Q: Hasn't this been done before?
A: Yes. Though many have tried, no one has ever repeated it.
Six years ago Alex Tew conceived of the brilliant Million Dollar Homepage, but just as importantly, he took the raw idea and made it happen, reaping a just reward for doing so.
In his wake a thousand pale imitations immediately sprung up trying to ride on his coat-tails. But none of them succeeded, or really deserved to — they were just quick and easy knock-offs.
Now, years later, pretty much everyone assumes that it can't be repeated, but I disagree — it’d take imagination, determination and luck, but the “million pixels for a dollar per pixel” is a potent idea that deserves to work again.
The story of the second train-station canister below is my inspiration — a reminder that sometimes common wisdom overlooks a rare opportunity: to be second.
A true story...
About 15 years ago, a story in the local Melbourne news caught my imagination, and I’ve never forgotten it…
Some guy fossicking around in the trees near a small suburban train station spotted something among the leaves that turned out to be the top of a shallow buried canister. Inside it he found $200,000 in cash, and to everyone’s surprise, he turned the money in to the nearest Police station.
Well, this made the news in a big way that night, and eventually (months later) he was allowed to keep the money, which was thought to be hidden proceeds of crime. To this point it was an amazing story, and everyone was talking about it, but then it got even better…
Another man, hearing the news that night, went down to the same train station a few days later, and looked around the area where the canister had reportedly been found, and he found second canister, also with $200,000 dollars inside! He also turned the money in to the Police, and he too was eventually allowed to keep it.
So here’s the bit that really blew me away - not just the first guy’s luck or honesty, or even the second guy’s - It’s that in a city of over 4 million people, only one person bothered to go down to the train station to see if there was more money hidden there. Even the police didn’t consider that there could be a second canister hidden near the first.
How could so many people miss something that was almost in plain sight and there for the taking?
The first guy was lucky, but that second guy is a hero of mine. He imagined a simple possibility that escaped 4 million other people. Yes, he was very lucky, but it wasn’t dumb luck. I’m glad the relevant authorities eventually rewarded his honesty by letting him keep the unclaimed money without a fight.
Here’s the only detailed reference to the story I could find via Google, because the event pre-dates the era of widespread internet use here:
Joycey Tooher: You might recall the case of money found at Balaclava Station in Melbourne in January 1996. The person found $200,000 stashed in a plastic drum on land adjacent to the Balaclava Railway Station. The money was handed in to the police, and a few days later, someone else who’d heard about this remarkable find, went looking in the same place for more money, and believe it or not, found another $200,000 hidden in the same way. The second person also handed the money to the police.
Now the land on which the money was found belonged to the Public Transport Corporation, and at the time of finding, these lucky finders had no permission to be on the land, so they were technically trespassers. But nevertheless, they got to keep that money. The true owner of the $400,000 never claimed it, and under the law relating to finders, the Public Transport Corporation as owner of the land, had a better entitlement to the property but it chose not to contest the finders’ claim.