Wait! Hold On To Your Trash

The old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” took on new meaning — and a sick feeling of regret — for a couple who donated a rolled-up parchment document to a Nashville thrift store last year, only to find out this week that it was a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, likely to be worth six figures.

“I bought it at a yard sale … about 10 years, ago, in Donelson Hills (Tenn.), I think,” said Stan Caffy, a pipe fitter who described himself as “the idiot who donated that Declaration you wrote about.”

Caffey read in Thursday’s Tennessean that Michael Sparks bought the Declaration from the thrift store for $2.48 and is ready to auction it off for $250,000 or more. 

When Caffy heard the story, he knew it was the document he gave away.

I look for odd and old things at sales and probably paid about what he did for it, two dollars and something,” he said, adding that he hung it in his garage, where he works on bicycles as a hobby, just as a decorative piece for most of the 10 years he had it.

Caffy and his wife, Linda, married a little over a year ago, and as part of the ritual of combining households, she pushed him to clean out the garage, which had filled up with all sorts of extraneous things.

“I used to be a packrat but now I am trying to get rid of things. The best I can recall, we had a little debate about whether to keep it (the Declaration) or donate it, and she won.”

And so it was that Linda took the Declaration along with a pile of other stuff — an antique table, a massaging shower head, and a faucet — to donate to the thrift store last March.

“When I took it, I told them that it was probably worth something and that they should check it out,” said Linda.

That was the end of it until this week.“I had shown it (the Declaration) to my friend Jill back last year and told her I was going to donate it,” said Linda.

“When we got to Bible study (Thursday night), she said, ‘you know that Declaration I saw, it’s worth $200,000 to $300,000,’ ” Linda recalled.

“I’m happy for the Sparks guy,” Stan said. “If I still had it, it would still be hanging here in the garage and I still wouldn’t know it was worth all that.”

Mary Hance, The Tennessean –  2/23/2007

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