When Loretta Simms spent 50 cents on a pack of Q-tips at her local thrift store, she thought the items would come in handy around the house. But when she later opened the box, it didn’t contain cotton swabs at all. What lay hidden inside was far more valuable.
Loretta Simms comes from Shawnigan Lake in British Columbia, Canada. In her spare time, this woman is quite the bargain hunter – and as a result, she can sometimes been found scouring the shelves of her local thrift store.
That’s what Simms was up to one eventful day in January 2018. Yes, on that day, she had visited the Cowichan Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store in nearby Duncan, B.C., to see what products it had on offer. Simms was hopeful that she would find something special there. Little did she know what lay in store.
Explaining her love of thrift stores, Simms told Chek News, “It’s fun to come in and poke around. You never know what you’re going to find… They say you can’t find good finds at a thrift shop.” However, Simms knew otherwise – to an extent.
You see, while she had presumably gotten her hands on some decent bargains over the years, little did Simms realize that her greatest discovery was yet to come. And it all began with that visit to Cowichan Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store.
As Simms perused the store’s shelves, she came across a rather ordinary-looking box of Q-tips. And while it didn’t, of course, appear to be a particularly exciting find, Simms believed the items would come in handy at home. So, she swiftly purchased the swabs and took them back to her house in Shawnigan Lake.
Explaining her reasoning behind the buy, Simms later revealed, “The Q-tips I could use for cleaning between my windows is what I was using them for.” However, unbeknown to the bargain hunter, the unassuming box concealed some hidden treasure – and the haul was about to be revealed.
Incredibly, when Simms opened up the container, she discovered not a bunch of cotton swabs but, instead, an array of sparkling rings. Eight, to be precise, all adorned with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. What’s more, among the valuables there was also a string of pearls.
As she surveyed the contents of the Q-tip box, Simms struggled to come to terms with what she was looking at. Recalling her initial reaction to the amazing discovery, she said, “Oh my God. Like, I couldn’t believe it when I found it.”
Meanwhile, when news of the true value of Simms’ purchase got back to the thrift store, staff were equally shocked. “I had priced the little boxes,” store director Arlene Cristofoli revealed. “I just took it for granted they were Q-tips and put them out on the shelf for 50 cents each. So, she paid 50 cents for eight rings and a string of pearls!”
But although Simms had bagged herself the bargain of a lifetime, something didn’t sit right with her about keeping the jewelry. As a result, somewhat amazingly, the next day she returned to the thrift store and handed the valuables back. Her thinking? Well, she believed they could do more good there than they would in her possession.
Explaining why she returned the trinkets, Simms revealed, “I just didn’t feel like I should keep [the rings]. I just felt it wasn’t meant for me. Meant for me to find, I think, and to bring back, but that was the main reason that I did it.”
And after Simms made the 12-mile journey back to the store, her discovery – and both her honesty and generosity – left volunteers there blown away. Speaking to Chek News, staff said that Simms’ gesture was “wonderful” and “astounding.”
What’s more, thrift store workers later confirmed that the string of pearls was indeed authentic. This meant that, including the rings, Simms’ Q-Tip haul was worth a total of 1,800 CAD ($1,400). Clearly, then, precious booty of this kind would be a godsend for the Cowichan Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store.
The store is run by a dedicated team of volunteers, all of whom offer their services free of charge. The money raised by sales, meanwhile, goes to helping patients at the nearby Cowichan Hospital. But it’s fair to say that the store’s regular stock typically has much lower price tags than the value of the jewelry.
Later, the story of the jewelry’s origins came to light. It turned out that the precious items had belonged to a woman who’d been a patient at the Cowichan Hospital. Then, after the woman died, her son and brother had sorted through her house and decided to donate some of her belongings to a good cause. Whether or not the relatives were aware of the jewelry inside the Q-Tip box is, however, unclear.
One thing’s for sure, though, and that’s that the collection is already in different hands. In fact, less than a week after Simms first took the jewelry home, all the items had found new owners. “They are already sold,” Cristofoli announced to the Times Colonist on January 26, 2018.
She added, “We sold five of them on Tuesday morning because I put them in a locked case in the window on Saturday afternoon. By Tuesday morning, people were phoning; people from Ontario and all over the place were contacting me, wanting to buy them.”
In the end, the store sold the valuables for over 1,000 CAD ($800) – and Simms couldn’t have been happier. “The money will go to a good cause, and that makes me feel good,” she said. “It will go to helping the whole community.”
And although Simms didn’t end up keeping the jewelry she’d found, she was nevertheless impressed with her discovery. Now, when people claim you can’t find anything of value in thrift stores, she has three simple words for them: “Hey, I did.”