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tv   Stossel  FOX Business  February 21, 2016 1:00am-2:01am EST

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thanks so much for watching, and remember -- you can't take it with you. >> the people's house -- a family's legend. >> i can remember being a little kid and asking my father what it was. >> a century-old mystery. >> he said, "it's from the white house." and i go, "talking about d.c. white house?" i was just stunned. >> the white house neither confirms nor denies... >> what do you see? >> gold! [ laughs ] >> let's investigate! >> i scrape the paint layers down to the wood. >> and when you heard what it was worth? >> and sold! [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] >> i'm jamie colby, and today i'm in boston to meet an heir
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who has an inheritance so strange, it takes years just to figure out what it is. >> my name is mike meister. my siblings and i inherited something that goes back to our great-uncle more than a hundred years ago. we'd always been told that it came from the white house, but it was just a family story. hi, jamie. welcome to boston. >> thanks, mike. nice to meet you. >> yeah, nice to meet you, too. >> mike leads me inside, saying he has something amazing to show me. he keeps it in its own molded, air-tight protective case. can i take a look? >> sure can. >> you brought me all the way here, mike. this is... what is it? mike's strange inheritance is this piece of decorative pinewood. 30 inches long, 14 inches across, four inches thick. on the back is a faint signature and a date -- j.s. williamson, october 15, 1902. >> there's a real story behind it. family legend is that it's from
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the white house. >> could that be? the white house does have a colorful past. it's nearly completed at the end of john adams' presidency. he moves in in november 1800, but stays only a few months. thomas jefferson spends two terms there before handing the keys to james madison. then british troops set it ablaze in the war of 1812. [ indistinct shouting ] first lady dolley madison orders the staff to remove this beloved portrait of george washington by gilbert stuart. but according to william seale, author of two books on the white house, the building's interior is destroyed. >> they burned the second floor with rubble, and then they broke up all the furniture and poured lamp oil on it. and the attic fell in, and then it burned through the main floor and the whole thing, in about two hours, was just a
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shell. >> after the war, the original architect, james hoban, rebuilds it exactly as it had been -- in what will become known as the federal style. >> president madison decreed that it be rebuilt as a symbol of survival. >> by 1817, the renovation is almost complete and our fifth president, james monroe, moves in. a dozen years later, the seventh, andrew jackson, lets a drunken mob trash the place during his inaugural ball. maybe this poor piece of wood was part of the collateral damage. who knows? over the years, presidents come and presidents go, redecorating, repainting, and renovating to suit their individual tastes. then, in 1902, theodore roosevelt begins the first wholesale restoration of the mansion that he officially names "the white house." it's time to pick up the thread
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of this strange inheritance story. according to mike meister, in 1902, his great-uncle, joseph williamson jr., is a law student at georgetown university in d.c. one day, he strolls down pennsylvania avenue, spots the piece of wood in a junk pile, and thinks, "it's pretty neat." >> joseph jr. picked it up. >> like a yard sale? did they buy it? >> no, it was scrap. i mean, it was things that were gonna be eventually hauled off to landfills, burned, whatever. >> he brings it home to illinois from law school and gives it to his father as a memento. his dad inscribes his name and writes the date on the back. the piece is handed down in the family to mike's dad, wayne meister, in the 1930s. where was it kept? >> it was in the basement of our house out in illinois -- a farm that my parents bought after world war ii. and it was hanging on a wall. i can remember being a little kid and asking my father what it was. and he would say, "that's a
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piece of the white house." >> did you believe him? you're a farm kid in illinois, and your parents have a piece of a white house? >> when he said something, it meant he wasn't making things up. >> pretty cool, though it's just one conversation piece in a house that wayne and his wife, ann, pack with all sorts of gewgaws, knickknacks, and odd antiques. >> one of their hobbies was going to auctions and tag sales and finding things of value, and then, if they needed refinishing, they would refinish them. >> did they ever consider taking sandpaper or a paintbrush to that mysterious hunk of wood in the cellar? mike shudders to think. >> what if she decided, "this ugly old thing, i'm gonna strip the paint"? but she certainly never did. >> are you kidding? that could have happened? >> well, it didn't. >> in 1964, the meisters -- and a moving van full of antiques -- relocate to massachusetts. it's there, during christmastime in 1988, that mike, all grown
