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‘Million Dollar Beggar’ Collection Kept in Coney Island, NY, Self-Storage Units to Be Featured on ‘Strange Inheritance’

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The unusual legacy of the “Million Dollar Beggar,” an eccentric collector and businessman who stashed his valuables in three Coney Island, N.Y., self-storage units, will be featured on an episode of “Strange Inheritance,” set to air March 27, 9:30 p.m. ET, on the Fox Business Network. Howard Frank, who had amassed nearly 2 million celebrity photos before drowning in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal in 2012, supplied images to media outlets before the advent of online catalogs. Though he resorted to panhandling after his business went under, some have speculated his collection to be worth as much as $10 million. The entire assortment was left to three of Frank’s cousins, including brothers Seth and Todd Lerner, who will appear on the Fox episode.

Frank began collecting his photos as a teenager in the 1960s by writing to Hollywood studios and asking for images of his favorite movie and TV stars. When he was 18, his father gave him $12,000 to buy out a celebrity photo shop with more than 200,000 pictures, which launched his “Personality Photos” business. He supplied newspapers, magazines and TV stations with photographs before the Internet made it easy for media to download images online. By the early 1990s, he was earning more than $200,000 per year, according to the Lerner brothers.

Once demand for his service subsided, Frank lived off his savings until he wound up homeless. “He always looked disheveled, wore the same clothes over and over again,” Ian Lerner told the source. “He did not bathe. He was afraid of water.”

Though police ruled Frank’s drowning a suicide, the Lerners believe there may have been a cover-up or conspiracy. Shortly before he died, Frank reportedly told Seth Lerner he owed money to a former business associate and feared for his life, according to the source.

Though the Lerners haven’t decided what they’re going to do with the photo collection, they upheld Frank’s wish to have his headstone inscribed with a quote from his favorite TV show: “Ride on, Lone Ranger. Ride on forever.”

“Strange Inheritance” is hosted by Jamie Colby. The reality show focuses on the “bizarre artifacts and outrageous stories” related to some inheritances.

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