After Purchasing a Tank on eBay, One Man Found More than He Bargained For

Most of us have bought something from eBay at some point in our lives – after all, it is the world’s biggest online marketplace. However, while a fair few people experience disappointment when they receive something that’s not quite what they expected, some people strike gold – literally. One of those people is Nick Mead from a farm located in the small village of Helmdon in England, who was searching eBay one day looking to expand his unusual collection of old military tanks and other armored vehicles.

Nick Mead, the man who literally struck gold, posing in front of a tank
Source: YouTube

He made his purchase of what he considered to be an exciting find – an old Russian tank. However, he had no idea just how exciting it would be – and what he would end up finding inside of it. In a shocking discovery that made headlines nationwide as well as internationally, Nick and his colleagues stumbled upon a fortune that could change all of their lives forever.

The Internet Holds No Bounds

These days, you can buy anything you want online. Literally anything – even illegal items. When you factor the dark web into the mix, the internet can be a scary – and sometimes even dangerous – place. However, you don’t have to delve that far to come across something mysterious – you can sometimes find it in the most obvious of places.

A tank
Source: YouTube

eBay is one of them – the multi-billion-dollar e-commerce company that serves as the world’s largest online marketplace. You can find almost anything on there, as long as it’s legal – and you certainly do come across some oddities. Various items that have been sold have even made the news – such as gum chewed by Britney Spears!

Harboring an Unusual Passion

Nick Mead had always loved to go on eBay to see what he could find. He loved the thrill of waiting to see if he’d win a bid and seemed to have an eye for finding rare and unusual items that were up for sale for one reason or another. Plus, he had an undoubtedly unusual hobby: collecting tanks.

A Russian T-54 Tank
Source: Flickr / manhhai

Not figurines, however, as you may expect – no, we’re talking about real-life military tanks. While this may seem crazy to some people, to Nick, it was actually extremely normal – he’d been doing it for years. In fact, he’d even managed to incorporate looking for and buying old military tanks into his everyday life.

An Out of the Ordinary Business

So what could possibly be the reason for Nick’s military tank collection that was part of his everyday life? His job, of course. Nick runs a business that can only be described as “out of the ordinary,” dealing with tanks and other armored vehicles. He rents them out to various people and makes a decent amount of money doing so.

A worker washing off a dirty tank
Source: Instagram / jr_hewes

In fact, some of his vehicles have been used in famous movies, as well as popular TV shows. After all, whenever an old tank is featured on-screen, it has to be sourced from somewhere – and collectors like Nick, therefore, end up making a name for themselves.

The Tanks-A lot Experience

Tanks-Alot, which is based at Nick’s farm in the village of Helmdon in England, offers exactly what the name suggests – a lot of tanks! It provides customers with the opportunity to drive tanks around the beautiful English countryside – plus, they can even experience crushing a car with a tank of their choosing. It’s certainly not a company that you come across every day.

The ‘Tanks A Lot’ building with an ATV and a 4 x 4 parked in front
Source: YouTube

Tanks-Alot also provides a number of other services and activities, even offering a tank driving license course that customers can undertake at the farm. After customers pass their license test, they’re able to buy a tank from Nick – of which there’s a wide variety available.

Anyone Want to Buy a Tank?

So, that’s one way to buy a tank, if you’re interested – just go to Nick’s farm in Helmdon, England, and pass a tank license test. However, there are actually other ways that people can purchase a tank – and it may surprise you to find out that it’s not really that difficult at all.

A photograph of people hanging out on tanks with a car parked in front of them
Source: YouTube

There are, in fact, quite a few businesses in both the United Kingdom and the United States that are similar to Nick’s – and most of them offer a way of buying tanks. In many cases, the main gun of the tank must be decommissioned, but the actual purchase itself isn’t a problem at all.

Collecting an Impressive Array

At the time of writing, Nick has collected more than 150 tanks, which is enough to make up a pretty formidable personal army. There are, in fact, some small countries that don’t even have that many tanks in their entire national military! But Nick’s not interested in partaking in any conflict himself. For him, it’s a hobby mixed with a profession.

