LINCOLN — Treasure might be waiting for you, and you don't need a map or a pirate to find it.
Just look in the special section tucked in with the advertising inserts in Sunday's World-Herald. Your name might be there, in the 36-page booklet. Or you can check online with the State Treasurer's Office.
If all else fails, wait till Monday and call 877-572-9688 and talk to one of the persistent, kindly, reverse treasure-hunters. They will tell you if it's your lucky day.
Odds are decent that you or someone you know is among the 350,000 people with Nebraska ties who are owed, cumulatively, some $115 million.
It may be that $50 from an unused gift card you were smart enough to document before you donated it to charity.
Or that $200 utility deposit you forgot you paid when you moved out of state.
Or in the case of a formerly homeless man from the Bronx, who suffered through two different apartment fires, a whopping $54,000 insurance settlement that landed in Nebraska for safekeeping because the insurer had some tie here.
At least nine people are owed even more than that. One of the reverse treasure-hunters estimates that one man's property — some stock holdings — is worth $250,000. If they could just find him.
But maybe your treasure isn't some insurance or bank or real estate or inheritance windfall that the State of Nebraska is saving for you per state law.
Maybe your treasure is of the less obvious sort.
The sort that's sitting inside a manila envelope in a cardboard box at an undisclosed location in Lincoln.
The contents of these manila envelopes once sat in bank safe-deposit boxes in Nebraska. But at some point, the renter of the box stopped paying. No one claimed the goods. And the banks, after trying in vain to find the rightful owners, turned everything over to the state.
But so much property is turned in that the state will only hang onto it for five years.
Then the jewelry and coins and memorabilia get auctioned off. The old house titles, the mortgage registers, the Christmas cards, the mementos and the receipts, receipts, receipts get tossed.
The state wants you to get your treasure, so it publishes the names from the safe-deposit account.
These envelopes offer glimpses into forgotten lives.
Like the big envelope that holds Uncle Aaron's gold watch and an antique-looking woman's watch, accompanied by a note in careful cursive: “Just wanted this to be yours and eventually given to Alexa. Love, Mom.”
Then there's the treasure belonging to a South Omaha man named Floyd, who also went by Loyd. Here's his old jail record from that time in '84 when he was picked up on an old traffic warrant. Here's his old Dick Tracy hardbound comic book. Here's his black felt keychain with a mean silver skull on it, wrapped in a plastic Harley-Davidson bag.
Someone saved all these in a bank safe-deposit box, along with strange et ceteras. Like a single glossary page of Apache words. Like still-glossy 32-cent stamps. Like those photos taken in the Black Hills on that trip to South Dakota in 1989.
Is Floyd the heavyset, middle-aged fellow hugging a much shorter woman against a big sky? There's the snapshot.
Was he the one who bought an AR-15 semi-automatic gun on a pawn shop payment plan, putting $260 down in 1996? Here's the receipt.
Did someone clip this Heloise tip, the one about keeping socks clean, while he was in jail?
Was he the one who carefully printed “King,” “Queen,” “Knight” on drawings of chess pieces?
And why was all this in a safe-deposit box that the bank turned over to the state in 2010?
Meaghan Aguirre has few answers.
She is the director of unclaimed property. Aguirre and her staff maintain these keepsakes as best they can. As hard as it is to track down people who are owed money, it is harder still to figure out who should get this size 4 platinum solitaire diamond ring from Borsheim's, who should get the baseball cards, the plastic bags filled with Kennedy half dollars, the gold-filled teeth, the tell-all letters, the records of births, marriages, divorce.
In the hour we spent invading the lives of the forgotten, two of Aguirre's reverse treasure-finders were solving mysteries.
One hooked up five callers with money being held for them. The other finally got the first batch of paperwork he needed to begin returning $54,000 to the Bronx mystery man.
This man is 42. He survived two fires, including one that took 106 of New York's bravest some 90 minutes to put out. That's the fire that injured him and four others.
With few clues except his name and an unhelpful address — New York Adjustment Bureau — John Brady at the Nebraska State Treasurer's Office began looking. Through court records. News reports. Calls to many Red Cross agencies.
“They are not as friendly,” Brady said, “about making connections.”
Brady hit dead end after dead end.
Then, three weeks ago, bingo. He called a phone number and found the man whose name was No. 10 on Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg's Most Wanted List.
Before Brady can cross this name off the list, the Bronx mystery man has to prove he is who he says he is.
And don't get too excited. Few people on the list are owed that much money.
But most are closer than the Bronx. In fact, most of the unclaimed property lists an Omaha-area name.
So start digging.
Maybe you'll strike gold.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1136, email@example.com, twitter.com/ErinGraceOWH