Unlocking the treasure chest

One of the gems I was given a few years back from my Grandparent’s estate was this little treasure chest… locked and without a key.



I tried to find someone who might have one online on various antique forums and Freecycle.  No luck there.

I called around the banks and was recommended a local branch of the ANZ.  I even went as far as calling in, yes they had the key but the box lid was so gunked up, it wouldn’t open.

I think at some point, someone had put vaseline around the edges to stop it rusting and it glued shut over time.  I could see in the sides that it had paper money and I knew it had coins but they weight and the “clunking” when you shook it.

I even went as far as trying unsuccessfully to pick the lock.  Youtube videos are useful for learning many things but picking locks was not one of them.

Last week I finally gave in and took it to a locksmith.  $30 later, I was the proud owner of two handmade keys and an unlocked moneybox.

So what exactly is inside?


Four 1 pound & two 10 shilling notes in pretty awful condition. Plus a selection of fairly common pre-decimal coins from 1930s through 1960s (New Zealand switched to decimal currency in 1967).   At the time, this would been a significant amount of money.  In 1959, the average weekly pay was around 9 pounds.  Putting it into today’s terms, it would be around $300.

So value of this treasure trove today? The half crowns from prior to 1947 are worth around $5 each, as they contain a small amount of silver.  The rest of the coins likely nothing.  The notes are in very poor condition,  I will be surprised if I can sell them at all.

The most interesting find was the two 1982 Australian 50 cent pieces which commemorated the Commonwealth Games.  These were probably popped in the top at a much later date.  I wondered if these were worth anything… apparently they are worth 50 cents Australian each… when I spend them in Australia…

So very likely the actual box is worth more than the contents.

Still my curiosity is satisfied even if it doesn’t lead me to early retirement.

One of my Facebook friends commented Guess they had a little laugh one night around a bottle of wine: “Let’s lock that box and throw away the key and let some sucker get it open in high hopes!! Don’t forget to take the real stuff out first!!”.   

Well played G’n’G, job well done.



  1. I love the whole story and it could even be embellished and turned into a fictional piece. Do you live anywhere near Reefton? There was a B & B in an old bank and you could stay in the safe. We were on our honeymoon and watching our pennies so we skimped and I’m still disappointed. Would have been a hoot. My great grandmother was born there. I suspect it was during the goldrush xx Rowena

    • Reefton is a good 3 hours drive from home. Not terribly far, but its a very small town. I did get the pleasure of staying there one weekend when going to the West Coast and the car broke down and we got towed that far. We had to overnight while my Dad drove to meet us. I haven’t heard of the staying in the safe – I’m guessing that was the old bank or something? Cool.

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