There are a multitude of tanks in Nick collection, a few of them photographed here in his garage
Source: YouTube

The tanks that Nick purchases come from all over the world and each has a unique background and story. Although the majority have been used in a war somewhere, sometimes, they are used for more than that. In some cases, tanks are used for hiding and smuggling both people and objects of value. They’re usually enormous vehicles, so it’s fairly easy to stow things away.

The Controversial Challenger 1

One of the most controversial tanks in Nick’s collection is the Challenger 1, a British-made battle tank. In fact, Nick is the only private citizen in the world to own one – and many people have questioned over the years just how he actually managed to get his hands on such a rare tank.

Nick’s Challenger 1, his most controversial tank
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Challenger 1 tank is still currently in use by the British military in war, and many feel that Nick should not legally be able to own one. This fact has also led many people to question just how Nick Mead managed to buy one and have it operating on the farm.

An Unknown and Unrevealed Mystery

Unfortunately, however, this remains somewhat of a mystery – and one that Nick doesn’t seem bothered about revealing. But although he hasn’t confessed to anyone publicly how he managed to purchase the rare tank that’s still in use by the British army, he doesn’t try to hide it from anyone either.

Nick inside of a white tank with ‘tanklimo.com’ written on the side of it
Source: YouTube

Nick is well-known in his local community for his business, as well as his general enthusiasm and passion for all things tank-related. After all, it would be pretty hard to hide an entire army’s worth of tanks in a small English village! He’s also known throughout the collector community for his extensive fleet.

A Trip to Remember

In fact, Nick had even made headlines for driving his children to school – but it wasn’t just any normal school run. After all, Nick Mead is no ordinary man – and his interests and passions are pretty “out there” by most people’s standards! So, he decided to give his children the thrill of a lifetime.

Nick and his children riding to school in his tank
Source: Flickr

One morning, Nick got his two kids ready for school and then drove them there in a 17-ton tank – and, needless to say, his kids’ friends were extremely impressed! In fact, it went down in the record books for most of the village, who couldn’t believe their eyes. However, Nick says now that his kids are so used to going in tanks, the novelty has worn off!

Treat Them Like a Car

If you’re one of those rare people who aren’t surprised by the ease with which it is possible to purchase a tank, then surely you’ll be shocked to discover that it is legal to drive them on the street in the UK – just like you would with a car. Of course, most people don’t take up that offer – but Nick’s not most people.

Nick and his boys are riding in the tank down an open road in the countryside
Source: YouTube

As you can imagine, though, Nick says that he gets a lot of attention when he drives his armored tanks around town. “People often do a double-take,” he says. “They can’t believe it, and when they see the tax disc which verifies it’s road legal, they’re even more gobsmacked.”

Basking in the Attention

Nick takes full advantage of being able to cruise down the street in his tanks being street legal and often drives through town. As a result, he’s become somewhat of a local celebrity – he says that people wave “as if their hands are going to drop off” when they see him.

Nick and his boys being interviewed
Source: YouTube

Nick’s even known to tease 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,” he told The Telegraph. He certainly seems to enjoy the attention he attracts and seeing people’s different reactions.

Think About the Practicalities

Even though driving a tank down a street is technically legal, it doesn’t mean that actually driving a heavily armored military machine down a busy road is a simple task. One wrong move and the 17-ton tank can easily crush a car – or worse, harm somebody.

Nick and his sons with their tank parked in front of their garage with them hanging around it taking photographs
Source: YouTube

Nick admits that he has had a fair few close calls while driving his tanks around town, but the worst by far was when he took the fuel cap off a bus that he got too close to. “But in my 20 years driving tanks I’ve never had once crash,” he says. “I’m always extremely careful, especially with the kids.”

Looking to Expand the Collection

So, by the time he came around to buying the tank that would stand out from the rest, it’s safe to say that Nick Mead was extremely experienced with the vehicles. He was, at the time, always looking to expand his collection with rarer and more exquisite models to attract more customers and expand his business.