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up, announces he's getting married. >> we had a family dinner to meet the in-laws. and my brother-in-law, larry forrest, was there. >> that night, mike brings larry into the attic. >> i said to larry, "i want to show you something," and i took him upstairs, and i showed him. it was in a moving box from 1964. >> they didn't even unpack it. >> no, no. >> mike pulled out a piece out of the box, and he said, "it's from the white house." and i go, "talking about d.c. white house?" he goes, "yeah." i was just stunned. if you asked somebody what's the most important building in our history, they're gonna say the white house. and here it was, sitting right next to me. >> did mike ask you to learn more about it for him? >> the more we got talking about it, we said, "let's find out where this came from." >> but it's just talk, and it will be for years. mike's dad dies in 1996, and his mom in 2001. only then do the meister kids
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begin to deal with any of the old stuff their parents accumulated. did your parents leave a will? >> we had a trust. >> did they specify? >> not in that particular case, no. to clean the house out, to send things to auction, and sell it, it was probably a good three months. but we kept a lot of the things, too, that meant something to each one of us. >> one of the things they keep is that distressed hunk of wood. >> there was no way we were gonna sell that, because we didn't even know what it was. >> what you think it was? >> an architectural element from the white house. but we had no idea what. >> it's not until 2007 that brother-in-law larry forrest convinces the meister family they need to get some answers. and he takes on the role of lead investigator. his first line of inquiry -- the white house itself. >> i spoke to a gentleman, and i told him about what the family had. and after the laughter and telling me that that wasn't possible, i said, "we're pretty sure, it's written on the back,"
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and so forth. and he goes, "it's probably from some other old building or whatever." >> but larry persists. his letters, his calls turn up nothing. then after two solid years, his search leads him to historian and author bill seale. >> i said, "can i just send you pictures?" so when he received them, he called me back and he goes, "i swear i've seen it." >> was it a eureka moment? that's next. >> but first, our "strange inheritance" quiz question. the current oval office was not built until 1934, when f.d.r. was president. the answer when we return.
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>> the answer is "b," a laundry drying area. but if you said "c," you might know that the first formal executive office was created by f.d.r.'s fifth cousin, theodore roosevelt, and today is known as the roosevelt conference room. >> for years, mike meister was told his father had a family heirloom like no other -- a decorative piece of wood with peeling paint, reputed in family lore to be from the white house. the problem -- nobody knows how to find out if the story is true. it's become an irresistible
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mystery to mike and his brother-in-law, larry forrest, who are determined to solve it. larry's inquiries are all met by laughter and blank stares, until he calls author and historian bill seale. >> he was skeptical that it could be the actual white house. so i said, "can i just send you pictures?" >> what was your initial reaction? >> well, i thought it looked suspicious. [ laughs ] and so, i didn't tell them much until i researched it. >> did you say, "ah, just leave it in the attic another 50 years. it'll be fine"? >> no. no, i was too curious for that. >> in fact, the meisters' photos have bill scratching his head. >> he called me back, and he goes, "i swear i've seen it." >> bill is remembering a particular photo from 1898, during the mckinley administration, that he used in one of his books about the white house. the photo shows a hallway called the cross hall. >> this is the cross hall. it's used a lot now.
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started by president george w. bush. >> there it is. >> and this is that march to the east room. in those days, you had a grand staircase here. >> and then, suddenly, bill spots it -- off in the corner, between a chair and a potted plant. right there -- see it? look familiar? sure looks like mike's strange inheritance. and there it is, in the white house, in 1898, when william mckinley is president. >> and there is the plinth. it's the only one it could be because it's for that side. >> i'd never heard of a plinth. what is a plinth? >> it's a base of a column that runs up the wall. >> how many were there? >> well, there were four. they were in niches in the hall where originally built for stoves. >> do we know where the other three are? >> no, nobody does. >> never been seen. so now i'm wondering, how does the plinth get from that cozy corner in the white house to the meister's attic? well, in september 1901,
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president mckinley is in buffalo, new york, at the pan-american exposition. he's shaking hands with the public, when an anarchist named leon czolgosz assassinates him. suddenly, vice president teddy roosevelt is sworn in. among his many big ambitions is a gut rehab of the executive mansion. >> 1902 was a major reshaping of the symbol of the white house into a more worldly time. america became more international, and the white house was redone to be compatible with that. >> t.r.'s goal is to return it to its original federalist incarnation, while clearing it out to accommodate a brood of six children and a pony. it also means separating the living quarters from our nation's most important executive offices. >> he moved the offices out of the family floor and built the west wing.
