State unclaimed property laws generally apply to most "intangible" items held or issued by banks and financial institutions. This includes dormant checking and savings accounts, uncashed cashier's checks, and unclaimed CDs (this kind, not these). But what happens to abandoned safe deposit boxes? State unclaimed property laws apply to those as well. Section 3 of the 1995 Uniform Unclaimed Property Act, which has been enacted in several states, provides that: "Tangible property held in a safe deposit box or other safekeeping depository in this State in the ordinary course of the holder’s business . . . are presumed abandoned if the property remains unclaimed by the owner for more than five years after expiration of the lease or rental period on the box or other depository."
Thus, thousands of birth certificates, deeds, collectibles, and other items are escheated to the states every year. The states, in turn, do not maintain an end-of-Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-style warehouse to keep all of these items. Generally, the items with some value are auctioned off to the public, and those with no commercial value are destroyed. For example, last week the State of Missouri held an unclaimed property auction, which raised more than $100,000 for owners. Among the items that sold were an autographed Pete Rose baseball, a metal toothpick, a November 1985 issue Sports Illustrated (presumably this one), and a fanny pack (which sold for $1).