LT Nick standing in front of one of his tanks

Source: YouTube

After all, his business wasn’t completely unique, so he had to make sure he stood out from the competition as much as possible. He knew he needed to get something that would attract people from far and wide – something that none of his nearby competitors had access to.

An Unexpected eBay Listing

It was just a regular afternoon when Nick started wading through the internet to look for another combat vehicle to add to his already-vast collection, and he didn’t think anything unusual would come of it. Suddenly, while looking on eBay, he came across one particular vehicle that immediately grabbed his attention.

A photograph of a young guy holding a for sale sign while sitting on the barrel of a tank
Source: Flickr

It was a Russian T-54 tank – and someone was selling it. Straight away, Nick was intrigued, and he has a sudden idea for a somewhat unusual business venture as part of Tanks-Alot. He simply had to have the Russian tank for his company – and he knew exactly what he planned to use it for.

From Russia With Love

“I saw it advertised and had this idea of doing a From Russia With Love experience, where people would come and drive three Russian tanks,” Nick later told the Daily Mail. He started doing some in-depth research into the history and use of the T-54, so that he knew as much as possible about what he was getting into.

Nick and a worker are standing in front of his tank
Source: Flickr

He quickly discovered that this particular tank model is part of a series of battle tanks introduced by the Soviet Union in the years immediately following World War II. As a result, T-54 tanks have been involved in a multitude of armed conflicts throughout the past decades.

A Varied and Extensive History

In fact, the Russian T-54 tank was used in active battles throughout the world, including the Middle East, Angola, and the Vietnam War, among others. It is estimated that more than 100,000 were built until 1979 when production of the series was halted, and it started to be replaced by newer models.

A photograph of a tank
Source: YouTube

As a result, it was a rare item to find up for sale – especially on a popular online marketplace such as eBay. Nick was increasingly excited about the prospect of purchasing it and began to dream about how much attention it would attract. Little did he know that it would turn out to be even more exciting than he originally thought.

A Trade Worth a Fortune

Nick decided that the Soviet war tank had to be his and reached out to Joe Hewes, the 23-year-old man who had put it up for sale. In the end, after a bit of back-and-forth, they decided to make a trade with each other. For the T-54 tank, Nick gave Joe two other armored vehicles.

Nick bought this tank, which is now sitting on his property
Source: YouTube

Together, they were worth approximately $42,000. This seemed like a lot of money, but Nick had a feeling that it would be worth it in the end. Little did he know that his hunch would be spot on and that the tank would contain a fortune worth more than 60 times what the two battered vehicles he traded were worth.

More Than Meets the Eye

However, Nick had been collecting combat vehicles for quite some time by this point, and he knew that some of them were, in fact, 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 – and some of them harbor dark secrets.

People in a tank riding over a car
Source: YouTube

For example, throughout history, during times of uncertainty regarding politics and the economy, or when governmental regimes are in a state of uncertainty or in danger of altogether collapsing, tanks have been used to transport people and items of value safely. As a result, in general, every tank comes with a story.

An Ambiguous and Mysterious History

When he first purchased the T-54 tank, Nick was told a small amount of information about its origins. While it was of Soviet origin, it was actually manufactured in China and initially used by the Iraqi army under the command of none other than Saddam Hussain, one of the world’s most notorious dictators.

Nick and his boys around one of their tanks
Source: YouTube

It had been used extensively during the Iraq-Iran war, which ravaged both countries for eight years, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives in total. Eventually, the war ended in a stalemate, so it was re-used in Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, during which many valuable items were transported from the latter back to Iraq – by a tank, of course.

Tanks-Alot Gets to Work

The day of the tank’s arrival finally came, and Nick couldn’t have been more excited. He and his Tanks-Alot team immediately got to work to renovate it back into full working order, ready to be used by customers in the ‘With Love from Russia’ experience Nick was envisaging.

someone is working on the tank
Source: YouTube

Although the tank wasn’t in awful shape, there was a fair amount to be done to get it fully up and running again. Some parts had to be repaired, and others had completely eroded over time and had to be completely replaced as a result. Nick and his team, however, were determined to get it back into pristine condition, as well as fully operational again.

