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tv   Lou Dobbs Tonight  FOX Business  March 8, 2016 11:00pm-12:01am EST

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it could be historic. we got you covered. other business networks are reruns of reruns right now,o wa we will keep you posted to the bottom of the screen, everything you need to knowthe on fox business. mother begins a correspondence with the future president. >> i was actually shocked when i saw what the letters detailed. >> the letters are tucked away for years. >> these documents could be of significant historical value, and they could also be worth a lot of money. >> this is one of those treasures that surfaces that nobody knew existed. >> a treasure, all right, if they can prove they're real. >> the signatures looked authentic. >> looked authentic. and this is a real signature? >> that's a real jfk signature. >> you're 100% sure? >> will bidders open their wallets? >> looking for $100,000. bid $100,000. looking for $100,000. yes, now $110,000.
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$110,000, now $120,000. [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] >> i'm jamie colby, and today i'm on my way to fall river, massachusetts, about an hour south of boston. i'm going to meet a man who's strange inheritance begins with his family's powerful connection to a future president. >> i'm dennis harkins. our mother passed in 1990. she left us with correspondence regarding our uncle harold who was lost in the south pacific during world war ii. >> dennis. i'm jamie. >> pleased to meet you. >> what is this place? >> this has to do with our inheritance. >> these ships. >> mm-hmm. yes. >> let's check it out. the battleship cove museum here in fall river has two of the last remaining pt boats from world war ii.
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dennis' uncle harold, who served on a pt boat, joined the navy in november 1941. >> he was the impish, typical younger brother. i think it was probably exciting for him. >> then, a month later, pearl harbor. [ explosions ] with the u.s. at war, harold is shipped to the south pacific. he puts in a request to join a pt boat crew. "pt" is navy lingo for "patrol torpedo." in addition to torpedos, the 80-foot boats were armed with twin machine-gun turrets, including one just to the right of the captain's helm. >> they could lay low in the water, wait for the enemy ships to pass, and then attack them with the torpedos. >> the museum's pt boat curator, don shannon, shows me around. wow. tight quarters.
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why are they called the mosquito fleet? >> mosquitos could infect you with malaria. so, they were deadly, and they were small and fast. >> by the summer of 1943, harold is stationed aboard a pt boat, like this one, near the solomon islands. harold's captain -- 26-year-old navy lieutenant junior grade john f. kennedy. so, don, this is where john f. kennedy, lieutenant junior grade, controlled the ship from. >> correct. >> right here. can barely see over. and they operated in the dark of night? >> yes. >> four feet away is where harold was operating that turret. this really puts it in perspective. >> the idea was to go out and attack the destroyers and sink them. >> but no radar. >> the 109 did not have radar. so, you know, try driving down the highway at night with your headlights off. >> on one such night -- august 1st, 1943 -- out of the
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darkness comes the amagiri, a japanese destroyer traveling at 40 knots. 19-year-old harold marney is stationed in that gun turret. >> harold gave the alarm, "ship at 2:00." >> the amagiri slices right through pt-109. >> and right here, where you're standing, this wing tank actually exploded. >> it's hard to imagine anyone could have survived. >> things happened so fast. he probably got sucked into the wake of the ship. >> harold and a second sailor, andrew kirksey, didn't have a chance. the surviving sailors swim to a small string of islands and take refuge until they're rescued six days later. distraught over the loss of his men, lieutenant kennedy writes to harold's mother, jenny marney. what did jfk tell her? >> "dear mrs. marney, this letter is to offer my deepest sympathy for the loss of
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your son." >> kennedy goes on to write, "i realize that there is nothing i can say can make your sorrow less. harold had come on board my boat a week before to serve as an engineer. he fitted in quickly and was very well-liked." jenny writes back to kennedy right away, thanking him for his letter and asking if it's somehow possible that her son harold could still be alive. kennedy responds, "when the crew was finally united around the floating bow, we could find no trace of him, although every effort was made to find him. i am terribly sorry that i cannot be of more help or encouragement to you." >> my grandmother jenny, who we called mum, was from amherst, nova scotia. she was very english. she was very proper. >> and she feels she's made a friend. in early 1944, mum learns that kennedy will be back in boston to get treated for the back injuries he sustained on pt-109.
