Dear Lee,

Do you have a door key under the door mat? Does an aging relative hide money in cookbooks or under the mattress? Some people just need a safe place to hide an “emergency” key, or to stash money, a credit card and identification. A number of years ago, I thought I had the perfect outside hiding spot for a house key – a large, heavy antique iron planter that I filled each year with blooming plants. The planter was in the center of the front yard. I buried the key under the plants. Perfect!

One morning, I noticed a large brown spot in the grass left there from the now-missing planter. Amazingly, someone had pulled into my driveway and hauled off the very heavy urn. They didn’t even spill any dirt. My homeowner’s insurance paid several thousand dollars for the stolen planter, but I spent my own money having the keys to all the outside door locks changed. I knew the thieves would eventually find my key. My garden decorations are now reproductions or decorative pieces of ironwork like the flea-market-find, dented Mercedes auto grill that hangs on my fence.

Inside the house, hiding spots can be tricky – especially if no one else knows about them. A friend’s grandma had hidden her diamond bracelet in the bed pillow, but she never told anyone. There was a house sale after she died. The family was looking for the bracelet mentioned in her will. Someone remembered that grandma kidded about keeping her jewelry with her in bed. The linens and the pillow had been sold with the bed. The diamonds may still be hiding in the pillow.

Favorite hiding spots for money are purses, jacket or pants pockets, shoes and, of course, the famous “under the mattress” spot. But how about taping important papers to the back of a picture? Or jewelry in a water-tight bag attached inside the toilet tank? You can also store money inside one of your books, in the base of a lamp, or sew valuables into the hems of curtains or – a favorite in TV murder mysteries – put jewels inside the baby’s teddy bear. However, the safest place to keep valuables is out of the house in a bank safe deposit box.

You can buy a special can labeled corn made to hold money with a bottom that opens. Many gift catalogs sell them. Replace the label with one from a product no one in your house would eat. Put valuables in the can and the can on the back of a kitchen shelf. Unfortunately, I had a minor kitchen fire and my family helped me discard all the smoke-damaged food. The fake can with the papers went into the trash. I was lucky. It was on top and I rescued it and my papers. No more papers in cans for me!

As an antique lover you may own a desk with a secret “deed” compartment. It took us about 10 years to figure out how to open a compartment that had left scratches on the top of our antique desk. When we used a pointed stick to release a hidden catch, we found a card inside the sliding section. “So you finally figured it out,” it read with a name and date in the early 1800s. We closed the secret compartment after adding a note with our name, city, date and the word “yes.”

But our best hidden antique story happened to lucky friends. The couple went to the Andy Warhol auction because the wife wanted one of his prints. Her husband bid and lost a number of things, but finally won an antique case clock that was more than 8 feet tall, too large for most homes. When they sent the clock to be cleaned and adjusted, the excited restorer called to tell them that, rolled up in the wooden case, was a large picture of cows – one of Warhol’s famous images. The picture is worth five times as much as the clock. The clock and the cows are now displayed together on one wall. Every guest hears the story of the hidden antique and the lucky bidders.


Even an old, dented automobile grill can be useful. This one is used as a garden decoration.