Illinoisans keep a lot of weird stuff in safety deposit boxes. Just ask state treasurer Michael Frerichs.
Frerichs — whose lesser-known duties include safekeeping the unclaimed piles of privately owned cash, stocks and safety deposit boxes that are typically lost or forgotten after Illinoisans pass on — has found not only rare baseball cards, collectible coins and jewelry, but also swords, sneakers, human hair and teeth.
“This job sometimes feels like playing Santa Claus,” Frerichs said Thursday as he unveiled a selection of his booty that he will put up for auction at the State Fair on Aug. 19.
Among the 252 items going under the gavel: a signed 1983 Ryne Sandberg baseball card; coins from a 1622 shipwreck; Chicago World’s Fair souvenirs and a 6-sided “paddle wheel” harmonica, which Frerichs declined to play for reporters.
But ghouls beware: “We don’t auction off the teeth and hair,” the treasurer made clear.
Frerichs is sitting on about $2 billion in unclaimed funds, despite dishing out $220 million to firms and families who had a rightful claim over the last couple of years. Among the beneficiaries were the children of a family that had left $1 million worth of Walgreen stock gathering dust in a safety deposit box for 60 years, Frerichs said.
Among the 252 items going to auction at the Illinois State Fair: a signed 1983 Ryne Sandberg baseball card, coins from an 1622 shipwreck and Chicago World’s Fair souvenirs.
“This is money people have lost,” he said. “And when you reunite it with them it’s a great feeling.”
The safety deposit box items are worth an estimated $113,500, have all been sitting in the treasurer’s vault for a decade, and will be sold to make space. Any cash raised will be held for the rightful owners and can’t be used to help fix the state’s budget problems.
“We know that if we can get more money into the community, more money circulating, that is going to do more good for the state than it is going to do sitting in my bank account,” Frerichs said.
“When I say my bank account, I mean sitting in the state’s bank account,” he said, to laughter. “In the state of Illinois, you need to clarify.”