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she goes to visit him in the hospital. you don't just get in to see jack kennedy. >> no. no. no, you don't. [ chuckles ] >> but somehow, she does, more than once. >> what they talked about, god only knows, but i'm sure they talked about harold. they probably talked about his brother joe. >> jfk's older brother joe was a naval aviator. when he's killed in a top-secret mission over england, jenny sends her own letter of condolence. jfk writes back. it says, "i want you to know how much i appreciated your card." standard "thank you" note. but he goes on to say, "i know you know how we all feel. boys like harold and my brother joe can never be replaced." incredible. and he says, "i hope that i shall see you sometime again." >> yes. >> in 1946, kennedy is elected to congress. six years later, to the senate. and in november 1960, kennedy
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wins the white house, narrowly defeating vice president richard nixon. >> the torch has been passed to a new generation of americans born in this century. >> just three months after taking office, in april 1961, kennedy writes to mum again. he sends her a photo of a memorial wall at the manila american cemetery in the philippines that's inscribed with harold's name. kennedy closes his letter saying, "if ever you are in the nation's capital, i would like very much to have the white house and other public places here shown to you." then comes that awful day in november 1963. [ gunshot ] >> president kennedy was shot today, just as his motorcade left downtown dallas. >> it's the end of the white house camelot years and the end of mum's relationship with the most powerful man in the world.
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jenny marney dies in 1973 and bequeaths her carefully preserved letters from kennedy to her daughter, dennis' mother, elaine. elaine gives the letters to her son in 1985, just five years before she dies. >> when i first looked at them, it was, "oh, wow." and promptly put them in a safe deposit box. >> there they remain for the next quarter century. but a surprise phone call from s family's interest in their unique inheritance. >> i got on the phone and left this very strange message. "are you the nephew of pt-109 crew member harold w. marney?" >> that's next. >> but first, our "strange inheritance" quiz question. what's the most expensive piece of presidential memorabilia ever sold at auction? is it washington's personally
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of the constitution. it sold for nearly $10 million in 2012. >> for years, jenny marney corresponds with john f. kennedy after her son harold was killed on the pt boat jfk commanded. they remain friends until jfk's assassination in 1963. neither dennis harkins nor francis piorek, who are half-brothers, ever met their uncle harold. >> what i heard about my uncle was really just whispers and stuff. "oh, you know, uncle harold was on pt-109, and john f. kennedy was the commander." >> but when francis grows up, he catches the genealogy bug and starts posting messages online. i came to the realization that, geez, i didn't really know much about my family. and my uncle was kind of semi-famous. >> francis says he's looking for any unknown relatives of harold marney. his message goes unnoticed until 2013, when brian willette, the
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junior vice commander of a vfw post, petitions to place a headstone for marney in a veterans' cemetery near springfield, massachusetts. >> i could not find him anywhere honored, and not even in springfield. and he was from east springfield. >> brian comes across francis' post from way back in 2001. >> i got on the phone and left this very strange message. "are you the nephew of pt-109 crew member harold w. marney?" >> it was quite shocking to get a call out of the blue. >> in august 2013, that gravestone for uncle harold is placed at the veterans' cemetery. it gets dennis thinking about those four jfk letters written to his grandmother that he's been holding on to for 25 years. isn't time he did something with them? but then comes another kind of reckoning for dennis and francis. their brother john dies of
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diabetes at the age of 57. >> it kind of makes you start to think about what do you want to do with the rest of your life, 'cause his death was unexpected. >> they retrieve the letters, which francis has never seen. >> and i was actually shocked when i saw what the letters actually detailed. >> why now? >> the driving thing was the loss of our brother john. >> yeah. >> it was like a wake-up, you know, 'cause i know i'm not getting any younger. these documents could be of significant historical value. and they could also be worth a lot of money. >> you had a big decision to make. >> mm-hmm. >> yeah. >> i just kind of thought they were worth something. um... >> give me a number. what did you think? >> $30,000, $40,000, perhaps. >> dennis didn't pull that number out of a hat. the son of andrew kirksey, the other sailor who died aboard pt-109, sold his grandmother's letter from kennedy. that single letter went for $9,500.
