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Forgotten treasures on display in Kentucky’s Unclaimed Property vault

Updated: Mar. 5, 2020 at 7:39 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - In a little brick building on the side of US Highway 127 in Frankfort sits Kentucky’s forgotten treasure chest in the form of the unclaimed property vault.

“This is like documenting our people for our entire existence," Treasurer Allison Ball said.

Inside each box is a story.

An autographed Joe Dimaggio photo and baseball sit on display in the Kentucky unclaimed...
An autographed Joe Dimaggio photo and baseball sit on display in the Kentucky unclaimed property vault in Frankfort.(Courtesy: WAVE 3 News)

“Baseball cards, things in history, war medals, coins," Ball said. "And then things that might be sentimental.”

There are even some items someone maybe shouldn’t be collecting.

“We had an urn in here with ashes," Ball said. ”We’ve had some items that we thought could possibly be drugs."

They are all protected in the vault’s armored walls, with Ball as the gatekeeper.

“It used to be called abandoned property and that’s probably the best way to think about it,” Ball said. “It’s property that’s just been lost somehow and it doesn’t mean somebody doesn’t want it anymore. It just means it’s been removed from the owner.”

For example, unclaimed property can surface if someone dies and leaves behind a lock box his/her family doesn’t know about. After a statutory period of time, usually around three to five years, it makes its way to Frankfort, where it’s Ball’s responsibility to reunite the property with its rightful owner.

Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball sits for an interview next to a variety of items on display in...
Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball sits for an interview next to a variety of items on display in Kentucky's unclaimed property vault in Frankfort.(Courtesy: WAVE 3 News)

The vault holds the collectibles, but the majority of unclaimed property is cash. A spokesperson for the treasurer told WAVE 3 News there is about $500 million in Kentucky’s unclaimed fund. That money came from overpaid utility bills, refunds, reimbursements and old savings accounts.

Many Kentuckians have no idea their money is in this fund.

Deanna Nichols told WAVE 3 News she found out eight months ago, after talking to her son-in-law. He helped her claim $700 that will help her and her husband resow their entire property.

“We’re going to resow all of our property with new seed and grass, which was something we were going to do anyway," Nichols said. "So now we get to do it and it’s free.”

Nichols repaid her son-in-law’s favor, looking through the database for other relatives, to see if they had any unclaimed property.

“My sister-in-law she’s here, so we started looking up other people and she had $4,600 herself," Nichols said.

That $4,600 was just a sliver of the $89 million total Ball said she returned to Kentuckians in her first term. She said she’s trying to break her own record, and give back as much unclaimed property as possible.

“It’s all really cool," she said. "I mean, it all means something to somebody. That’s why they collected it in the first place.”

To see if you have unclaimed property in Kentucky, click here.

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