Imgur user 70Becks – real name Jacob – got more than he bargained for when he inherited a safe. The strongbox had been in the family for generations and he believed its contents to be largely worthless. However, after he posted about his efforts to unlock the depository online, Jacob discovered it held more than just sentimental value.
The safe seemingly came into Jacob’s life at some point in 2017. It had been situated in the basement of his great-uncle Ray’s farmhouse for many years. The property had been in the family for generations, but following Ray’s passing, it was due to be demolished. As a result, the race was on to save the lock-up.
For the most part, the safe and its contents were a mystery to Jacob and his family. They believed it may have belonged to his great-grandfather, also named Jacob, but no one really knew how long it had been in his brother Ray’s house, nor what it contained. As a result, it was a source of great intrigue.
Photos of the safe posted by Jacob show it was of medium size and dark in color. Emblazoned on the front of the deposit box was his great-grandfather’s name, as well as the words, “Trumbull Safe & Vault Co. Chicago.” And although the strongbox was quite charming in its own way, it had been stashed under the stairs of great-uncle Ray’s basement for many years.
But with the old farmhouse scheduled to be torn down, the time had finally come to move the safe. To do so, Jacob and a friend first loaded the box onto a pushcart in the hopes that they could heave it up the basement stairs on the casters. However, the item proved too heavy for them to move it alone.
Recounting this first failed attempt to move the safe, Jacob wrote on Imgur, “We got it on the dolly with relative ease but once we tried to get it up the first step we quickly realized we had been beaten by an inanimate object… for now.” However, he wasn’t about to give up on shifting the deposit box anytime soon.
Instead, Jacob enlisted the help of his father to move the safe. To help get the vault out of the basement, they first built a slipway to ease its journey up the stairs. He explained, “We made this ramp out of 1x12s that were screwed together with 1x1s on the back to catch the treads and prevent slipping.”
Even with their ingenuity, hauling the safe to its new home would be far from straightforward. However, Jacob would not be deterred. Determined to succeed, he and his father employed some heavy machinery to shift the metal box up the stairs of their uncle Ray’s basement.
Revealing his solution to moving the safe, Jacob explained, “We knew manpower wasn’t going to be enough to pull this thing up the stairs and we weren’t messing around. So we attached a tow strap to a chain in order to pull it up the stairs and around the corner with our skid loader.”
However, before they could get the safe up the stairs, Jacob and his dad had to first decide how best to attach it to their mechanical loader. The Imgur user revealed, “Originally we had the safe on the dolly and we tried to tie the tow strap to that a few different ways and pull it up. [But] neither way worked.”
After multiple failed attempts, Jacob and his father finally landed on the perfect set-up that would do the job of lifting the safe up the stairs. Once it was out of the basement, they moved it back onto the pushcart and hoisted both together onto a trailer using their loader vehicle. Having accomplished this task, Jacob conceded that they would have been unable to move the deposit box any other way.
Writing on Imgur with the benefit of hindsight, Jacob said, “We think the safe weighed somewhere between 800 [and] 1,000 pounds. Definitely not a two-man lift job.” However, with the heavy lifting over, they were able to move the strongbox to its new home without too much further effort.
With the safe finally in Jacob’s garage, its new owner first set about cleaning it up a little. He also spoke to his grandfather, who was able to shed more light on the mysterious box. The Imgur user revealed, “Talking with my grandpa he distinctly remembers this safe being around when he was a kid on the farm.”
Relaying his grandfather’s memories of the safe, Jacob continued, “He remembers when Ray moved the safe from the original farmhouse a few miles away to the one he lived in the rest of his life, [from] where we eventually removed it. How they got it down there I don’t know.” Furthermore, Jacob’s grandpa seemed to think that the vault went back one generation further than his grandson had been aware.
Jacob had been under the impression that the safe had belonged to his great-grandfather. However, it could well have been in his great-great-grandfather’s possession, or – as the Imgur user put it – “the original Jacob in the family.” He added, “My grandpa is still pretty sharp so I wouldn’t doubt that for a second.”
Not only did Jacob’s grandfather provide him with more background on the safe, but he also gave him something much more impressive. The Imgur user revealed, “He came out to the house and handed me a piece of paper. It was a copy of the original manufacturer’s sheet with the combination on it!”
Armed with the combination code, Jacob could now attempt to finally open the safe. But first, he would have to get his head around the lock system, which he said was “unlike any [he] had seen before.” The Imgur user explained that it had four elements and that the code had to be entered in a specific way in order to gain access.
Explaining the intricacies of the safe lock, Jacob wrote on Imgur, “You had to spin to the first number clockwise. Then [you] had to rotate the dial three times counterclockwise to the second number, then two times clockwise again to the third number, and finally one time counterclockwise to the final number, as per the manufacturer’s instructions.”
Commenting on the complicated way of entering the code, Jacob said, “Thank goodness my grandpa had that sheet because I never would have figured that out if he’d just had the combination numbers written down.” And thanks to that stroke of luck, Jacob was able to gain access to what lay within the strongbox.
The contents of the safe were a total mystery to Jacob. Speaking of its most recent owner, he explained, “Ray was notorious for being a hoarder when it came to anything related to his money, and was the family Scrooge. So I had no clue what to expect when I turned this key.”