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>> we had four. was one worth $9,500 or was it worth $20,000? i mean, we have no idea. >> but dennis and francis are about to learn that authenticating jfk documents for auction is a lot more complicated than they imagined. >> one of the most important things you need to know if you're ever gonna buy a john f. kennedy letter is he's one of the most forged autographs there is. >> is a jfk signature easy or difficult to spot a fake? >> jfk is perhaps the most difficult. >> that's next on "strange inheritance." >> here's another quiz question for you. babe ruth is the most forged autograph of all time. what's the most forged outside the sports world? is it neil armstrong, marilyn monroe, or elvis presley? the answer in a moment.
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>> so, what's the most forged signature outside the sports world? it's "c," elvis presley. that's according to psa/dna authentication services. >> for 25 years, dennis harkins keeps an old family heirloom stored away in a safety deposit box -- four letters written to his grandmother, jenny marney, from john f. kennedy, three written by hand before kennedy became president and a fourth typewritten on white house stationery. in 2013, dennis and his brother francis decide it's time to sell. enter bobby livingston of rr auction. he knows anything associated with jfk can fetch big bucks. >> kennedy's a very important figure in american history,
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thus collectible. people really related to the kennedy family, and pairs of jacqueline kennedy's shoes sell for $30,000. >> according to livingston, the brothers' jfk letters hold their own unique value. and the reason goes back to that fateful pt-109 mission. >> there are no other letters that we know of from john f. kennedy where he gives his personal account of what happened that night. when someone walks in with john f. kennedy letters, letters that no one has ever seen and never read, we get excited. >> but many a collector has been burned after plunking down a fortune for a newly-discovered document that turns out to be a fake. jfk is ranked by memorabilia dealers as the fourth most-forged non-sports signature on the market after elvis, the beatles, and neil armstrong. so, how does a handwriting authenticator gives his stamp of approval on these letters?
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is a jfk signature easy or difficult to spot a fake? >> jfk is perhaps the most difficult. 80% of the process is "does the signature and handwriting match known exemplars?" jfk's handwriting changed so much there was an entire book done in the 1960s just on kennedy's handwriting. >> why would he change his signature? >> his personality changed and his signature changed. and it changed more dramatically than any other president and pretty much most famous people. >> the brothers know the handwritten letters to their grandmother, going back to 1943, must be real. but bob eaton can't just take their word for it. he compares them to a known jfk letter. show me. >> i've got a letter from 1940, which is three years prior.
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and the similarities -- he always had a tendency, even later in life, when he made a "t," he would continue. it wouldn't be a short little "t." he also would break words up. >> bob confirms the letters to jenny marney also have jfk's unique "t." but how do you authenticate the one from the white house? the president can't sign every letter by hand. what about that one? how do you tell it's not a secretary? >> most of kennedy's letters from that time period were secretarials and autopens. but he had a bond with this family. >> and this is a real signature? >> that's a real jfk signature. >> you're 100% sure? >> i am 100% -- 110% sure. >> so, how much are they worth? >> we've never seen anything like it from kennedy, so we estimate it to be worth $50,000 or more. >> wow. [ chuckles ] that's a little more than i had thought. >> of course, anything could
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happen at auction. >> was your heart palpitating? >> just about out of my chest. >> this is our remarkable rarities auction. >> that's next.
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>> now back to "strange inheritance." >> for 25 years, dennis harkins has kept his strange inheritance locked away in a safety deposit box -- these four letters written to his grandmother by john f. kennedy after her son harold was killed on pt-109. it's september 18th, 2014, in boston. dennis and his brother francis are ready to sell. a hotel while hundreds more are bidding by phone and online. >> let's start now. this is our remarkable rarities auction. >> we started getting a little
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excited, maybe some butterflies as to what is this going to do. >> all right. >> here we go. >> here we go. >> it's a great lot right here. john f. kennedy, pt-109 letters. one-of-a-kind archive of kennedy's letters to the family of his lost crew mate. >> i got $22,000. >> all right. we're starting with a $22,000 bid on the internet. now $23,000. >> remember, the preliminary estimate for all four of dennis and francis' jfk letters was $50k. >> $45,000 on the phone now. $47,500. $55,000, now $60,000. >> they had the auction people there, and they're hoop-dee-doing and hollering and pushing. >> $90,000. $95,000. looking for $100,000. bid $100,000. looking for $100,000. yes. now $110,000. $110,000. now $120,000. $130,000. >> holy cow. >> wow. >> looking for $130,000 now. $140,000? >> but d't hmer e gal o so. e biing'not er. $14000.ow $0,00
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50,0. 60,0 is e hi bidn the phone. looking for $170,000. and we'll say fair warning. >> then the final call. >> and this is sold -- $160,000... >> wow. >> ...on the phone. >> wow. >> that's three times more than the brothers had originally hoped for. >> i'm flabbergasted, 'cause it just was amazing to watch it unfold. >> i would hope that the successful bidder enjoys them. perhaps they'll put them in a museum. >> a young man makes the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. that legacy, he left for all of us. the letters his commanding officer and future president writes help lighten his mother's grief and, decades later, become family he never knew -- a strange inheritance indeed.
