 years. After a lengthy forensic inspection, the violin was declared genuine and auctioned off in 2013 for £900,000 ($1.7 million US). Today it's in a museum in Tennessee.
  • The Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama specializes in selling, well, unclaimed baggage from airports. As you can imagine, some pretty odd things have resurfaced there, everything from a special camera designed for use in Space Shuttles (sent back to NASA) to one of the puppets for Hoggle from Labyrinth (which had deteriorated severely when they got it; it's since been restored); once, a live rattlesnake was found in a piece of luggage (as you could imagine, they didn't put him up for sale). In 2022, they started a 50-state tour showing off some of their unusual items.


Video Example(s):


Rare Soda Drink Hat

The Soda Hat, Which at first looks ordinary, But then turns out to be very rare and valuable.

How well does it match the trope?

4.47 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / GrailInTheGarbage

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