Imagine buying something random on eBay and receiving not just what you ordered, but also a small fortune hidden inside. That’s exactly what happened to tank enthusiast Nick Mead. One simple eBay transaction was all it took to gain him and his business notoriety. His discovery made international headlines and could stir up further conflict between two countries in the Middle East. So just what happened? Read on to learn the incredible story of one small business owner who might soon become a millionaire by accident. This is a once in a lifetime story that could change one man’s life.
1. The Treasure Hunt Begins
One day, while Nick Mead was perusing the internet looking for another combat vehicle to add to his vast collection, he came across a Russian T-54 that was up for sale on eBay. Inspired by the type of tank, he came up with an unusual business idea and just had to have the Russian tank for his tank driving experience company, Tanks-Alot.
“I saw it advertised and I had this idea of doing a From Russia With Love experience, where people would come and drive three Russian tanks,” Mead told the Daily Mail. Mead may not have been looking for buried treasure, but the treasure was certainly about to find him in the most unexpected way.
2. The Soviet T-54
This specific model of tank, the Russian T-54, is part of a series of main battle tanks there were introduced by the Soviet Union in the years immediately following the Second World War. These tanks have been involved in numerous armed conflicts throughout history.
It’s estimated that over 100,000 Russian T-54 tanks were built until production of the series was halted in 1979, being replaced by newer models. The Russian T-54 tank was used in active battle throughout the world, including the Middle East, the Vietnam War and Angola just to name a few.
3. The Man Who Missed Out
A 23-year-old man named Joe Hewes posted the old Soviet war tank on eBay for sale. He was happy to sell the tank but ended up trading it with Mead. Hewes traded the tank in for two other armored vehicles. Together, worth around $42,000.
Little did he know at the time that there was a fortune hidden inside the old tank he sold. A fortune that would be worth over 60 times what the bartered vehicles were worth. But along with that fortune came a dark secret.
4. Hidden Treasures
Nick Mead has been collecting combat vehicles for a long time and he knows that some of them come with more than what meets the eye. Tanks are deadly war machines, but during times of conflict and uncertainty, they are also used for other means.
When political climates are uncertain and regimes are in a state of uncertainty or in danger of collapsing, tanks have been used throughout history to safely transport people and items of precious value. Whether that be important people or stolen treasure, each tank comes with a unique story of their own.
5. Origin of the Soviet Tank
The origin of the Soviet tank Nick Mead bought on eBay is undoubtedly an interesting one. The tank, while Soviet in origin, was manufactured in China and had been used by the Iraqi army under the command of none other than the notorious Saddam Hussain.
Tanks were used extensively during the Iran-Iraq war which lasted a grueling 8 years and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Shortly after the war, which ended in a stalemate, tanks were used during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. During the invasion, Iraq looted the rich Persian Gulf nation of countless treasures, many of which were transported by tank.
6. Mead and His Team
Shortly after receiving the tank, Mead and his team at Tanks-Alot quickly got to work. They worked to examine the tank’s condition, started replacing parts that were damaged, and also restored parts that had eroded over time. All to get the tank back to pristine condition and fully operational.
As part of the process, the Tanks-Alot team searched every nook and cranny of the armored vehicle, knowing that they would have to be as thorough as possible. Overlooking just one part of the vehicle might mean it could critically malfunction or worse, put Mead’s customers in grave danger.
7. Something Suspicious
After putting in countless hours working on the tank, inspecting and restoring, the team ran across something out of the ordinary. One of the tank’s fuel canisters was not working, like it had been purposely disabled, but there was certainly something inside.
The team could tell by the weight of the canister that something had been stored inside, in secret, something that wasn’t supposed to be easily found. After carefully removing the canister that was mounted on the tank the team found something that they had never expected to find.
8. The Goods
The Tanks-Alot team cautiously removed the fuel canister and prepared themselves for what they were about to find. At best case it would be something valuable, at worst case it could be something that would put them all in danger.
Within the fuel tank, the Tanks-Alot team found a stockpile of ammunition. For now, they were in the clear. The ammunition would have to be reported and turned over to the proper authority for disposal. There was no telling how old the bullets were and whether they were even fit for use. Trying to use a corroded or faulted bullet in a gun could spell disaster, so the team took the cautious route.
9. Another Suspicious Find
The team grew more diligent after the first find, knowing that if the tank had been used to hide items then in all likelihood there were more hidden secrets inside. And sure enough, they ended up finding another huge secret.
Just as they had discovered the ammunition, the team found yet another fuel tank that was not functional. This fuel tank, though, was much heavier than the last. Not heavy because it contained fuel or ammo, but something else altogether.
10. Proceed With Caution
This time the team was certain that the canister would hold firearms, to go along with the ammunition they had previously found. But after disconnecting the canister from the tank, suspicion began to arise that perhaps it contained something else entirely.
The team decided that this time they would take a video of the unveiling of whatever was inside the canister. Just in case the items within were illegal, in which case the team might need to protect themselves and prove the items were not theirs, but came in the newly purchased tank.
