Scottsdale Man Pays $20 for Storage Unit and Finds Historical Documents and Collectibles from U.S. Congressman

Oct. 19 auction at EJ’s in Glendale to include letters from Herbert Hoover, President Harding White House invitations, historical documents, currency, antique cufflinks and more

GLENDALE, Ariz. (October 5, 2018) – When Don Smith decided to pay $20 for an abandoned storage unit in Peoria a few weeks ago, he had no idea that the contents once belonged to California U.S. Congressman Henry Ellsworth Barbour nearly a century ago.

In fact, Smith almost passed on bidding, based on how the storage unit looked.

“Just like the show Storage Wars, there were several people gathered to see what was inside the unit,” Smith, a Scottsdale resident, said. “It didn’t look like much – just a bunch of files and Christmas decorations.”

While the bidders weren’t allowed to enter the storage unit, Smith stood by the open door and took a good sniff.

“I leaned over and could smell the antiques,” he said. “When I was a kid, my mother would take us antiquing. There’s a smell to it, and I knew there would be some valuable pieces inside.”

Now, nearly 200 historical signed letters, documents, multiple letters from the war department, personal letters from congressional leaders, black and white photos, watches, cufflinks, currency and other collectibles once belonging to California U.S. Congressman Henry Ellsworth Barbour will hit the auction block on Friday, October 19 at 6 p.m. at EJ’s Auction & Consignment, 5880 W. Bell Road, in Glendale on the northeast corner of 59th Avenue and Bell Road.

The notable pieces include two signed letters from Herbert Hoover, White House invitations from President Harding, letters from the war department and an original invitation to the groundbreaking ceremonies of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as a large collection of Civil War currency.

Erik Hoyer, owner and auctioneer of EJ’s Auction & Consignment, said Smith’s initial investment of $20 could realize more than $10,000 at auction.

“Congressman Barbour was elected as a Republican to the 66th Congress in 1919 and then served six terms after that to 1933. He was a controversial figure, especially when it came to the preservation of the Roosevelt-Sequoia National Park,” Hoyer said, adding that the Barbour Bill was opposed by the National Parks Association and the Sierra Club.

The late congressman’s life also has East Coast ties. He was educated at Union College in New York and then graduated from the law department of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. After being admitted to the York bar in 1901, he moved to Fresno, California.

The October 19 auction also includes firearms. A free public preview takes place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, October 17, 18 & 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Collectors also can preview items and bid online. The live auction will start at 6 p.m. on Friday, October 19.


For details, visit or call (623) 878-2003.


1909- S V. D. B. Wheat Penny SOLD $650

Levi’s 501 & 517 Denim Jeans SOLD $1,500

1880-1895 Apache Beaded Hide Sunrise Puberty Dress SOLD $29,500

Raiders Of The Lost Ark Autographed Movie Poster SOLD $700

Large Bronze Lion Motif Water Fountain SOLD $7,000

1967 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Sport Coupe SOLD $42,500

(2) Antique Carved Wood Gothic Angel Statues SOLD $5,000

Vintage Sansui G33000 DC Stereo Receiver SOLD $6,250

1955 Chevrolet 210 Bel Air 2-dr Sedan SOLD $42,000

George Washington Nicholson 1832-1912 Oil On Canvas SOLD $17,500