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he reorganized the place so it wasn't just an old plantation house. >> to that end, roosevelt's architects rearrange the entrance, removing this stairway and these victorian tiffany panels from the cross hall -- as well as all that old ornamental woodwork, like the plinths. the workers pile loads of rubbish outside, and souvenir hunters snatch it up. >> there is one letter from theodore roosevelt, and he said, "people are scattering around for souvenirs." >> so bill seale is beginning to believe that the meister family lore about great-uncle joseph must be true. and that this hunk of wood really is a relic of the white house, going all the way back to 1817, when president monroe moved in after that nasty business with the british. were you interested in it? >> very. i was stricken by it, to tell you the truth. >> so, something that looks like wood or plaster is actually a
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whole story, in and of itself? >> it's like dna. and the object has many, many things to say. >> and the next step is very much like a dna test. what they discover was that this strange inheritance was a lot more important and valuable an artifact than even bill seale had imagined. you're smiling. that's next. >> here's another quiz question for you. which amenity was added during the obama administration? was it the white house... the answer when we return.
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[ bird caws ] >> it's "c." the white house tennis court was
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converted to a basketball court for the former high-school hoops player. >> it's november of 2009, and historian bill seale, based on this photograph, believes that mike meister likely inherited a rare and very important relic -- an actual piece of the white house. it's an ornamental piece of wood called a plinth that may have been removed during teddy roosevelt's 1902 renovation. in order to verify its authenticity, seale advises the family to have the paint analyzed. so mike and his brother-in-law, larry forrest, drive from boston to bryn mawr, pennsylvania, to meet with this guy, historic paint analyst frank welsh. >> he said, "you guys go out for a little while, i'm gonna do analysis on it, and see what i think." >> frank studies the paint layers with a magnifying glass, and then a stereo microscope, as he scrapes away each layer with an x-acto knife.
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>> then i start recording, starting with the layer closest to the wood numbering layers -- one, two, three, four -- all the way up to the most recent. >> well, we got a call in about half-hour, and he goes, "this is spot-on." there's 17 layers of paint on this, there's three layers of gold leaf on it. he said, "there's absolutely, 100%, exactly what it should be for that time period." >> everything seemed to line up very, very well. i felt very comfortable that the paints that i was looking at could easily be as old as they felt the plinth was. it is very unique. >> as t.r. would say, "that's bully!" in identifying those 17 layers of paint, frank may be the first person to open the door to a previously unknown decorative history of the white house. author bill seale matches each paint layer with a chapter in presidential history. >> if you want accuracy in history, here's the real thing.
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this is our only touch with those periods. >> bill does the math. there were 21 administrations between presidents james madison and teddy roosevelt. but three of them -- harrison, taylor, and garfield -- were exceptionally short due to death from illness or assassination. if the hallway isn't repainted during those presidencies, and maybe one president lacks the inclination to repaint, you've got your 17 layers right there. after generations of repeating their family legend, the meisters now know they spoke the truth all along. you went from rejection to respect. how'd that feel? >> we had solved a mystery. >> bill seale encourages them to donate the plinth on the spot to the white house historical association. they say they're inclined to, but first they need to find out what it's worth. did you have a number in mind that you thought it would be?
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>> no. >> what about you, larry? you did all the running around. >> you could shoot real high on this one, just from the fact of how much historical value it has. >> and when the meisters get the appraisal, they'll have some thinking to do. that's next. what's your "strange inheritance" story? we'd love to tell it. send me an e-mail or go to our website -- strangeinheritance.com.
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or across the globe in under an hour. whole communities are living on mars and solar satellites provide earth with unlimited clean power. in less than a century, boeing took the world from seaplanes to space planes, across the universe and beyond. and if you thought that was amazing, you just wait. ♪ "strange inheritance." >> by the fall of 2014 in boston, mike meister, and his brother-in-law, larry forrest, have determined that a piece of wood called a plinth, handed down through several generations in the meister family, really is from the white house, and very rare indeed. but is it valuable? they take it to an appraiser. you're smiling. >> well, he appraised it at $500,000. >> the appraiser was an old-time white house appraiser.
