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Poor Old Man Spends His Last $60 on a Rusty Old Box at Auction and It Makes Him a Millionaire — Story of the Day

Sonali Bharadwaj
Apr 19, 2022
12:00 P.M.
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A poor old man's life goes from rags to riches after he uses his last $60 to buy an old rusty box at a yard sale and learns something shocking about it.

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When millionaire Jonathan Nicholson answered the door one afternoon, he never expected his world would come crashing down around him. On his doorstep were two men dressed in US Army uniforms carrying a letter and a folded flag.

Even before they spoke, Mr. Nicholson knew that his son Oscar was never coming back. The letter soon confirmed this, saying he had sacrificed his life trying to save his comrade, which was an act of great valor for a soldier, but its repercussions were unbearable for Mr. Nicholson.

The rusty old box changed the old man's life. | Source: Shutterstock

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Mr. Nicholson was devastated and wept his heart out for his only child. One of the soldiers knelt in front of him, pulled out a portrait from his bag, and handed it to him.

"Oscar was one of the brightest cadets we had," he revealed, tears welling up in his eyes. "He sacrificed his life for me. I know I can't take away your pain, but I hope this gives you some strength."

When Mr. Nicholson looked at the portrait, he felt as if God was punishing him. It was a beautiful image of Oscar smiling brightly amidst the glass and wooden frame, but a painful reminder that he would never see that smile again, never be able to hug his son or be with him again.

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Mr. Nicholson proudly hung Oscar's portrait in his art gallery which he and Oscar had built together, traveling across countries and gathering the most beautiful pieces from around the world. At the highest point on his wall, far above the other paintings by some of the world's most celebrated artists, was his son's portrait. 

Every time he looked at Oscar's portrait, it brought a burning ache to his heart, reminding him of how his sweet little boy had died before him. How could God be so cruel as to take his son away? He was the one who should have died, not Oscar.

Oscar sacrificed his life for his comrade. | Source: Pexels

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Unfortunately, Mr. Nicholson couldn't bear the agony of losing his son for long, and six months later, he joined Oscar in heaven.

After his death, his secretary, Mr. Ratliff, approached numerous newspapers, as per Mr. Nicolson's dying wish that his art collections be sold at a yard sale in an auctionary fashion, with a twist that only he and Mr. Ratliff knew about. Mr. Nicholson wanted to pass on his heartfelt collection of paintings he shared with his beloved son to someone who would respect and cherish it for the rest of their lives.

Three days later, distinguished and affluent families and business people arrived at the yard sale where Mr. Ratliff eagerly awaited the most deserving bidder who would bid for the true value of Mr. Nicholson's collection.

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Clearing his throat, he began the bidding. "Good morning, gentlemen and ladies," he said. "First and foremost, I'd like to thank you all for taking time out of your hectic schedules to participate in today's auction.

"As we all know, Mr. Nicholson proudly claimed himself as more of a gallerist than a businessman, and he and his son Oscar had built this collection after several years of touring across different countries. So ladies and gentlemen, it gives me immense pleasure to present to you the most valuable item for today's stage."

With that, Mr. Ratliff brought out an ancient tin box onto the stage. It was dusty and had rusty locks at the front and black tinges around.

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Everyone was looking forward to the paintings. | Source: Pexels

Suddenly, there was a pin drop silence, followed by a voice. "We're here to invest money, not throw it away on a piece of garbage! Stop the rubbish and put the artwork on exhibit!"

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Mr. Ratliff smiled wryly and remarked, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of Mr. Nicholson's most prized possessions. It's true that it's not made by a well-known artist, but I guarantee you that its contents are far greater than the combined estimations of the paintings."

A man in the front row laughed. "Of course! And I'm the President of the United States of America!" he quipped loudly.

Everyone in the room burst out laughing, but Mr. Ratliff stood there with a pleasant grin. "I'm not sure whether it has anything to do with why we've gathered here, sir, but I am certain that this box is the most valuable item in this auction. So let's get the bidding started. $100 for the old box. Anyone? $100—" 

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"Look, sir," said a man as he rose from his chair. "No one's going to buy it. So cut the chase and bring in the paintings! I left a crucial meeting with prospective investors to be here, and I can't afford to miss another, which begins in an hour! So let's get on with the major pieces!"

People were disappointed at the rusty old box. | Source: Pexels

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"Well, then, sir," Mr. Ratliff answered, looking at the anxious young man, "I apologize but I'm afraid I won't be much assistance until the box finds a new owner. So please calm down and refrain from interrupting me again."

Irritated, the young man stormed out of the yard sale. Mr. Ratliff, though, was unconcerned. "Where was I? Yes, $100 for the old box," he continued. "Do we have a bid here?" 

The entire room was deafeningly quiet since no one wanted to bet even a dime on it, but soon, a voice cut Mr. Ratliff off. "$60," it said. "That's all I've got, but I'm willing to buy the box."

