CFO Sink: Florida’s Unclaimed Property Auction Raises Record Funds for Florida’s Public Schools
Tara Klimek or Jerri Franz
Auction draws hundreds and raises more than $925,000 for education
TALLAHASSEE– Bidders from around the nation descended on Tampa Bay last Saturday to find lost treasure at Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink’s annual Unclaimed Property Auction. Coordinated by CFO Sink’s Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property (Bureau), the auction shattered previous auction records by raising $925,550 for Florida’s public schools — a $108,000 increase over last year.
“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 $925,550 for Florida school children, we also raised awareness about our mission of reuniting Floridians with their unclaimed property.”
The Bureau’s first priority is to reunite Floridians with their lost property. Every year, the Bureau receives millions in assets and abandoned contents of safe deposit boxes, and has had tremendous success in finding owners. During Sink’s tenure as CFO, more than $322 million has been returned to the rightful owners (or heirs) of 496,374 accounts.
The Bureau spends up to two years searching for the rightful owners or heirs after receiving items in safe deposit boxes that have been abandoned at least three years. When owners or heirs cannot be found, the items are auctioned. While the proceeds from the auctioned items are transferred to the State School Trust Fund, the money is held in the original owners' name and can be claimed for free at any time.
More than 400 lots were sold during Saturday’s auction, with the proceeds going to the State School Trust Fund. The top selling item was a pair of platinum and gold earrings, each bearing a 3 carat European cut diamond, which sold for $18,000. Other top selling items included:
• a 100-ounce bar of .999 fine silver, which sold for $1,800;
• a collection of 13 gold coins, 1915 Austrian restrike (100 Coronas), which sold for $11,000;
• a bow-shaped platinum and yellow gold brooch with 393 diamonds and 93 sparkling rubies, which sold for $16,000; and
• a vintage collection of 1905 bronze opera glasses, 1921 Morgan dollar keychain and Cartier lighter, which sold for $950.
Floridians are encouraged to search the Unclaimed Property Web site at www.FLTreasureHunt.org
for their own names and 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.
Floridians can also contact the Bureau at 1-88-VALUABLE.
Unclaimed property may always be claimed free of charge.
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. Since the program's inception 47 years ago, the Bureau has successfully reunited owners with more than $1.2 billion in unclaimed property. During the past five years, the program has returned more than $697 million, more than 60 percent of all the money returned since the beginning of the program – due largely to aggressive efforts by the program to contact owners.
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.