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i was very surprised -- that was more than i expected it would be. >> who would buy such a thing? >> someone with the money to buy it, or someone that wants to buy it and give it to a museum or presidential library. >> historian bill seale is hoping the meister family will cut out the middleman, donate the plinth to the white house historical association themselves, and take a tax write-off. but that's a lot to ask of mike and his three siblings, who could be looking at walking away with $125,000 apiece. are you gonna sell? >> we're having it put up for auction. i think in the long run, and i'm hoping, that it'll be appreciated by many more people than might have been with the white house historical association. >> the meisters reach out to bobby livingston at rr auction in amherst, new hampshire. >> when i first laid eyes on the plinth, i was like, "wow! it's spectacular." as someone who handles a lot of historic items, when you see something like 17 layers
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of paint, it tells a story. >> he joins us live from new hampshire. >> next thing you know, the story is getting big media coverage, including on fox news. >> we've never, in 30 years, offered any pieces of the 1817 white house. because there's no, you know, photography from that era, it's incredibly important. we've had registrations from all over the world, so we expect the bidding to be quite lively. >> number 22 -- architectural ornament from the main hall of the white house. >> the meister family is on hand for the auction in boston in september 2015. >> $100,000, $100,000, $110,000. >> here we go. >> $120,000. looking for $120,000. >> the bidding starts to pick up a little momentum. >> $120,000, $130,000, $140,000. >> but then it just fizzles. >> $160,000 once, $160,000 twice. sold, $150,000. fantastic. >> it's nowhere near the half-million dollar appraisal,
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though a $150,000 is nothing to sneeze at. and mike reminds us that it wasn't only about the money but sharing a neat piece of america's past -- just like his ancestor, who wandered by the white house one day in 1902 and thought to snatch up a souvenir to send back home. is this the best case of being in the right place at the right time? >> i believe it is, i really do. i think from what we've learned of it and what hopefully other people can learn from it, i think it's a living piece of history. >> so, who bought mike meister's strange inheritance? well, we know this much -- a fox viewer. all bobby livingston would say is that one of those watching him on fox news before the auction was so intrigued, he phoned in and plunked down 150 grand. if you're watching now, enjoy your piece of history. and, remember -- you can't take
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it with you. i'm jamie colby. thanks for watching "strange inheritance." >> they're cars you never heard of. >> he liked to buy unique cars -- kissels, grahams, overlands. he always used to say, "i don't want to meet myself on the road." >> it's a great hobby. keeps you out of the beer joints. >> do you have your foot on the brake, teacher? just in case? >> i haven't jumped out yet. >> these heirs hit a fork in the road... >> so that is a point of contention. do you donate cars here? do you have an auction? >> it's really tough to get every sibling on the same page. >> yeah, i'd say we're no different. >> ...until they hear an emotional voice from the past. >> when we go by his gravesite, he's probably on high spin mode up there. >> it's just money. can't take it with you.
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>> i'm jamie colby, and today i'm cruising through boone county, iowa, smack dab in the middle of corn country. i'm here to meet the heirs of a man who left behind dozens and dozens of "orphans." orphan cars, that is. so, what's an orphan car? you're about to find out. >> my name is jerry quam. my father, grant quam, liked to collect orphan cars, which are cars that were manufactured by companies that are no longer in existence today. many of these are rare cars of which there's only a few known to exist. >> i meet up with jerry and his brother john at this modern, climate-controlled barn. what's in the barn? you got tractors, you got horses? >> something better. >> better than that? >> you're gonna love this. >> whoa.