11. The Buried Treasure
The fuel canister was so heavy that it took two people with crowbars just to get it up high enough to reach inside. The underside of the canister had been broken open to get the mysterious items. Mead’s colleague reached his hand inside, not knowing what to expect.
After a few painstaking moments struggling with the weight of the item inside the canister, he pulled out a brick that gleamed ever so slightly. A brush against his clothes revealed a shine, a shiny gold bullion. The Tanks-Alot team had struck gold!
12. Better Than Puppies
Excitement immediately filled the room and the two colleagues that were previously struggling to hold the canister up were suddenly filled with adrenaline-infused strength like they had never been before. Mechanic Todd Chamberlain reached his hand back in to see if he could find more gold bars.
Like magic, every time he stuck his hand in, it came back out with another gold bullion! One of the workers commented that the experience was better than a dog having puppies. One after another they kept coming until finally, they had five gold bullions in total. But the story didn’t end there.
13. Finders Keepers?
The entire Tanks-Alot team was overjoyed by the amazing find. Never in their wildest dreams had they thought they would find solid gold bars, a small fortune inside a tank that was purchased off eBay. But could they keep their new found treasure?
The question of whether they could keep the gold or not immediately came up. Nick Mead, the owner of the business stepped in with a firm foot. He said that they would do everything according to the book and report the find to the proper authorities.
14. The Police
Mead contacted the police to inform them of what the team had found hidden inside the tank and they sent over police officers. The officers came to the farm and collected the gold bars, leaving Mead with only a receipt.
That receipt is now Mead’s only connection to the gold bars that are locked away tightly in a UK police station. According to the police, they are going to attempt to locate the rightful owners of the gold. But where did they come from?
15. The Wonders of the Internet
These days you can buy anything online. Literally anything. The vast endless void that is known as the internet can be a dark and scary place. But we aren’t talking about the dark web where people do illegal things like human trafficking.
We are talking about eBay, the multi-billion dollar e-commerce company. eBay is a curious place, chocked full of oddities. People have sold things as strange as imaginary friends, unassembled snowmen and gum chewed by Britney Spears on eBay. But tanks? Looks like there’s a market for everything.
16. The Man Behind It All
Nick Mead has an undoubtedly unusual hobby: tanks. But not figurines, the real-life things. While to most it would seem very odd (and possibly illegal) to try and buy a tank on eBay, to Mead, it wouldn’t be the first time.
By the time Nick Mead set out to buy this particular tank, the one that would change the rest of his life, he already had a wide collection of tanks in his arsenal. But was he attempting to overthrow the government? Just a military enthusiast? Or was it something else completely?
17. The Reason Why
So just what exactly is the reason for Nick Mead’s tank collection? His job. Mead runs a rather out of the ordinary business that deals with tanks and other armored vehicles. If you watch a lot of war movies, there is a chance that you have seen some of his tanks.
Mead’s company rents out tanks and other armored vehicles to be used in movies and TV shows. You’ve probably never asked yourself where the tanks in films and movies come from, have you? Well, they come from companies like Mead’s. But even he couldn’t anticipate what was coming next.
The name of Nick Mead’s company is ‘Tanks-Alot’ and he offers just that, a LOT of tanks. At his farm in the village of Helmdon, England, you can drive tanks around and even experience crushing a car with the tank that you drive.
Mead’s business also offers a number of other services and activities. You can even do a tank driving license course at the locations. After you pass your license test, you are able to buy a tank from Tanks-Alot. There is a wide variety of tanks in their collection for sale, in case you’re interested in making a purchase.
19. Not As Hard As You Think
Right now you might be thinking that it must be near impossible to buy a tank, much less have an entire collection (or as some may look at it, an army) of tanks. Well, as it turns out it isn’t that difficult at all.
In the United States and in the United Kingdom, there are a number of businesses similar to Mead’s. In many cases, the main gun of the tank must be decommissioned, but the actual process of buying the tank isn’t a problem at all.
20. An Impressive Collection
To date, Nick Mead has collected over 150 tanks, which is quite the personal army. In fact, there are small countries that don’t even have that many tanks. The tanks that Mead buys come from all over the world, each with a unique story and background.
Having been in the business for so long, Mead knows that sometimes tanks are used for more than just war. Sometimes they are used for hiding and smuggling. In the enormous vehicle, it’s fairly simple to find nooks and crannies to stow things away.
21. The Challenger
Mead also has a rather controversial tank in his collection, a tank known as Challenger 1. The Challenger 1 is a British made main battle tank and Mead holds the title of being the only private citizen in the world to own one.
But that’s not what’s controversial. What’s controversial is that the Challenger 1 tank is still currently in use by the British military in war. This has led many people to ask, just how did Nick Mead get his hands on one.
22. Well Known
How Nick Mead managed to purchase the rare, still in use, tank may be a mystery, but it is certainly no secret. He is well-known in his community for his business in addition to his general enthusiasm for all things tank related.
After all, it would be pretty hard to hide a tank in a village, much less an entire fleet of them. Mead can frequently be seen driving his massive tanks around and customers flock to his business to experience the thrill and adrenaline rush of driving one.
