A few keys that slipped out of your pocket while shopping, a forgotten hat on the train or an umbrella left behind in the café: everyday items like these end up in the city's lost property offices every week. Particularly in smaller cities, there are always items whose unnoticed loss seems hard to understand. In the city of Suhl, according to a city spokesman, a 1.40 meter long boa snake was once found in a mason jar and handed in to the lost and found office. In Sonneberg, among other things, a television, a typewriter and motorcycles found their way to the municipal collection point, in Jena a car roof rack and a grill rack, and in Mühlhausen a violin.
“In contrast, dentures and prostheses seem like normal lost property,” explained Mario Timmler from the Suhl city administration. The rising average age of the Thuringian population is also evident here: While lost dentures were only delivered sporadically a few years ago, such finds are almost part of everyday life in all of the cities surveyed and also in the museums of the Weimar Classic Foundation. Otherwise, buses and trams in particular are a place of forgetting: over half of the around 3,600 lost items each year arrive via Jena local transport, explained a spokeswoman.
Owners' interest in lost items varies greatly in the municipalities surveyed: According to a spokeswoman in Erfurt, around 80 percent of lost items are picked up by their owners. In Jena, Weimar and Mühlhausen, between a third and a quarter of the owners reported. In Suhl and Sonneberg - after all, the cities with the most unusual finds - only between ten and 15 percent.
The way lost property is handled is similar everywhere: after the statutory retention period of six months, the items are usually auctioned off and in some places donated. In some cases, the finders also register their so-called right to acquire ownership: Anyone who registers this when handing over a lost property can, under certain circumstances, become the legal owner of the abandoned object after the waiting period has expired - only in the case of keys, personal documents and finds that are in public Authorities and transport authorities have made this not possible. Due to data protection, cell phones and tablets are also exempt from this right, explained Sophie Pohl from the city administration in Erfurt. This can only be avoided if the finder pays the costs for professional data deletion by an external company. But that only happens in the rarest of cases. In all of the municipalities surveyed, only a fraction of finders declare their right to acquire property.
Some municipalities already offer online sites where owners can search for lost items: the cities of Erfurt, Jena, Weimar and Suhl offer an online lost property office. In the other municipalities, the offices can be reached by telephone or email. There is no clear trend in the number of lost property items handed in. While around 1,400 lost items were handed in in Erfurt in 2020, in 2023 there were almost 2,200 with a value of over ten euros. According to a spokeswoman, more items have ended up in lost and found offices in Jena in recent years - especially many technical devices such as headsets, power banks and smartwatches. In Weimar, however, the trend was declining, it was said.