Searching Every Nook and Cranny

As part of the renovation process, Nick and the Tanks-Alot team searched every nook and cranny of the Russian tank, trying to be as thorough as humanly possible in order to get it up to scratch. After all, overlooking just one part of the vehicle might mean it could critically malfunction, which could, in turn, put customers in grave danger.

The inside of a tank
Source: Wikimedia Commons

After hours of working on the tank, the team spotted something that struck them as unusual. One of the furl canisters wasn’t working properly – and it was like it had been purposefully disabled for some reason. On closer inspection, it was obvious that there was something inside – they just couldn’t see what it was.

Growing Curiosity and Speculation

Judging by the weight of the canister, which was fairly heavy, it was clear that something had been stored inside of it. And, considering the way it was concealed so carefully, it was clear that whatever the contents, they were intended to be kept hidden. The team’s curiosity grew as they speculated what could be inside.

The tank with a ‘for sale’ sign on it
Source: Flickr

They set about completely removing the canister – which had been mounted on the tank – extremely precisely, as they didn’t want to damage it. They fantasized about finding lost treasure, but in equal measure, worried that there might be some kind of old explosive concealed inside. Either way, they knew that they had to be very careful.

Best Case or Worst Case?

The Tanks-Alot team knew that, at best, the canister would contain something valuable, but at worst, there could be something dangerous lurking inside. Of course, curiosity got the better of them, and they knew that they wouldn’t be able to rest until they managed to get the canister open and reveal the contents.

Two guys standing in front of the tank
Source: Flickr

Finally, after a lot of intricate and precise work, they were able to prise the canister open and see what was inside. What they saw would first confuse them, then lead them further into the maze of discovering exactly what the tank’s history would reveal. Either way, it would shock and amaze them – or it was the last thing they thought they’d find when they had started work that morning.

Discovering the Old Contents

Inside the canister was a pile of old ammunition – a stockpile, by the looks of it. The immediate feeling the team felt was a relief – after all, it wasn’t anything explosive, so they didn’t seem to be in any immediate danger. They removed the bullets and inspected further to see if there was any information easily visible.

A canister full of ammunition
Source: Instagram

Unfortunately, from the first look, there was just no telling how old the bullets were – and it was, therefore, unlikely that they were fit for use. Using a faulty or corroded bullet could easily end in fatality, so the Tanks-Alot team knew they had to be handed over to the authorities for proper disposal.

Working with Diligence and Care

Now that the Tanks-Alot workers were aware that there was more to the Russian tank than they first suspected, they continued their work with even more diligence and care than they had before. After all, if they’d already found a hidden stash of ammunition, who knew what else was hidden within the vehicle?

The team worked extremely carefully in case they found anything else
Source: YouTube

They simply weren’t going to take any chances – especially given the tank’s history and previous use. They were wary – and for a good reason. Soon, they found another canister that seemed to have no obvious function – but this one seemed to be heavier than the last one. Again, a mixture of apprehension and excitement filled the Tanks-Alot workers.

Proceeding with Extreme Caution

This time around, the Tanks-Alot workers were certain that the second canister would contain more firearms, just like the first. However, although it did seem likely that they’d find more ammunition, they still proceeded with extreme caution. Before long, suspicion began to arise that this canister contained something entirely different to the first.

Workers slowly removing the canister
Source: YouTube

To document their exciting – or perhaps dangerous – discovery, they decided that, this time, they would make a video of the moment they revealed whatever was inside the canister. They later admitted that they were worried the items would be illegal, so they wanted to prove their innocence if the authorities had to get involved.

Breaking Inside the Canister

The canister was so heavy that it took two people with crowbars just to be able to reach inside – in fact, the Tanks-Alot workers had to break the underside completely in order to gain access to its hidden treasure. It was Nick’s colleague who first anxiously put his hand inside, not knowing what to expect.