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i am in heaven. did you know i love cars? >> i've heard a rumor. >> this is an incredible collection. you inherited this? >> our father's collection. >> i imagine there's a great story behind these cars. >> each and every one. >> these car stories begin right up the road in roland, iowa, where john and jerry's father, grant quam, grew up in the 1920s. >> why was your dad so passionate about cars? >> he grew up on a farm and they were pretty poor, but he'd see people coming into town driving around in these fine cars, and that got him excited about it. >> while grant may not be able to afford these fancy cars, he sure can fix 'em up. >> he had a real knack for fixing things. he was just fascinated with machinery and cars. >> soon enough, the budding mechanic is running a little repair operation out of the farm corncrib. and when he's a teen, grant finally figures out a way to buy
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his first car -- using his school lunch money. so cars were more important than food. >> that's probably true. >> when the great depression hits, it devastates farm country and grant's family. >> his father -- they lost the farm and stuff. you know, when he left home, everything he owned was in a shoebox. >> at the same time, hundreds of car manufacturers are losing it all, too. in the early 1900s, nearly 1,800 companies are in the carmaking game. and as late as 1925, some 237 remain. but the depression wipes out a great many of those, with some luxury brands hanging on only to collapse after world war ii. >> cars like the pierce-arrow, peerless, and packard, you don't hear of any of those today. they're all gone. >> so an orphan car is a car with no parents. >> yeah, that's basically right. >> so when grant reaches his mid-50s and starts seeing some real-estate investments pay off,
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he's finally able to track down those orphan cars that fascinated him in his youth. >> there's not a lot of fords or chevys. he liked to buy unique cars. he always used to say, "i don't want to meet myself on the road." >> grant's not likely to meet himself on the road driving one of these. not only are his cars from unique manufacturers, many of the particular models are extremely rare, too -- like this 1936 pierce-arrow roadster. >> there's maybe fewer than five that are known to exist of that car. >> i'm totally loving the paint. is it also unique? >> the guy he bought it from liked butter-nut coffee, so he painted the car to look like the butter-nut coffee can. >> grant's 1925 kissel gold bug, made popular by amelia earhart, is just as rare. can i get inside? >> absolutely. >> i'm gonna try to slide in. [ grunts ] wow. you had to be petite.
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not so graceful. i could drive this. now you guys know what i like, okay? some of grant's finds are so uncommon, they were thought to have vanished long ago. >> this is a 1934 plymouth phaeton. when he first bought this, a lot of plymouth people here in the u.s. claimed that the car didn't exist. >> what? >> and they said that it was false advertising on the car. but finally, after some background checks, it turned out to be the real deal. >> and here's another rare phaeton, this one supposedly built at the 1934 world's fair in chicago. grant's orphan cars even become the focus of segment on a local public tv program in 1999. did you see the pbs clip when it aired? >> i did. it was a show that they were doing at the time in iowa that was about people had unique
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collections. in 2007, grant passes away at the age of 91. >> was he specific with you, jerry, and your family about what he wanted you to do with the cars? >> he never really approached it when we were alive. he never really talked about that. >> do you wish he was more specific? >> yeah, in some ways it would have been better. >> six years later, when their mom, betty, dies, grant's four children -- now "orphans" themselves -- still haven't settled on a plan for their strange inheritance. >> so that is a point of contention. do you donate cars here? do you have an auction? every family has their differences. some want to do this, some want to do that. >> the oldest sibling, john, wants to keep the collection intact. the youngest, jerry, who's gone into collecting, leans that way, too. but the other two siblings, jim and marilyn, don't have the same emotional connection to the
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cars and would just as soon sell them. >> we're all pretty independent people. >> that's hard. >> absolutely, it's hard. >> and it won't be getting any easier -- because while grant had plenty of beauties like these, he left behind even more like this. >> i thought, "oh, my gosh, what have i gotten myself into this time?" this was like entering a crime scene almost. >> a crime scene?! we'll walk it, next. >> but first... the answer when we return.
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♪ ♪ it was always just a hobby. something you did for fun.
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until the day it became something much more. and that is why you invest. the best returns aren't just measured in dollars. ♪ >> there never was an airmobile. o-we-gos were produced in owego, new york, american chocolates in a chocolate factory, and a car without a name thought owners might prefer to title their models themselves. >> grant quam's passion was tracking down orphans -- rare and unusual cars from now-defunct automakers. can you rattle off for me some of the rarer cars in the collection? >> 1925 kissel gold bug. 1911 and a 1913 overland.
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1913 studebaker. pierce-arrows, grahams. >> he gathers over 80 unique models, such as this 1920 peerless roadster. >> it was one of the most original cars he's ever bought. it still has the original radiator hoses. they're white because that was the natural color of rubber, and they started to color rubber black later on. >> after grant's death in 2007, his heirs are torn about what to do with their father's unique car pool. do they sell? keep? donate? >> you know, i find, with inheritances, it's really tough to get every sibling on the same page. >> yeah, i'd say we're no different. >> but before any decisions can be made, the family needs to know what the cars are worth. for that, they bring in appraiser jim mcdonald from des moines. he learns grant's hoard of automobiles is spread out among three locations, and not every car looks shiny and new.