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how hard to part with them? >> it was hard, but it was time. like your old jalopy pickup truck. it's -- you love it, but it's just time to let it go. think it's become time in life to move on. >> dennis' mum always relished her special relationship with john f. kennedy, and she wasn't shy about calling in a favor, even in her later years. family legend has it that when mum retired to connecticut and had trouble receiving her social security benefits, she turned to her friend, now president kennedy, for help. when letters on white house stationery arrived at the local social security office, officials there jumped to fix the problem. and from then on, mum always got her checks on time. i'm jamie colby for "strange inheritance." thanks so much for watching. and remember -- you can't take it with you. do you have a "strange inheritance" story
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you'd like to share with us? we'd love to hear it. send me an e-mail or go to our website -- strangeinheritance.com. >> an ancestor they knew nothing about... >> i went through 50-some-odd years of my life and had no clue. >> an inheritance they can hardly believe... >> what was your reaction as you opened those first boxes? >> it was mind-blowing. >> why does andrew green have george washington's will? >> bare-knuckle politics, cold-blooded murder, a legacy all but snuffed out... >> this was a cloud of suspicion of having lived a double life. >> what did they do? >> what are the chances that those boxes would've just been trashed? >> very good chance of that. >> what would you do? >> well, it drove me crazy. >> how 'bout 6,000? >> and what's it all worth? >> you think you'll ever get another auction with a story like this? >> no, i kinda doubt it. [ door creaks ]
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[ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] >> i'm jamie colby. and today, i'm in kennebunkport, maine. it's renowned as the bush family's summer haven and also for its succulent lobster. but this story has a cast of characters that are up and down the atlantic seaboard. the heirs, they live here, a reclusive aunt from massachusetts and their gilded age ancestor once dubbed "the father of greater new york." >> i'm john green. >> and i'm lisa green buchanan. >> i think it's fair to say that our aunt julie was a hoarder. and when she died in 2009, she left us a mountain of stuff to sort through. >> oh, what a great house! >> thank you! welcome to kennebunkport! i got a story... >> john and his sister lisa belong to a new england family whose history goes back
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to mayflower days but whose legacy had been largely forgotten. in 2005, that reclusive aunt i mentioned, julie green, is diagnosed with cancer, and john moves her from the boston area into a condo up here in maine, where the siblings can help care for her. it's a big job to be a caregiver. >> i never thought of it that way. she had nobody else. >> what was she like? >> she was single and independent. >> never married? >> no. >> no children? >> she did not want children. >> nor does aunt julie want anyone to get rid of all her stuff. >> even when we moved everything out of that house, we had a dumpster put in there, and she would guard the dumpster. she would make sure we wouldn't throw anything out. >> so the basement of julie's condo gets overwhelmed with stacks of boxes of books and who knows what else. john, what are the chances that, if you and your sister didn't care for aunt julie, that those boxes
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would've just been trashed? >> very good chance of that. >> in her last years, the tight-lipped aunt julie does drop references to their ancestor she says accumulated much of it all. >> the only thing she would say is uncle andrew this, uncle andrew that. we'd tease her that she was living in the past. you know, you're talking about all these people that aren't here anymore, and little did we know why. >> aunt julie dies in 2009 at the age of 73. >> everything was left to my sister and myself. when we started opening boxes, we still didn't know exactly what we had at that time. >> first, they have to separate the wheat from the chaff. and there's plenty of chaff -- decades of old knickknacks, newspapers, mail, and clothing. how many boxes are we talking about? >> hundreds. >> among the boxes, lisa discovers this book which gives them a clue of what's to come. it's a family journal
