DENVER — From fossilized shark teeth to vintage comic books, vinyl records and brand-name sunglasses, a constant flow of lost and found items keeps workers busy while making the City of Denver some money.
“We get a lot of jewelry. I just sold a Rolex for $5,300,” said Kris Deutmeyer, a City of Denver surplus manager. “It is super interesting. You gotta be a curious individual for this job.”
Every day in a warehouse in an undisclosed location, Deutmeyer leads a six-person city crew that organizes and categorizes common and sometimes unusual items that people lose on city property. If the items have value and are unclaimed after 30 days, they’re sold on an online auction site.
Between January and May of this year, the city has sold more than 6,000 lost items, resulting in about $485,000 that will go into the city’s general fund.
“We don’t have the space, we don’t have the time," Deutmeyer said. "Stuff is coming in all the time, so we are moving it."
His crew also handles and sells surplus items, such as old office furniture and exercise equipment from recreation centers. The city anticipates making about $7 million from surplus and lost and found items sold at auction this year.
Inside Denver’s secret lost and found warehouse
9NEWS reviewed databases of lost items handled by the city, and there are some unusual and expensive items that stick out:
- Rolex watches
- Megalodon teeth
- Engagement rings
- Diamond rings
- Virtual reality sets such as Oculus
- Gaming systems including Nintendo GameBoys and Nintendo Switches
- iPhones, iPods, iWatches and AirPods
- Canes and crutches
- Vinyl record collections
- Vintage comics
- A snowmobile
- Human remains (urns and ashes)
Denver International Airport (DIA) generates the vast majority of lost and found items, contributing about 2,500 items to the warehouse every week. Deutmeyer said most of the lost items are clothing; however, high-dollar value items like watches, rings and other jewelry often come into the warehouse.
“Rolexes are almost impossible to authenticate because the fakes are just as good as the real ones," Deutmeyer said. "I’m cautious and I’m careful, but it’s hard to be an expert because you don’t know what’s going to come in next.”
So many items are lost every day at DIA that Nora Aguirre works full time on the first floor in the lost and found office to take in and give back items.
“Believe it or not, one time we did receive two small puppies," Aguirre said. "They were found in the garage, and they were brought down to lost and found. We weren’t sure what to do with them, so we handed them to animal control.”
Some of the most commonly lost items at DIA are iPhones, passports, IDs and AirPods, Aguirre said.
A database of lost items shows 536 AirPods were found and sold by the city within a five-month period.
Larger items, such as microwaves and coffeemakers, have also been turned into DIA’s lost and found.
“I’ve learned to label all of my bags," Aguirre said. "Put a name tag on everything because, trust me, it helps."
For Deutmeyer and his crew, keeping up with the latest gadgets and popular items that can be sold is often a challenge.
“We use Google all the time to figure out what the thing is, to figure out what its value is and if we can even sell it,” Deutmeyer said.
While every single item 9NEWS looked at has been lost, there are often success stories of people being reconnected with their possessions that ended up in the city’s care.
If someone files a claim with DIA, the airport will actually ship out lost items internationally if they’re found.
“You even get tears sometimes," Aguirre said. "They’re just so happy that we have their items here because people start crying because they’re so grateful."
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