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State Fair to host auction of $167,000 in rare items

Yulonda Almasi, a former Kraft Foods employee, visited a preview for the Illinois State Fair's first live auction in a decade on Friday at the Thompson Center. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Collectors of rare items will get a chance to own a pair of 1997 Air Jordan XII shoes, a 1932 thousand-dollar bill or a ticket stub from Elvis Presley’s Oct. 14, 1976 concert at Chicago Stadium later this month.

The Illinois Treasury will host the first live unclaimed property auction in 10 years Aug. 20 at the Illinois State Fair, featuring collectible coins, sports memorabilia, vintage jewelry and more. More than 21,000 items will be auctioned totaling $167,000 in value.

The state fair’s live auctions were started by the late Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka but ended when she left office.

“There was a lot of interest generated from these auctions,” said Treasurer Michael Frerichs. “When I came in, a lot of people asked me if I would bring this back, so that’s what we’re doing.”

Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs (pictured) decided to revive the annual State Fair live auction after people expressed interest in bringing it back. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs (pictured) decided to revive the annual State Fair live auction after people expressed interest in bringing it back. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

People could catch a preview of the live auction on Friday at the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., where a small collection of its items was on display.

Frerichs’ favorite object from the collection? A 1954 Topps rookie baseball card of former Cubs player Ernie Banks, who died in 2015.

“As a Cubs fan, and with the Cubs having a good year this year, I think it’s going to generate a lot of interest,” he said.

Yulonda Almasi, a former Kraft Foods employee who stopped to preview the items while job hunting, said she was most interested in the pair of $10 gold certificates from 1928.

Yvonna Castronova, a public service administrator for the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission, examines a $1,000 bill that was printed in 1934. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
Yvonna Castronova, a public service administrator for the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission, examines a $1,000 bill that was printed in 1934. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

“It was pretty cool to see when our currency was backed by gold because it reminded me of when we had money that was actually worth something,” Almasi said.

Yvonna Castronova, a public service administrator for the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission who stopped to browse, was impressed by the thousand-dollar bill from 1932.

“I didn’t even know they made bills for $1,000,” Castronova said. “It was interesting because it looks just like a normal bill, except it’s worth so much more.”

The items being auctioned are things the state has collected that have not been claimed after 10 years. Frerichs said the auction’s proceeds will be held onto perpetuity for the rightful owners of each item.

The state fair’s live auction will feature 21,500 unclaimed property items worth $167,000, including jewelry, sports memorabilia and rare coins. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
The state fair’s live auction will feature 21,500 unclaimed property items worth $167,000, including jewelry, sports memorabilia and rare coins. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times