Part lost-and-found, part thrift store, the Unclaimed Baggage Center is a 40,000 square feet superstore located 45 minutes east of Huntsville, in Scottsboro, Alabama. The store takes literally every lost suitcase in America, sifts through it, and puts the best stuff on its shelves.
The Unclaimed Baggage Center has been around since 1970, when Doyle Owens got the idea to purchase unclaimed bags from a local bus station, then sell the contents from tables a couple days a week. Eventually he broadened this practice to airlines, and five decades later the store is stocking millions of items that Americans have lost on flights. As of today, the Unclaimed Baggage Center stocks about 7,000 items a day in average.
The Unclaimed Baggage Center differs from a thrift store in that its shelves are full of things people wanted, not junk they threw away, and for one reason or another never made it home. You might therefore find a wedding dress at a thrift store, but you wouldn’t find a Vera Wang wedding dress. And the Unclaimed Baggage Center has several of those.
What you can find at the Unclaimed Baggage Center is only limited by what people put in their suitcases, all of it at 20-80% off retail. Jewelry sells at half its appraised value; the most valuable item in the Unclaimed Baggage Center currently is a $42,000 bracelet priced to move at $21,000.
But not everything is appraised, especially the artwork. So one might also end up like the lucky soul from Mexico City who bought a $60 painting that turned out to be worth $20,000.
In addition to valuables, employees (who can’t buy anything until it’s been on the shelf a week) have found some insane items. The store has a dedicated museum to the wacky things they’ve discovered, from a 19th-century Victorian fan to a Jim Henson Hoggle puppet used in the David Bowie classic Labyrinth.
The Unclaimed Baggage Center has become a tourist attraction over the years. It sits only about 30 minutes from the Georgia and Tennessee state lines, and shoppers have been known to stay overnight so they can fit in two days of shopping. So if you’re still kicking yourself for losing that irreplaceable bachelor weekend memorabilia, don’t give up until you’ve made a trip to Scottsboro.
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