However, Jacob was aware that Ray had been astute with his money during his lifetime. He wrote that his great uncle “loved gold, land, and the classic greenbacks, but he made his money in the stock market mostly.” The safe’s new owner added, “Being a farmer in middle-of-nowhere-Illinois sure wasn’t earning him many dividends and he knew that.”
Inside the old safe, Jacob found a stash of documents. However, it seems that he was most interested in what lurked behind the door to a separate jewelry compartment within the box. So, we can only imagine his disappointment when he discovered that this enticing chamber was, in fact, empty.
With no hidden jewels stashed inside the safe, Jacob turned his attention to the documents it held instead. What were they? He revealed, “Mostly information on annuities [Ray] set up for himself and a few select charities through his personal trust, life insurance policies, and some outdated last will and testaments.”
However, among the documents, Jacob found some hidden treasure, after all. It came in the form of two Walt Disney Company stock certificates: one for ten shares and the other for 20. At first, the Imgur user believed them to be worthless in monetary terms, as his uncle Ray’s trust had been liquidated following his passing.
Nevertheless, Jacob was impressed with his discovery. He wrote, “Having a paper stock certificate, especially such a beautiful one for such an interesting company is pretty cool. Most companies don’t print paper certificates so this will definitely be getting framed. Looks like they go for anywhere from $50 to $100 online, but I’m keeping them, because to me they’re family history.”
For Jacob, that’s where the story behind the Disney stock certificates ended. And so he turned his attention back to the safe itself. Writing on Imgur, he revealed, “For now this is where the safe rests. In my garage next to my workbench. The wheels are rusted so, unfortunately, they don’t roll. That is a project for another day.”
With that, Jacob wrapped up his Imgur post, but he promised readers, “If I find out more about the history of the safe I’ll let you know!” At that point he was unaware that he’d soon return to the site with a pretty amazing update after the story of the old strongbox gained traction with users. They in turn told him to do more digging on the Disney stock certificates.
After Jacobs’s post was featured on Imgur’s front page he told fellow users that it felt “pretty awesome.” He also used the opportunity to give readers an update on his Disney-related find. He wrote, “Some comments are saying I need to look into the stock certificates more even though the trust is closed as it may still be valid.”
According to Jacob, if the Disney stock certificates were valid, “the shares could be worth over $50k given when they were purchased.” As a result, he told readers, “I’m freaking out guys.” He added that he was “going to talk to our bank tomorrow” and promised to post an update “if there’s any good news.”
True to his word, Jacob returned to Imgur with an update just over a week after his original post on the safe. Giving some background on his situation, he said, “We mostly found old financial documents that were out-of-date or just financial records. Only one set of documents really jumped out at me.”
Continuing his update, Jacob wrote, “We found two different Disney Co. Stock Certificates amounting to 30 shares. It was our understanding that my great-uncle’s trust ([in] whose name the certificates are [held]) had been closed out and liquidated upon his passing. But as many Imgurians told me, these certificates were most likely still outstanding.”
Thanks to his original Imgur post, Jacob learned that paper stock certificates were usually handed over or destroyed when they got cashed in. As a result, the fact that his uncle had kept hold of two meant that they were probably still valid. With that in mind, he had sought the help of a financial advisor.
Bringing readers up to date with the situation, Jacob revealed, “It turns out these certificates ARE still outstanding!!! I am freaking out guys. All shares that were earned after the stocks were split have been liquidated since they weren’t issued as paper stocks and were either liquidated over time by my great-uncle or sold off when he passed. But these 30 shares remain!”
Jacob gave no inkling of how much the Disney stock may have been worth, but he did reveal that he and his grandpa were “going through the process of changing the names on the certificates out of my great-uncle’s trust so that they will be valid again.” Furthermore, other Imgur users estimated that the shares were worth somewhere in the region of $3,000.
Without the help of the Imgur community, Jacob might never have known that the Disney stock certificates had very real value. As a result, he wrote, “Huge thanks to @FilmmakerIQ who was the first to tip me off that they may still be valid and to all the others who convinced me he wasn’t just some crazy person and that I should really get these checked out.”
Jacob added, “If it hadn’t been for Imgur this treasure would have gone unnoticed and I would have just framed these and kept them for the family! You all rock!” Furthermore, he added that he had no intention of cashing the certificates in. He revealed, “I don’t plan on selling them. Just getting them put in my name.”
In the years since Jacob posted, Disney’s share price has, of course, fluctuated. It went particularly high in 2019 after the company announced the launch of Disney+, a streaming service to rival the likes of Netflix. As a result of the development, the stock increased by about 12 percent, enjoying its best day in ten years.
Following the Disney+ announcement, the company’s stock was priced at roughly $130 per share. This meant that if you’d invested $1,000 in Disney in April 2009, by April 2019 it would be worth over $7,600. That’s a return of more than 660 percent, according to calculations cited by CNBC.
Given that Disney stock prices went up in value in 2019, Jacob’s shares may have been worth more than they had previously. We’ll never know if he decided to cash them in or not. But, according to at least one analyst, hanging onto his shares might be a better idea in the long run.
So it seems that uncovering his uncle’s old Disney stock certificates may have landed Jacob in the money. However, just because the company’s shares have performed well on the whole in recent years, doesn’t mean that they will always retain their value. Nevertheless, the documents are worth more than cash to Jacob as they’re part of his family’s unique history.