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CFO Sink: Florida’s Unclaimed Property Auction Raises Record Funds for Florida’s Public Schools

8/7/2007

CONTACT:  Tara Klimek or Brannon Jordan
(850) 413-2842 

Auction shatters attendance record and raises over $800,000 for education
TALLAHASSEE– Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced today the Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property (Bureau) broke previous unclaimed property auction records at Saturday’s auction in Orlando, raising more money than previous auctions and breaking last year’s attendance record.
 
“I am thankful to the Floridians who bid on the wonderful items up for auction and the members of our Bureau who worked so hard to make this event a success,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Bureau.  “Not only did we raise a record-breaking $800,000 for Florida school children, we also raised awareness about the Bureau’s mission of reuniting Floridians with their unclaimed property.”
 
During Saturday’s auction, the Bureau raised over $817,000 for the State School Trust Fund from the selling of 534 lots, or groups, of items.  The top selling item was a 3.3 ct. pear-shaped diamond that sold for $22,000, $12,500 over the reserve price.  The highest-percentage performing lot contained a Royal belt buckle and spurs believed to be from the last Empress of France, Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III.  It sold for $5,000, compared to the reserve price of $400.
 
Among the other top selling items at Saturday’s auction were autographed Hank Aaron and Don Larsen baseballs that sold for $450, an un-circulated 1896 $1 silver certificate that sold for $3,100, a 1934 $500 bill that sold for $2,800, a five ct. blue-green diamond that sold for $14,000, and a 17 ct. natural sapphire ring that sold for $10,700.  The auction had approximately 450 registered bidders—a record number—with bidders from 15 states and one from the United Kingdom.
 
The public interest in the auction also led thousands of Floridians to the Unclaimed Property Web site, www.fltreasurehunt.org, to see if the state was holding their assets.  While on a typical day, the Bureau’s Web site receives approximately 4,000 visitors, more than 48,800 Floridians visited the site the day before the auction (August 3, 2007).  In the first four days of August, the Bureau received claims from approximately 30,000 Floridians for over $13 million in unclaimed property.
 
Floridians are encouraged to search not only for their own names, but also for the names of their family members and ancestors.  Many of the accounts held by the state are in the name of deceased relatives, and it can be difficult for the state to locate the heirs of these accounts.
 
The Bureau receives items that have been abandoned in safe deposit boxes for at least three years and spends up to two years searching for the rightful owners or heirs.  The Bureau has had tremendous success in finding owners.  In the past year alone, the Bureau returned a record 255,000 accounts valued at more than $171 million.  But when owners or heirs cannot be found, the items are auctioned.  While the proceeds from the auctioned items are transferred to the state's Public School Trust Fund, the money is held in the original owners' name and can be claimed for free at any time.
 
Since the program's inception 46 years ago, the Bureau has successfully reunited owners with more than $1 billion in unclaimed property.  Over the past five years, the program has returned more than $546 million-- more than half of all the money returned since the beginning of the program-- due largely to aggressive efforts by the program to contact owners.
 
The Bureau is currently holding 7.8 million accounts, mostly from dormant accounts in financial institutions, unclaimed utility deposits, insurance benefits, premium refunds, uncashed checks and trust accounts, as well as watches, jewelry, coins, stamps and historical items from abandoned safe deposit boxes.
 
Unclaimed property can be claimed for free at any time by the rightful owners or heirs by logging on to www.flreasurehunt.org or by calling the Bureau at 1-88-VALUABLE.  Until claimed, the unclaimed funds are transferred to the state’s School Trust Fund to benefit public schools.  Since the program’s inception in 1961, more than $1.5 billion has been transferred to the fund. 
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink  oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.