How a Can Collector Died a Secret Millionaire

Glass bottles piled up in a recycling bin.

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Curt Degerman was a man who kept to himself. Around the town in Sweden where he lived, he could be seen riding his bike or rummaging through trash bins, collecting bottles and cans to be recycled, and eating leftover scraps of food. Like some might assume from his humble lifestyle, Curt never completed school, married, or had a family of his own. So, when he passed away in 2008 at the age of 60, many thought that Curt left little behind--but that couldn't be further from the truth.

According to the BBC Brasil, when it came time to sort through Curt's estate, it was discovered that he had amassed a fortune totaling nearly $ 1.4 million, leaving it all to a cousin who was kind enough to visit him occasionally in the years before his death.

What no one knew was that, after making the rounds to collect recyclables from trash throughout the city, Curt spent hours in the local library pouring over financial newspapers. Over the years, he became an expert on the stock market, investing the modest sum he earned from recycling in stocks and mutual funds, valued at close to a million dollars.

Despite being more readily associated with glass and aluminum, Curt also owned 124 bars of gold. That, plus the house he lived in, put the recycling scavenger's total worth at nearly one and a half million dollars.

Sadly, after Curt died of a heart attack and his secret wealth was revealed, his extended family contested for a piece of it. Although he left his entire estate to his cousin, his 92-year-old uncle brought the matter to court claiming the money was rightfully his. Recently the case was settled out of court under unreleased terms.