The team holding a bar of gold
Source: YouTube

After a few painstaking moments during which they struggled with the weight of the canister, the worker pulled out something that looked like a brick – although it was gleaming ever so slightly. He quickly brushed it against his trousers, revealing shiny gold bullion. It seemed as though the Tanks-Alot team had struck gold!

Making a Startling Discovery

Excitement immediately bubbled up inside all the Tanks-Alot workers, and they were eager to see what other treasures the mysterious tank canister held. One of the workers – mechanic Todd Chamberlain – reached his hand back in, hoping to pull out more gold bullions.

Workers holding up the gold
Source: YouTube

He certainly wasn’t disappointed – every single time he put his hand in, it came back out with another gold bullion! Another one of the workers commented that the experience was “better than a dog having puppies!” He definitely wasn’t exaggerating – one after another, these bullions kept coming until finally, they had five in total. But the story didn’t end there, however.

More Than Their Wildest Dreams

The entire Tanks-Alot team was overjoyed by the incredible – and unexpected – find. Never in their wildest dreams did they think that they would find solid gold bullions that were worth a small fortune inside a tank that was purchased off eBay. But there were a lot of questions that were brought up as a result.

The discovery left the Tanks-Alot team speechless, a man is seen here holding two bars of gold looking excited
Source: YouTube

Firstly, of course, was where the gold originally came from. Next was the question of whether they could keep it or not. Nick – who was, after all, the owner of the business, and therefore had the final say – stepped in with a firm opinion. According to him, the team would do everything by the book and report the find to the proper authorities.

Contacting the Appropriate Authorities

Nick contacted the police and informed them of what the Tanks-Alot team had found hidden inside the tank canisters, and it wasn’t long before police officers turned up at the site to collect the gold bars. Soon enough, they were gone again, leaving Nick with only a receipt for the treasure that he had discovered.

Two police officers walking down the street
Source: Flickr

That receipt – that one tiny piece of paper – is now the only connection Nick Mead has to the fortune that he found in the Russian T-54, and after the gold bullions were taken away by the UK police, he never saw them again. According to the police, they’re attempting to find out where the gold came from and locate the rightful owners.

The Long Investigation Begins

The police set about investigating the tank’s background and origin in the hope that they would be able to trace where the money came from. Of course, they knew that it was a Russian tank, but as previously explained, it hadn’t just been in Russia – it had also been across the Middle East, and who knows where else.

A photograph of a tank in an open concrete patch
Source: Wikimedia Commons

It was an arduous task that took the police a while. Of course, they started with the previous owner, but unfortunately, he didn’t have much to say about the matter. He’d simply bought the tank in order to sell it on, which he had done – to Nick. Eventually, though, the police struck gold (excuse the pun!).

The Theories of Origin

After conducting a thorough investigation, the police now have two theories: firstly, the gold bullions were stolen from Kuwait by Iraqi soldiers during the invasion of the former in 1990. As explained earlier, it’s no secret that Iraqi soldiers looted billions of dollars’ worth of valuable items from Kuwait during the occupation – and they kept most of it.

Nick is sitting next to his tank reading a magazine
Source: YouTube

After the eight-year-long war finally came to an end, Iraq returned 3,216 gold bullions to Kuwait, each of which was individually weighed. This event was meticulously planned and overseen by United Nations forces – but it seemed as though some were unaccounted for and ended up in the Russian T-54.

A Dictator’s Personal Stash?

Although this was the explanation that was widely accepted by the members of the police force, there was another theory that was floating around. This was that the gold bullions had been stolen from Saddam Hussain’s personal stash. Although some people discredited this theory, it’s not completely dismissible.

Nick Mead
Source: YouTube

After all, when the US invaded Iraq under George Bush’s orders all those years later, they reported that they came across almost a billion dollars’ worth of hidden treasure from the war with Kuwait – including gold bullions. Whatever theory you believe, it’s safe to say that it’s a fascinating history – and something you don’t stumble across more than once in a lifetime.

