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From Live Snakes to Presidential Signatures: Unveiling the Secrets of Lost Bags

A pair of live snakes and a suitcase full of wigs were just some of the unusual items found in unclaimed baggage in 2023

by Samir Kadri

April 2, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of engin akyurt / Unsplash

Millions of passengers fly across the United States yearly, but not all can claim their bags upon arrival. In fact, less than 0.5 percent of all baggage ends up missing. The rest is returned to its rightful owners, but the lost luggage is sent to Unclaimed Baggage, the only store in the country specializing in selling lost items.

Unclaimed Baggage recently published its first-ever annual report, the ‘Found Report‘. The piece reveals some fascinating insights into the world of lost luggage.

In 2023, the store’s team opened two million bags and found various items, including clothes, gadgets, jewelry, and more. Each item carries a story of unexpected detours, missed connections, and other travel mishaps that led to the owner losing it.

Photo: Courtesy of Calle Macarone / Unsplash

“These bags are a glimpse into 2023,” said Jennifer Kritner, Vice President of Retail and Company Culture at Unclaimed Baggage. “From the surge in Taylor Swift t-shirts to an array of Nintendo Switch games and Stanley water bottles, each item our team uncovered tells a story of its own.”

The ‘Found Report’ detailed some of the strangest and most unique items unearthed by its bag openers, with a somewhat shocking find of two live snakes ranked as its most fascinating. This was followed by a voodoo box, which was made even more disturbing by the fact it had the bag opener’s name labeled on it.

The most fascinating finds:

1Two live snakes (Yikes…)
2A voodoo box with the person who opened the bag’s name on the bottom
3Two Hermes Birkin Bags
4A 49-key Keytar synthesizer
513.3’ women’s vaulting pole
6A suitcase full of wigs (just wigs)
719 Rolex watches
8A handmade medieval battle armor vest
9A funeral casket key
10A mounted ram head

Other interesting items in the lost luggage include a pair of water buffalo horns, a fossilized fish, a Halloween card from the 1980s signed by President Nixon, and a hand-painted ostrich egg.

The store sells these items in-store or online and donates some of the proceeds to charity. According to their website, for every item sold, they donate another to someone in need.

“Each bag is like a time capsule,” said Bryan Owens, CEO of Unclaimed Baggage. “Twenty years from now, we can look back at the Found Report and see what people packed in 2023. It’s an exciting and curious way to take a snapshot of our culture.

Photo: Courtesy of Arawark Chen / Unsplash

“The items discovered in unclaimed bags are endlessly fascinating. You never know what you are going to find!”

The most common item found in unclaimed baggage in 2023 was underwear, with Unclaimed Baggage assuring its customers that only brand-new ones are sold. The second most frequently found item was shoes, with sneakers being the most common type, followed by tablets and e-readers.

The most frequently found:

3Tablets / e-readers
7Blue jeans

According to the report, some valuable items lost by people were auctioned off, and some were worth significantly. For instance, a 14-karat gold diamond ring was the most expensive piece of jewelry found, and it was appraised at a staggering $37,050.

Similarly, the most expensive watch auctioned was a Cartier Panthere, valued at $26,050.

The most expensive items:

Jewelery:A 14-karat gold diamond ring appraised at $37,050
Watch:A Cartier Panthere watch appraised at $26,500
Handbag:A pink Birkin bag appraised at $23,500
Camera:An FLIR T530 Professional Thermal Camera appraised at $12,119
Shoes:A pair of Louis Vuitton Nike Air sneakers appraised at$12,000
Men’s designer clothes:A Kilton sports jacket appraised at $10,000
Formal wear:A silk-blend Givenchy dress appraised at $9,990
Audio item:A Shure H50 QuadChannel Digital Wireless Receiver appraised at $6,453
Ladies’ designer clothes:A Chanel tweed blazer appraised at $5,450
Musical instrument:A Gibson Hummingbird Acoustic-Electric Guitar appraised at $4,000