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going back to the 19th century. this is so cool! this is a caricature of andrew green, known as the father of greater new york. i'm from new york. i've never heard of him. did you know much about him before? >> no, we didn't. >> that's when i started to go down the rabbit hole. they learned that this guy, their great-great-great-uncle andrew green, was born in 1820 in an area known as green hill in worcester, massachusetts. >> he had 10 brothers and sisters. his father was a lawyer. they were well-off but not rich. >> 300 miles south of kennebunkport here in manhattan, historian mike miscione has pieced together the story of lisa and john's ancestor and how he left his mark here in the big apple. and while there's no skyscraper, highway, or airport named after him, it turns out there really ought to be. >> he was largely responsible for creating the institutions
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that transformed new york into a world-class city. >> mike explains that, as a teenager, andrew green left massachusetts and moved to new york city. >> he worked as a clerk at a dry-goods operation, and, eventually, he decided to settle upon a career of law and came into contact with a up-and-coming lawyer >> tilden is making a fortune representing railroads. he's also becoming a big shot in new york politics. >> green's dealings with tilden brought him into democratic political circles. and soon, he was involved in new york city civic affairs. >> green becomes tilden's law partner and begins making a hefty salary. instead of marriage and children, he's devoted to work. but when tough times befall his family up in massachusetts, andrew returns temporarily to worcester to take charge. >> he was able to not just
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get the estate out of debt but make it prosper, as well. he became the patriarch of his family for the remainder of his life. >> great shot. is that the house? andrew figures the family home could use some extra rooms, 42 to be exact. one of those rooms is a museum showing off artifacts from the green family's history. >> there was a museum in the home for the family, not for the public. >> and how do you know that? >> this book is the story of the family and green hill. >> can i look? >> sure. >> so this is the story of the home 1754 to 1905. that's a lot of family history. >> mm-hmm. >> andrew's ready to make history himself back in new york by shaping it into a world-class metropolis. among other jobs, he heads the commission that creates central park. >> central park,
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the metropolitan museum of art, the american museum of natural history. green would be largely responsible for creating the bronx zoo, the new york public library. >> there's very little green doesn't touch during new york's gilded age. in 1871, when city coffers are almost bankrupt, he becomes the city's comptroller. >> andrew green needed to be escorted by a ring of mounted policemen as he was approaching the comptroller's office on his first day of work. and this was a blood sport in this era. >> green exposes the shenanigans of new york's corrupt democratic machine, known as tammany hall, and helps send the city's notorious boss, william tweed, off to prison. oh, and one other little achievement... >> it was green's efforts to get new york to expand beyond the borders of manhattan island and to annex the municipalities around new york harbor, which included the city of brooklyn, and make that
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all one giant metropolis. >> so how could his own family 100 years later not know all about him? could it have anything to do with the way green died? that's next. >> but first, our "strange inheritance" quiz question. in the presidential election of 1876, andrew green's law partner, samuel tilden, won the popular vote but lost to rutherford b. hayes. the answer after the break. when it comes to small business, she's in the know. so strap yourselves in for action flo! small business edition. oh, no! i'm up to my neck in operating costs! i'll save the day! for plumbers and bakers and scapers of lawn,
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when you think what does it look like? is it becoming a better professor by being a more adventurous student?
