When Emil Knodell from Bellville, Texas bought a wooden cabinet at an estate sale, he had no idea he’d find a small fortune inside.

When Emil Knodell first came across a gorgeous cabinet during a rumage at an estate sale, the 67-year-old’s eye was immediately drawn to its marble top, it high quality wood and the finely carved pattern that adorned it.

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When the seller told him the cabinet was 125 years old and that its age reduced the its price tag to $100, Emil knew it was a steal. But he had no idea just how much.

The Hidden Treasure in a Wooden Cabinet’s Secret Compartment

coins in a treasure chest

While tipping the dresser on its side, Emil and his friends heard rattling sounds from inside. All the drawers were empty, but they discovered a secret compartment at the very bottom filled with currency, jewelry with emeralds and diamonds, a lock of hair, military dog tags and even Civil War memorabilia.

We were loading onto the truck. It sounded like a metallic waterfall. And we opened it up and three of us looked in and it was like the ‘Hardy Boys.’ Holy smokes, jackpot!

Emil Knodell

The Honest Man Who Returned a Secret Treasure to Its Rightful Owner

Emil didn’t have the treasure appraised, but it was clearly worth a lot. Still, instead of cashing it all in, he called the estate executor, who is the son of the man who had died.

I bought the chest drawers. I didn’t buy those things. If I kept them, I would never feel right about it. There would be a cloud over the whole thing. It’s a feeling more than anything else. I’m an old ex-Marine and I try to do the right thing.

Emil Knodell to ABC News

The seller remembers the dresser in his grandparent’s house in Michigan when he was a child but had no idea there was a hidden compartment.

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To express his gratefulness for returning the family heirlooms, the seller offered part of the findings to Emil as a reward, but Emil said he wouldn’t accept items that didn’t belong to him.

The world can be a greedy place, so it’s nice to know that honest people like Emil still exist. It’s important to do the right thing, even when no one is looking.

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“Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing.” — Tony Blair