SALT LAKE CITY — Each year, the state of Utah collects millions of dollars worth of lost, unclaimed items. However, tracking down the rightful owners has proved to be a difficult task.
The Utah Unclaimed Property Division has thousands of boxes of items waiting to be returned to the owner. The lost items range from coins and jewelry to sports memorabilia. Employees have even discovered a Ted Williams baseball card, a half pound of silver and a box of human remains.
"The state of Utah last year collected over $43 million in unclaimed property for Utahns," said Dennis Johnston, administrator for the Utah Unclaimed Property Division.
Most of the items are gathered from safety deposit boxes in financial institutions across the state that have been unused for five years or longer.
"The bank has lost contact with the owner," Johnston said. "They're not receiving rent for that safe deposit box, so they will drill the box and will turn the items over to the Unclaimed Property Division."
Johnston said that sometimes it takes years to locate the owners of lost items and many struggles and even sad stories occur during the process.
"In seeking to find the owner, we located him, sent him a letter and it arrived just two weeks after he passed away," Johnston said of his experience in trying to return a baseball card.
However, Johnston said that the job also has benefits and happy moments. In 2012, the Utah Unclaimed Property Division returned $14 million worth of items.
"I have the best job in the world," he said. "I get to play Santa Clause every day of the year! I give people money back every day of the week."
In order to retrieve a lost item, individuals need to provide a detailed description of the item as well as personal information to prove ownership.