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this machine shed is jam-packed with grant's junkers, barn finds, and project cars. >> when i first walked into it, i thought, "oh, my gosh, what have i gotten myself into this time?" this was like entering a crime scene almost. a lot of these cars had been sitting for 10, 15, 20 years. this looks like it was last driven in 1956. >> these cars are worth a little, maybe a thousand -- more if they get fixed up. a second building holds about 15 mid-tier-quality cars. jim puts these in the five-figure range. but the real money is in the final storage area, what grant called his "inner sanctum." >> this had his pierce-arrow, it had his auburn, it had his kissel. it had all the better cars. >> jim photographs and grades each one, including this exceptionally rare model, a 1922 detroit electric. >> electric cars were very
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much favored by women in the early days of cars. they were popular because women weren't able to crank the cars and get them started. >> i'm in! >> this is the steering wheel. >> really? >> well, kind of. this is like a tiller on a boat. >> okay. >> so if you want to go this direction, you push that way, if you want to go that direction, you pull back here. >> okay, i got it. >> then, this is your speed. here is the brake that works sometimes. >> sometimes, john? >> ready to go? >> yes. >> let's do it. >> the engine turns on with a simple flip of the switch. >> the first click, and there you go. >> oh! yikes. >> there you go. >> oh, slow it down, slow it down, slow it down. >> pull this back. >> i'm an excellent driver. i'm an excellent driver. this is like driver's ed. do you have your foot on the brake, teacher? just in case? >> i haven't jumped out yet. >> going straight is one thing, but now the real challenge -- turning! the turns are not so easy. >> no. you'd do well back in that time period. you'd be the, uh, envy of the neighborhood.
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>> whoo-hoo! how'd i do? >> excellent. >> yay! >> better than me. >> sold. including that detroit electric, the appraiser arrives at a total value for the collection of over one million dollars. a nice chunk of change, but even that doesn't shift grant's heirs out of neutral. the siblings need something more to finally settle the dispute on how to handle their father's cars. that's when they receive a message, almost from beyond the grave. that's next. >> here's another quiz question for you.
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>> he committed the first speeding infraction in the u.s., winding up in jail for driving a breakneck 12 miles per hour down lexington avenue, four over the limit. >> grant quam's four children can't agree on what to do with their strange inheritance -- 80 so-called orphan cars potentially worth over a million dollars. >> jim and marilyn think it's time to sell, but jerry and john would like to see the collection kept together. >> i've had a chance to experience most every car here.
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spent a lot of time in these. i've driven most of them through the years. >> it's two against two. something's got to give. how do they decide? they go to the videotape. remember that local-tv piece featuring grant all those years ago? turns out a crucial part of grant's interview was never broadcast. >> it was like a 15-minute segment, but later they offered up the entire raw footage of the shoot. >> they pop the cutting-room-floor footage in the vcr. during the unedited, hour-long interview, grant is asked about many topics that never reach air, including the future of his cherished autos. listen. >> [ laughs ]
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>> their father's words end the debate -- the siblings will auction off the cars. >> now, for me personally, um, that was probably a harder pill to swallow. >> did you fight it? >> no. there's a time when things, whether you like it or not, need to happen. my ideal thing would have been not to have sold the cars, but that -- that wasn't gonna work. >> soon after, the family hires auctioneer yvette vanderbrink to handle the sale of their dad's collection. >> my first impression was, wow, this is really a lot of automotive history. >> yvette immediately puts the family to work. she wants as many of the vehicles as possible up and running by the auction. >> so here we are at the farm. this gives you an idea of what we're up against. >> how much work went into getting them ready for auction? >> it's overwhelming to deal with. you got to get the mechanics up working on 'em, you got to get the detail people to come up.
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it's a long process. >> despite the challenge, the family brings many back to life. and as the auction nears, the reality of saying goodbye to dad's cars begins to sink in. >> this is a piece of dad. it's very personal to your father. >> yeah. but he always used to say there's time slots in life, right, for different things. and, uh, anyway, this time slot is over, right, so it's time to sell 'em and -- and move on. >> of course there's no telling what grant's unusually rare models might sell for. >> how do you set a price on some of these? >> that is the hard part. how do you find a comp for a '36 pierce when there's never been one sold and there's only five made? >> what do you expect? >> it's really, really hard to know, because as my dad used to say, an auction, you need two buyers that want the car, three is better. >> up next -- which of grant's orphans find a good home... >> at 40, 40, 40. now 5. >> ...and which ones do not.
