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The Pirate Treasure Chest That Sold For Hundreds On Pawn Stars

Admit it: When you hear the words "pirate treasure chest," it's the treasure that grabs your interest, not the box it's contained in. And you're probably imagining a pile of gold coins inside the chest that might be worth millions. When a seller on "Pawn Stars" named Ben brought one such chest into the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, however, there was no chance of that. Though he claimed the impressively large item was a 400- to 500-year-old pirate's treasure chest, there was nothing inside that could back that up. And according to Rick Harrison, it didn't even necessarily belong to pirates back in its day.

"There basically isn't such a thing as a pirate chest. There's a sea chest," he said. He then added that it "could be a pirate's chest if a pirate owned it ... but there's no real way to tell that."

The fact that the chest was made out of wood didn't make Ben's claim any easier to swallow. "You can open this up with a hammer," Rick noted. "So it wouldn't be something for treasure." However, there was more to the chest that met the eye.

The search was on

Ben wasn't willing to give up the idea just yet, however. He was clearly taken with the notion that he had a pirate's chest to sell. Reaching inside, he pointed out a hidden compartment and said there were several more, perfect for hiding treasure — not that he'd found any when he'd searched the chest before bringing it in.

For his part, Rick wasn't convinced this meant the chest belonged to pirates. After all, before banks and safety deposit boxes, secret spaces might be used by anyone traveling by sea to keep their valuables hidden. But Rick did think the compartments added interest to the item. "How much are you looking to get?" he asked Ben, ready to deal.

A motivated seller, Ben noted, "I'd like to sell this chest today because I have absolutely no room in my house for it." But when he said he had $2,000 in mind, Rick wasn't about to just hand it over. Before that, Rick wanted to verify a few facts about the chest and hear from an expert who'd know what it was really worth.

The chest wasn't what it appeared to be

One of the first things expert examiner Mark noticed when he came to check it out was the design of the chest. Anything meant to stay still on the deck of a ship would have been built wider at the base. He also observed that the chest had iron strapping across it, which meant it would have been prone to rust. After checking out the inner compartments, Mark quickly made his assessment. "It's not a sea chest," he said. "These were used in homes."

Mark explained the item was a dowry chest from India. While the secret compartments might have indeed been used for jewelry, Ben could no longer claim ownership of a pirate treasure chest. In fact, he couldn't even say it was an antique that was hundreds of years old. "The manufacturing style is what you would have seen in the 19th century," Mark said. "It's 100 to maybe 130 or [140] years old."

This was disappointing news for both Ben and Rick. Who wouldn't want to come across a 400-year-old chest that might have been owned by pirates — even an empty one? Still, Rick hadn't lost interest. "An Indian dowry chest? Still pretty cool," he said. "It makes a great decorative piece, and people will love the secret compartments."

When Ben tried for $1,000, however, Rick made it clear that on the scale of coolness, a sea chest rated higher than a dowry chest, and he felt $400 was more realistic. They wound up with a deal for $500, and both walked away smiling.