Not Without Its Risks

There are many people that, when hearing the story about Nick Mead and the fortune he found hidden in a Russian tank, express surprise that he and the rest of the Tanks-Alot team didn’t try and hide the discovery in order to keep all of the gold to themselves. Many people have claimed that they would have done the complete opposite to what Nick and his colleagues did.

A photograph of a tank in the desert
Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, they’re lucky they’re not many people, as keeping gold bullions found in an old military tank can come with its risks. Firstly, it’s not like you can spend them in any shops or deposit them into a bank account for cash – so you have to work out what you’re going to do with them in the first place.

The Possibility of a Changed Life

There are, however, also dangers that could come with keeping gold bullions such as the ones found by Nick and his team. The amount of money that they totaled was a whopping US$2.4 million – an amount of money that could have changed all of their lives forever. If they had decided to keep it, though, they would have been making a potentially terrible mistake.

Nick on a landline call
Source: YouTube

Before long, word would have gotten out that Nick was sitting on top of a vast fortune, and there’s no doubt that he would have become a target by robbers looking to take it from him. With the modern, digital world working in the way it did, the news would have spread over the internet immediately.

A Story That Went Viral

As predicted, the story of Nick’s incredible find went viral immediately, taking over all types of over social media and hitting the headlines worldwide. Everyone was amazed by the enormous find – but it was made clear that Nick and the Tanks-Alot team were not still in possession of it.

The story of Nick driving his kids to school hit the news and is being reported on here
Source: YouTube

One of the main things that readers found surprising was that you could even buy a tank on eBay – most people would think it’s either completely impossible or a hoax. Well, now you know that it’s not as difficult as you’d expect – which is cool, but also a little bit scary. After all, you wouldn’t want one to get into the wrong hands.

The Difficult Search Continues

British police are still currently trying to track down the rightful owners of the gold and get it back to them – it’s taken them a while so far, but they’re determined to get to the bottom of it in the end. However, one vital question still remains – and, as of yet, no one has been able to provide a suitable answer.

A Tanks A Lot worker weighing out the gold
Source: YouTube

The question is, in the event that the police are not able to find the rightful owners of the gold, who will get it? Nick says that he keeps the receipt that he initially got from the police in a bank vault. At most, he says, he thinks he might get a finder’s fee, although he still holds out hope that maybe, just maybe, he will get to keep the gold bullions he discovered inside his tank.

Everyone’s Got Their Opinions

Nick’s extraordinarily lucky – and fascinating – story captured the attention of many people on social media. As always, many people had a lot of their own opinions to share – and they weren’t afraid of holding back, either. Some of the commenters that were impressed by his fortunate discovery, but others felt it wasn’t dealt with correctly.

Nick standing in front of a tank
Source: Flickr

In fact, there were a lot of people that expressed shock that Nick and his colleagues even reported the treasure to the police in the first place, saying that he was stupid and foolish to do so. Most offered no other alternative, however – apart from one specific social media commenter, who actually had an intricate plan.

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers?

A man by the name of Nicholas Van Pelt decided to offer his thoughts, saying that he would have leaned toward the “finders keepers” approach instead of notifying the authorities immediately. As for the thought process behind his opinion, he cited a similar case that happened in San Jose, California.

A tank being driven across a field
Source: YouTube

A man, identified only as “Jo,” bought a storage unit that ended up containing a fortune of rare gold coins. The lucky man decided to keep them instead of notifying the authorities, and ended up putting them up for auction, turning his $1,100 investment into a profit of an impressive $500,000.

Karma Comes Back Around

Although most commenters disapproved of Nick’s decision to get the police involved straight away after making his discovery, one actually thought it was a clever idea and definitely the best way forward. By this person’s reasoning, it’s not that unlikely that, because he turned it in, Nick will get it back eventually.

Who knows what Nick will end up with
Source: YouTube

As commenter Nick Rapaport suggests, it’s actually probably impossible to trace the original owner of the gold, considering they did dubiously stash it in a tank and, therefore, probably want to remain anonymous. So, if the original owner isn’t found, Nick Mead is probably next in line – and we’ve got our fingers crossed for him!