Year after year, unclaimed money and valuables flow into the office of State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald.
"It's staggering because there are all kinds of items people forget about," Fitzgerald said.
It's been his mission for the past three decades to return these items through the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt.
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald looks through unclaimed items from people in Marshall County during a stop to the Times-Republican office Wednesday. Fitzgerald is promoting the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, an effort to return unclaimed money and items to people throughout the state.
Fitzgerald stopped at the Times-Republican Wednesday to display some of those unclaimed items and remind the public that they are are holding $1,825,968 in unclaimed money in Marshall County alone. Fitzgerald is traveling through a wide swath of the state this summer to get the word out on the program.
"It's important to us because it's their property, and it's our job to return their property," Fitzgerald said.
Much of the money and items come from banks who send it to his office if it is unclaimed after three years.
"If they can't find you after that, they turn it in to us," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said the value of unclaimed property from the state coming into his office has grown from $200,000 annually 30 years ago to $20 million a year this past year.
Fitzgerald said this unclaimed money can be a result of changes in people's lives such as a divorce, a move or some other circumstance that leads to them leaving property behind. In other cases, people just forget about money they have or a check they didn't cash in the past.
The amount of money alone can be alarming but so can some of the items that have been left unclaimed. Fitzgerald said they have had people's ashes and false and gold teeth that have wound up in his vault. The largest amount returned to a single owner was more than $1 million cash and stock to a person in Sioux City in 2004.
To view a list of the unclaimed money and items visit www.greatiowatreasurehunt.com or for more information call 515-281-5367.