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what's your "strange inheritance" story? we'd love to tell it. send me an e-mail or go to our website -- strangeinheritance.com.
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>> now back to "strange inheritance." >> in september 2015, the heirs of grant quam are auctioning off their father's treasured fleet of orphan cars. you think you're doing this auction to his satisfaction? >> well, that's a good, good question. we always tease that, uh, when we go by his gravesite, he's probably on high spin mode. >> the biggest concern -- whether the right buyers will make the trek to small-town iowa for these exceedingly rare models. >> it's been a long adventure, nine months of getting ready. so we're kind of anxious to see how this all goes today. >> at 37, now 8. at 38, at 8, at 8. >> auctioneer yvette vanderbrink kicks things off with the heavy hitters. >> we're gonna start with the
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better cars and sell them right off the bat, and the reason why i like to do that is, everybody has money and comes to the sale. everybody wants to take the prom queen. >> but some of those prom queens aren't going anywhere without the right bid. >> this is a 1936 pierce-arrow. this also is being sold subject to confirmation. >> this will be the car that tells the tale on the auction. there were some serious players here yesterday looking at it, so we'll see what happens. >> at 35, at 5, at 5. at 35. where are you gonna find one? it's one of five, guys. >> but today, that right buyer doesn't show up. >> okay, folks, that has not met the reserve. if you are interested, come talk to us. >> grant's 1925 kissel gold bug also fails to hit the minimum bid. >> you have to have the right people here, and you never know. we don't want to give the cars away. >> after that distressing start,
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they learn they won't have to. the auction picks up speed with the '34 phaeton, said to have been built at the chicago world's fair. >> at 45,000. at 45, 5, 5. at 40,000, let's go. you have to step up your game there. at 51, 1, 1, at 1. at 51,000. it's just money. can't take it with you. sold at $53,000. [ applause ] >> soon after, someone steers away with that detroit electric i drove for 48 grand. >> [ calling ] >> and the auction just keeps rolling. grant's '34 plymouth goes for 45k. his '37 lasalle brings in another 48. a '36 graham fetches 28k, while this 1913 studebaker
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sells for 25,000. >> so far it's looking -- looking okay >> now up for bid -- grant's 1920 peerless roadster. >> 60, 60, 60, at 60. at 60,000. now 5. at 65, 5, 5. at 65. now 90. at 90, 90, 90. at 90, at 90,000. now 5. at 95, 5, 5. at 95,000. 1, 1, at 1. at 101. 101,5. sold at $101,000. >> that was surprising because it takes a very special buyer to buy that car. >> by the end of the day, the family hauls in over 700,000 bucks. and with those two big-value cars still left to sell privately in the future, the family believes they'll break the million-dollar mark. >> it's a bittersweet thing. i mean, as i started seeing cars going out of here, it's kind of
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reality. but it feels good to see people that love them, and they'll take care of them. >> and isn't that what adopting an orphan is all about? jerry's sure he's done right by his dad, getting his babies into good hands. >> his time slot is over. it's time for another custodian to take ownership and enjoy the car, because sitting inside in a dark building made no sense. they should be out and enjoyed. so we're happy to see that, and he would have too. >> before the auction, jerry quam purchased a few cars from his father's collection. he didn't pick the ones that were the most valuable or rare. in fact, the cars didn't even mesh with his personal car collection. the vehicles simply reminded jerry most of his father. so even after his children have to bid farewell to their dad's precious cars, a part of grant's legacy will live on and stay in the family.
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i'm jamie colby for "strange inheritance." thanks so much for watching. and remember... >> it's just money. can't take it with you. >> a tv hitmaker loves animals. >> he turned that creativity on animal rights, and it was unbelievable. >> one dog he rescues is off-the-charts dangerous. >> if it's a scale from 1 to 10, columbo's a 12. >> when the hollywood owner dies, columbo becomes their strange -- and expensive -- inheritance. >> acupuncture for a dog? i know we're in los angeles, but really? [ dog growls ] >> is it all worth it? >> your kids could get hurt. you're willing to take the risk. >> we made a commitment to healing dogs and showing other families how to do it. >> welcome to the weird world of pet inheritance. >> so, are you leaving your home to the birds? [ bird squawks ]

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