Unclaimed Bags: You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

by Shelli Stein

Are you looking for the most unusual place to shop this holiday season? Heck, shopping at this store I found no matter the season gets you points for thinking outside the shopping box. If this idea isn’t the most thinking-outside-the-box place to shop, then I don’t know what is. Unclaimed baggage sales, anyone?

I know you have more important things to think about, but have you ever wondered what percent of luggage goes unclaimed? Over 99.5% of domestic airline’s checked bags are picked up at the carousel. After airlines conduct an extensive 3-month tracing process there is still a small percentage of bags left unclaimed. What happens to those bags?

The other .5% goes to Unclaimed Baggage. Unclaimed Baggage buys orphaned bags and gives them a second life by selling, donating, and recycling their contents. The business has an exclusive contract with all the major airlines to purchase their unclaimed baggage. You may think that fraction of 1% is small. However, when there are millions of people traveling every single day, it really does add up to quite a substantial amount of stuff.

It’s important to note that not all lost bags are destined to be sold. Fortunately for many travelers, airlines across the world manage to recover 97% of all lost or forgotten luggage.

Until fairly recently you had to go to the Unclaimed Baggage store in person. The store is in Scottsboro, Alabama, a small town of 15,000 people, 40 minutes east of Huntsville. Want to take a guess as to how many people visit each year? They have over a million visitors every year.

In case you’re wondering if they find weird stuff in the unclaimed luggage they buy, check out their top ten list of weird finds :

  • Three suits of armor over the course of the shop’s 50-year history.
  • The original, 4-foot-tall Hoggle puppet from the 1986 film Labyrinth starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly
  • A 15-foot rocket, which arrived in two pieces.
  • A 40.95-carat emerald appraised for $25k (sold for $17k)
  • An authentic shrunken head. Since its ghoulish arrival in the 1980s, Unclaimed Baggage has received several replicas.
  • A Gucci suitcase filled with artifacts dating back to 1500 BC—the time of Moses. Among the contents were an Egyptian burial mask and a preserved falcon. All were auctioned at Christie’s.
  • A tribal walking stick with an intricately carved depiction of a warrior’s face that, on closer inspection, was inset with real teeth.
  • A xylophone from Neil Diamond’s 2008 tour, complete with a name-stamped case.
  • A six-foot paper maché Tinkerbell. After “surgery” to repair her broken knee, she has been on display ever since.
  • A bear pelt packed in salt for curing but not for long enough to finish the job—an unfortunate fact that became apparent at first whiff.

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Until recently, you’ve only been able to buy items when visiting the brick and mortar location. But they’ve now opened an online store. It’s a well designed and organized site offering plenty of bargains and sales for special occasions.

Just like shopping in general, you do need to know your prices to make sure you’re getting a deal. They do have a 14-day return policy though, which helps the situation of buying used and sight-unseen items.

Even if nothing for sale on Unclaimed Baggage attracts your attention either because the price isn’t right or they don’t have what you’re looking for, it is fun to browse through the categories and see the strange types of things they have available.

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Unclaimed Bags: You Won’t Believe What Happens Next! – Travel Blogs November 19, 2022 - 1:30 pm

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pmv October 5, 2023 - 2:32 pm

So …. if you REALLY had some of the more unique items in the bag and identified those items when you made your claim why wouldnt you be able to get these things back? How can X airline sell a bag with your readily identifiable antique “x”, rocket, elvis suite etc when you’ve told them they’ve lost your bag that contained it?!

Shelli October 5, 2023 - 3:30 pm

Great question, pmv! Don’t know the answer though, sorry.


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