When a local New Jersey elementary school teacher had 200 paintings in her storage unit, she never thought they’d be worth millions.

David Killen, an art dealer from Manhattan, took interest in the sale and thought the old paintings would be perfect “filler items” for his next auction. As he checked them out, some were slightly torn and had small holes in them. According to NJ.com, David Killen thought the paintings were worthless. He was quoted saying, “Overall, I thought it was garbage, but I’m always looking for filler.” Killen offered to pay $75 per painting, totaling in $15,000 for the 200 paintings.

Credit: David Killen via NJ.com
Credit: David Killen via NJ.com

Soon after he bought them, David Killen realized that they were real Willem de Kooning paintings! Willem de Kooning was a Dutch abstract expressionist artist. He lived from 1904-1997, and his paintings were sold across the globe for tens of millions of dollars.

The art was originally from a world-famous restoration studio in New York City. When the owner of the studio died in 1986, his girlfriend took the paintings and stored them in Ho-Ho-Kus. After the girlfriend passed away, her friends tried to return the paintings to the original owners, but many of them could not be tracked down. The New York State Attorney General’s Office then named the leftover paintings as abandoned property, leaving the trusted group of friends to do whatever they wanted with them - including sell them.

This fall, the paintings will be up for auction on David Killen’s website. So, if you have any old possessions that you think might be valuable…do some research before throwing them away. They could be worth millions!

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