Everyone turned around to see an old man dressed in rags standing at the door, his hand outstretched in the air, clutching a few crumpled dollar bills. "I'm sorry I'm offering a much lesser price than the opening bid," he explained, "but that's all a poor man like me can offer. My granddaughter and I have the last $60 I could live on, but I'm willing to give it up."

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Mr. Ratliff lowered his glasses and looked at the man with a satisfied grin. "Of course! That would do, sir. So do we have a bid for more than $60?"

Not even one person was interested in bidding for the old box. | Source: Pixabay

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Everyone was dead silent. Nobody wanted to touch the box, and several questioned why there was even a need to solicit additional bids when someone was already prepared to buy the "useless" box. But Mr. Ratliff proceeded with the auction in accordance with the rules.

"How about $70, ladies and gentlemen? Anyone?"

There was another moment of stillness.

"OK, then," he sighed. "Sixty dollars once, sixty dollars twice, sixty dollars thrice, and SOLD!" 

Mr. Ratliff pulled a couple of sheets of paper from his pocket and asked for the poor man's name. "Could I please have your kind name, sir?"

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"Talon - Talon McGowan," replied the poor man.

"Thank you," said Mr. Ratliff. "So ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Talon McGowan now owns the rusty box. And with that, I'd like to say..."

"For God's sake, go forward with the collection!" a woman yelled, interrupting the man. 

Mr. Ratliff grinned and set the hammer down on the podium. "That concludes the auction, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for taking the time to come here today."

A poor old man named Talon bought the box. | Source: Pexels

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After a stunned silence of incomprehension, the entire audience went into an uproar, accusing Mr. Ratliff of spreading false information.

"Your advertisements were nothing but forgeries! You shouldn't have approached the media if you didn't have any paintings to sell!" a man who owned a reputable media agency said. "I'll make certain your image is tainted everywhere! Just sit tight and wait!"

Mr. Ratliff cleared his throat and said, "I never indicated that the paintings are not for sale. They are now Mr. McGowan's possession because, according to Mr. Nicholson's will, all of his property and assets will be passed on to the person who buys the old box - and believe me, it is not just any other box. Mr. Nicholson's father was a bread vendor. He traveled throughout his village selling bread to support Mr. Nicholson as a child."

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Everyone in the audience was taken aback, and Mr. Ratliff invited Talon to the stage. "The collection costs $3.5 million in total, Mr. McGowan," he stated. "And all of Mr. Nicholson's other estates will be yours as well. You and your granddaughter will no longer have to suffer..."

Talon couldn't believe what he was hearing. He started to cry and couldn't stop. "I - I don't know what to say," he said trembling. "I just came here because it was too cold for me outside. But I soon realized I wouldn't be allowed in if I didn't prove myself worthy of being among these rich people, so I just offered whatever I had for the bid … Can - Can I ask you for a small favor?"

Mr. Ratliff rested a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Sure, sir."

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"I'm in desperate need of money. Could I please use some of what I own?"

Mr. Ratliff found a deserving owner for Mr. Nicholson's paintings. | Source: Pexels

Mr. Ratliff laughed at Talon's innocence. "Of course, sir. But may I ask the purpose of it?"

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"My granddaughter needs surgery, sir. She has been admitted to the hospital. She was found to have a brain tumor. I'll take you to the hospital. I'm not making this up. Please don't misinterpret me as a greedy man. I simply want some money to assist my granddaughter. Her parents died in a car accident when she was a newborn, so I raised her all by myself."

Mr. Ratliff smiled. "I believe you, Mr. McGowan. And all this money is, after all, yours. So you can use it whenever and however you want."

Talon fell into tears. "Thank you for helping a poor man like me, sir. Thank you!"

"Well, Mr. McGowan, after meeting you, I can rest assured that Mr. Nicholson would be relieved that his possessions went in the right hands," Mr. Ratliiff said with a smile. "Good luck!"

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Talon was beyond grateful to God. He used some of the money he received from Mr. Nicholson's inheritance to pay for his granddaughter's treatment, but he couldn't bring himself to sell the paintings after learning how Mr. Nicholson and his son had built the entire collection together. 

Talon reasoned that it was a representation of a father and son's love, so instead of selling the paintings for his own use, he founded a gallery named after Mr. Nicolson and Oscar. 

Talon founded a gallery featuring the Nicholsons' collection. | Source: Unsplash

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Every year, visitors from all over the world would visit the gallery, not just to admire the paintings, but to shed tears of happiness and pride for Oscar's act of bravery in saving a comrade's life and for Mr. Nicholson's love for his son. Mr. McGowan made sure everyone knew about it. 

What can we learn from this story?

  • Things like family and love are far more important than material possessions like money. Mr. Nicholson's most valued possession was his son Oscar, and he put up his portrait at the highest position in his gallery, high above the million-dollar paintings of the world's most renowned artists.
  • When we lose something, we always get something in return; sometimes, what we get in return is more important. Talon gave up his last dollar for the rusty old box, but he became a millionaire in return! He not only lived a comfortable life after that with his granddaughter, but he was also able to share the emotional story of a son and father's love with the entire world.
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