On a recent trip to an estate sale, a former Marine and and antique collector from Bellville, Texas, purchased a chest that dates back to 1890 for $100 -- only to find what was hidden inside of the chest was worth a fortune.
Emil Knodell, 67, a retired marketing director, visited the estate sale of a man who had passed away in Missouri City, Texas. When he noticed the three-drawer chest, which had a marble top, he said he realized it would look good in his dining room.
"I always come to a sale with an open mind because you never know," Knodell told KCRA. "It's always good to come at the half-price time because then the big fun starts."
With the help of friend Jeff Allen, he loaded the chest onto his vehicle. That was when both men heard a strange sound rattling from inside of the chest.
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"As soon as we laid it down, it started making all this racket on the inside," Allen told ABC News. "Obviously we were very intriqued with what was happening with the dresser. There were rings, diamonds, gold and all kinds of stuff. It was a real adrenaline rush. Both of us were in shock for a second."
Although it looked like your average chest from the front, Knodell said the men discovered the bottom had a secret drawer that opened. Inside, they found money, stamps, letters, jewelry with emeralds and diamonds, military dog tags, a lock of hair, and Civil War memorabilia.
"I bought the chest drawers. I didn't buy those things. If I kept them, I would never feel right about it. There would be a cloud over the whole thing. It's a feeling more than anything else," Knodell said.
Knodell added that Allen had the same reaction.
"I'm an old ex-Marine and I try to do the right thing," Knodell stated. "Jeff also, the man in charge, his immediate reaction was, 'Let's call the owner.' There was never a question of anyone keeping it; it was, 'This is fantastic. Let's call the owner and get the stuff back to them.'"
Allen called the estate executor, who is the son of the man who died.
"He remembers that dresser in a house in Michigan when he was a little child -- in his grandfolks' house," Allen said. "And he had no idea there was a hidden compartment."
Photo Credit: Emil Knodell via ABC News