jewelry boxReaders of this column will know that I am a strong advocate of hiding your jewelry somewhere unobtrusive (yes, even the items you wear frequently), but one aspect of this advice which I may not have been emphatic enough about is that you need to tell someone (who you trust implicitly) the location of your stash. If you suddenly become ill or in some way incapacitated, this may be of utmost importance. The best way I can explain this is with the following story, told to me by an old friend (a now-retired mechanic) who used to do “side jobs” for his favorite customers.

He and his son had been employed to assist with the logistics of disposing of the contents of a house that had belonged to two spinster sisters who had died only weeks apart from each other. Their older brother, who was described to me as being a gentleman in his late 80’s, was taking care of the details, and had been supervising the operation. When he asked if there was anything that remained that my friend might have use for (since what was left was destined for the dumpster anyway), my friend said that he might like to have an old utilitarian-looking bookcase that stood near a corner of a room, now stripped of it’s contents. The old gentleman invited my friend to take it if he wished to do so, but when my friend and his son began to lift it to carry it out, they were surprised at it’s relatively heavy weight. As they slowly moved across the room with it, the old fellow, who was seated in the single chair that still remained, observed their efforts, and just as they reached the door, he cried out “Stop! Please set that down for a moment!” He then rose, looked at my friend and his son, and wondered aloud why they should be having such a hard time moving an empty bookcase. Then, using the end of his cane as a probe, he proceeded to give each of the sides of the bookcase a good solid thunk. He did the same to the back, then the sides again, noting the difference in the sounds generated when the different surfaces were hit.

Joe Brandt

Joe Brandt

“Do you think that we could get the back off of this thing?” he asked. A large screwdriver was located, and the well-worn screws holding two plywood sheets were removed, revealing a series of horizontal slats held in place by a double-track system which allowed for the removal of one slat at a time. With the top slat removed, it was evident that there was a second back to the bookcase, with a small gap between it and the slats. After about half slats had been removed, what was revealed was row after row after row of gold coins! After everyone managed to catch their breath, the senior member of the trio volunteered that a mystery had now been solved; it was unknown what the sisters had done with a substantial portion of their inheritance, since they had lived modestly, and the only funds anyone could locate were in a checking account containing less than ten thousand dollars.

Of course, this sounds for all the world like an urban legend, but I can assure you that this was told to me as a first hand observation. If you have found a clever place to stash your jewelry or valuables (which you most certainly should be in the habit of doing), you need to tell someone you trust about it.


Joe Brandt is a local resident, and President of J.L. Brandt Company, offering diversified fine jewelry advisory services to the general public since 1928. Readers are invited to submit questions or comments to [email protected]. Names or contact information will not be used for publication, and all inquiries will be answered promptly.