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is it one day giving your daughter the opportunity she deserves? is it finally witnessing all the artistic wonders of the natural world? whatever your definition of success is, helping you pursue it, is ours. t-i-a-a. >> it's "a." among other problems, florida democrats printed ballots showing abraham lincoln's face in an effort to trick freed slaves who couldn't read into voting democratic. a special commission was set up to decide the contest, leading to the election of hayes over tilden. >> john green and his sister lisa green buchanan initially think their hoarder aunt julie has simply left them a big headache
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when she dies in july 2009. but among the hundreds of boxes that filled her basement, they uncover a 19th-century journal that begins to open their eyes to the legacy of their great-great-great-uncle andrew haswell green, a man theodore roosevelt nicknamed "the father of greater new york." >> nobody told us the story. >> i went through 50-some-odd years of my life and had no clue how important he was. >> john comes to suspect that may be because of the scandal surrounding green's death in 1903. >> a man approached him and accused him of seeing his mistress and shot him in the back. [ woman screams ] >> the stranger -- his name was cornelius williams -- shot andrew green five times, killing the man instantly. he made no attempt to escape, made no attempt
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to deny what he had done. >> the confessed killer claims green and a brothel owner named bessie davis were part of a conspiracy against him. newspapers across the country relish the salacious story. >> this was a very troubling, mysterious set of circumstances, and andrew green was under this cloud of suspicion of having lived a double life. >> the police determine green was a victim of mistaken identity. or was it payback from the political machine that he had taken down? whatever the case, the damage to his once-spotless reputation is done. plans to erect memorial gates in his honor at the entrance to central park evaporate. in worcester, green's mansion is sold to the city and later demolished. gradually, even his own kin forget all he accomplished and left behind, the effects of an important man boxed up in cardboard.
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>> they cleaned the mansion out. and my grandfather's father took possession of all these items, and then it went to my grandfather. they were passed on to julie. >> and why julie? >> she took care of my grandparents when they got elderly. when my grandparents moved into assisted living, julie was the one that took 'em. >> and because john and lisa take care of aunt julie in her dotage, she leaves them this strange inheritance. what was your reaction as you opened those first boxes? >> it was mind-blowing, really exciting. >> there's china, tiffany silverware, coins, stamps, antique books, clothing, toys, and jewelry. and how many items are we talking about? >> thousands. >> so after tossing aunt julie's actual junk, including decades of old newspapers and mail, they reach out to richard oliver, a family friend and local auctioneer. >> we knew there was enough value to get historians and people
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like richard involved. i mean, my brother and i couldn't have settled this estate by ourselves. >> indeed, richard will need an entire team to go through all those boxes and catalog everything. >> i said, "listen. john, you pay the expenses. i'll keep the buyer's premium." >> do all your clients pay up front? >> well, a good part of the time, we take 20% or whatever it might be, and we pay the expenses. >> john agrees but quickly learns he's taken a huge risk. research gets expensive. take this old hebrew translation of the qur'an from andrew green's massive library. to find out where it came from, richard must run an ad in an antiques magazine. >> somebody picked up on it, and i started getting calls from israel and calls from all over the country. >> another example -- this silver cup with a wolf's-head crest. >> it drove me crazy. i wasn't able to find out what the crest was.
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>> after much effort, historian bill ralph, a member of the research team, figures out it was from a group called wolf's head. sounds like a secret society. >> and it -- in fact, it is, and it was. it was the third secret society at yale. >> fascinating stuff. but can the siblings expect a return on that kind of research? did you ever say to richard, "i got your latest bill, and we're not gonna do any more research until we sell some of this stuff"? >> i didn't put it like that, but i questioned him. "are you sure we're discovering enough things of importance to pay this bill?" and, richard being richard, "oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. don't worry about it." >> i told john i had calculated we ought to be able to do $600,000 without a problem. >> that's because his team has found plenty. check out these letters apparently given to andrew green as a gift, penned by thomas jefferson, james madison, and james monroe. >> they were... >> originals?
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>> yes. >> what were the letters about? >> my favorite letter, james monroe and james madison were talking about this gentleman who happened to be andrew jackson. they were afraid that he might be the ruination of their careful plans to carry on their ideology with the american public. >> the next big find? this rare copy of george washington's last will and testament, printed in 1800, right after washington's death. >> at the time, we knew there were only 13 existing copies. >> make that 14. >> it was in a plastic bag filled with other things, and it very well could've been thrown out without anybody ever knowing about it. >> by july 2010, john and lisa's strange inheritance is cataloged and ready for sale. they've invested a year and a lot of money in it. how much had john spent getting ready for this big auction? >> it was around $225,000.