23. Making Headlines
Even prior to Mead’s amazing discovery of the treasure hidden in a tank, he was making headlines just for driving his children to school. You would think that driving his children to school is a pretty ordinary task. But Nick Mead is no ordinary man.
Mead made the news for driving his two kids to school in a 17-tonne tank. Now that’s a great way to impress your friends in class! Mead says that his kids love it but that they are so used to it by now that they are most likely bored of the novelty of it all.
24. Street Legal
If the ease with which it was possible to purchase a tank doesn’t take you by surprise then you will definitely be surprised to learn that it is legal to drive them on the streets just like you would a car.
As you can imagine, Mead says that he gets a lot of attention when he drives his armored vehicles around town. “People often do a double take. They can’t believe it, and when they see the tax disc which verifies it’s road legal, they’re even more gobsmacked.”
25. Joy Riding
Nick Mead takes advantage of his tanks being street legal and often drives through town. He says that people wave “as if their hands are going to drop off” when they see him. Mead even has fun teasing the local police.
“The police often grin or look the other way and most of them don’t know what to do, it’s not every day you see a tank rolling into town,” the tank enthusiast told The Telegraph. He certainly seems to enjoy seeing people’s reactions.
26. Safety First
Even though the tank is street legal, that doesn’t mean that driving a giant war machine down a bustling city street is a simple task. One wrong move and the 17-tonne tank can easily crush a car or even worse.
Mead admits that he has had some close calls while driving the tank in town but the worst that has ever happened was taking the fuel cap off a bus that got too close. “But in my 20 years driving tanks I’ve never had once crash, I’m always extremely careful, especially with the kids.”
27. Origin Theories
It is believed that the gold bars were stolen from Kuwait by Iraqi soldiers during the invasion of the small Persian Gulf nation in 1990. Iraq looted billions of dollars worth of valuable items from Kuwait during the occupation, only some of which were returned.
After the war Iraq returned 3,216 gold bars to Kuwait, each of which was individually weighed. The return was overseen by United Nations forces. Another possibility is that the gold was stolen from Saddam Hussain’s personal stash. After the US invasion of Iraq troops found almost a billion dollars worth of hidden treasure, including gold.
28. Dangers of Gold
While the thought of keeping the gold might have momentarily come across the minds of Nick Mead’s team, in the end it would have been a terrible idea. The gold Mead found in the Soviet tank is estimated to be worth around $2.4 million.
Mead’s entire company quickly learned about the find as word got out quite quickly. Had he kept the gold for himself, robbers would surely have done anything necessary to steal it, thereby endangering Mead, his family and the Tanks-Alot employees.
29. Viral Story
The story of Mead’s incredible find quickly went viral all over social media and hit headlines worldwide. Everyone was amazed by the enormous find, but also by the fact that you can simply buy a tank on eBay. Who would have thought that was even legal?
Well, now you know. If you want to start your own personal army, it’s not as difficult as you’d expect. Reporters also hunted down the man that sold Mead the tank. Turns out, he isn’t bitter about not finding the gold himself. But he did say that if Mead gets to keep the gold, he expects to be taken out for a pint of beer.
30. Will Mead Get Anything
British police are currently trying to track down the rightful owners of the gold and get it back to them but one question still remains. In the event that they are not able to find the rightful owners, who will get the gold?
Mead has stated that he keeps the receipt he got from the police in a bank vault to be safe. At most, he says, he might get a finder’s fee. But he still keeps his fingers crossed that maybe, just maybe, he will get to keep the five gold bullions he discovered inside the tank he bought.
31. Getting Creative
Nick Mead and his crew’s extraordinary story fascinated many on social media. Among the commenters that were impressed by his fortunate discovery, some were shocked that he actually reported his new found treasure to the police. Among those commenters, one had a more intricate plan.
The commenter, a man named Jeremy Wetzel, suggested keeping quiet and selling the gold discreetly (and for a discount), for some quick, under-the-radar cash. Others suggested melting the gold into seemingly innocent jewelry. We’re just hoping they aren’t speaking from experience!
32. Whose Gold Is It, Anyway?
Did Nick Mead do the right thing when he turned the gold and ammunition in? Well, it depends on who you ask. Out of the many commenters, a man by the name of Nicholas Van Pelt was more for the “finders keepers” approach.
A similar case happened in San Jose, CA when a man, identified only as John, bought a storage unit that ended up having a treasure of rare gold coins stashed inside. The lucky John ended up putting the coins up for auction, turning his $1,100 investment into a profit of $500K. Wonder what would have happened if he turned it in to the police!
33. Not Such a Bad Idea?
Though most commenters disapproved of Mead’s decision to get the police involved in his discovery, one person actually thought it was a clever idea. Even if he did turn it in, it’s not that unlikely that he gets it back eventually.
Actually, as commenter Nick Rapaport suggests, it’s probably impossible to trace back the gold’s original owner, considering they did dubiosly stash it in a tank. And if the original owner isn’t found, Nick Mead is probably next in line!
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