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>> whoa! >> i hope we get enough out of this to pay for what we've discovered. >> will they? >> sold at $1,000. >> that's next. >> here's another quiz question for you. when andrew green was new york city's comptroller, the brooklyn bridge was partially financed by renting what? apartments atop its towers, boat slips by its piers, or wine cellars at its base? the answer in a moment. at ally bank, no branches equals great rates. it's a fact. kind of like social media equals anti-social. hey guys, i want you to meet my fiancée, denise. hey. good to meet you dennis. then your eyes may see it, differently.ave allergies. only flonase is approved to
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>> it's september 2010, and john green and his sister lisa are preparing to auction off thousands of items they inherited from their aunt julie. many belonged to their great-great-great-uncle andrew green, the long-forgotten father of new york city. they decide everything must go -- well, almost everything. >> these are dueling pistols. when you had to settle a score back in the 1700s, these are the dueling pistols that you used and the powder flask that goes with it. >> now, why would you keep these? >> i'm a gun nut. so i thought it was kinda cool to have dueling pistols. >> the stakes for the auction are high. to appraise and catalog the collection, the greens have spent $225,000. >> every box was another -- you never knew what you were gonna get into. >> the big question now -- will the auction bring in the money they need to break even?
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>> here we are. we've extended a lot of time and a lot of money and a lot of resources just to get to this far. >> was it important for you to recover enough from the auction to cover your expenses? >> very important. >> lot number 22. let's start with... and how much? and get bidding where? >> john frets as auctioneer richard oliver unloads antique toys, dolls, and music boxes for just a few hundred dollars apiece. >> it was a slow start, like, "oh, boy. is this gonna come into it?" >> next on the auction block, that silver cup that bill ralph finally determined was from a yale secret even that only fetches 1,000 bucks. they're a long way from the 225,000k john and lisa paid up front to get their strange inheritance ready for auction and a far cry from the minimum of $600,000 the auctioneer predicted. and then, with one surprising bid, everything starts turning green!
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>> none of us thought it was gonna go for what it went for. >> that's next. what's your strange inheritance story? we'd love to tell it! send me an e-mail or go to our website, send me an e-mail or go to our website, strangeinheritance.com. moms know their family's mouths often need a helping hand.
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>> now back to "strange inheritance." >> it's september 2010, and john green and his sister lisa green buchanan are wondering if they're going to be able to cover the $225,000 they've spent preparing their strange inheritance for auction. >> uh, we had to pay for this somehow. >> at first, the sale moves slowly and ekes out only a few thousand dollars, nowhere near what they need. what was the moment at which it picked up? >> one of the most exciting was the small hebrew book that they found. none of us thought it was gonna go for what it went for. >> the 17th-century hebrew translation of the qur'an, a gem from andrew green's vast book collection?
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>> $33,000. >> that copy of george washington's last will and testament? $16,000. a single letter from thomas jefferson to president monroe? 13k. all of the presidential letters togeer -- just under 70 grand. 9 booklets from 19th-century india fetch 11k. a cherry tea table? $9,000. this windsor high chair goes for $11,500. the sales just keep ringing up. the final tally at auction's end -- $700,000. so were you pleased or disappointed? >> oh, very pleased. the things in that auction needed to go to people who cared for them so library buys a bundle of letters written by green himself for only 500 bucks, a bargain for the guy who helped create the library in the first place. >> if it wasn't for him, who knows what central park would be? he brought the five boroughs
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of new york together to make one city. this is a lot of history. >> we told you how john kept those dueling pistols. john's sister lisa keeps something, too -- that dusty old journal that reconnected her to the green family legacy. >> i learned a lot while we were going through this process. it's pretty astounding, and there's no way to deny where i came from anymore, the more i learned. >> in 2012, new york city finally got around to funding a small andrew green park here along the east river for $5 million. but then the city realized that the pilings along the river would need repairs, costing another 15 million. so for now, andrew green has a dog run and a beautiful view to honor him. and his story, which was in storage for more than 100 years, is finally out of the box.
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i'm jamie colby for "strange inheritance." thanks so much for watching, and remember -- you can't take it with you. >> a world-famous musician dies and leaves his daughters his prized instrument. >> his love, his treasure, his heart, his voice. >> it's more than 300 years old and could be worth many millions. but this strange inheritance is about more than money. it's about a european countess, a father's legacy, and a huge financial dilemma for his heirs. >> it was very clear to us that he did not want it to be hidden away. [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] i'm jamie colby, and i'm on cape cod, massachusetts, heading

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