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One man's junk is this man's life

You might call Edward Jones the Indiana Jones of junk.

A self-proclaimed finder of lost treasure, he has made millions combing through other people's junk at flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores from Miami to Lake Worth and elsewhere in the country.

"I'm an archivist and an entrepreneur," says Jones, 52, who lives in Fort Lauderdale. He is as passionate about his eternal search for valuable junk as the movie Jones was about looking for the Holy Grail. "It's a gift from God," he said of his rare talent.

Nine years ago, Jones walked into an Indianapolis Salvation Army store, where a multicolored map caught his eye. "It was the most brilliant thing I'd ever seen," Jones said.

He bought it for $3. The map turned out to be one of only three remaining engraved copies of the first accurate map of the world commissioned by Louis XIV in the 17th century.

The map excited the world. Authenticated by Christie's Auction House in New York, the map drew headlines around the world, earning Jones an appearance in Life magazine, on Peter Jennings' World News Tonight and on Oprah.

Jones says he was offered $19-million for the map, but he has no immediate plans to sell it. He wants to use it as a focal point for a foundation he plans to establish.

"It's an important map," said Chris Coover, senior specialist in manuscripts at Christie's Auction House in New York.

On Oprah in 1990, Jones learned of fertile territory for treasure. Appearing on the show with Jones was a Fort Lauderdale woman who had found a Renoir painting valued at $500,000. Jones packed his bags and headed south to Broward.

In less than two months he made another big hit. Jones believes he has found an original score of Spanish composer Manuel Penella's operetta Amor Ciego. Jones said the original was previously "lost" and he is the excited finder.

"I know what an original musical score looks like," said Jones, who wears black-rimmed glasses and whose wavy black hair is slung back in a ponytail. He says he has studied fine art and music for 20 years.

The Grove Dictionary of Opera, considered the bible of opera, lists the work, but a brief description states, "Full details unknown." For Jones, this supports his belief that the operetta, whose title means "blind love," was lost.

Jones bought the score along with seven others in a suitcase for $8 from a Mexican vendor at a Fort Lauderdale flea market he doesn't want to name. Among the other finds were Sidney Jones' operetta La Geisha and Tomas Lopez Torregrosa's opera La Fiesta de San Anton.

In a notarized letter dated March 1, James Brooks-Bruzzese, artistic director of the Symphony of the Americas in Fort Lauderdale, estimated the value of the Amor Ciego manuscript at $750,000. But because Placido Domingo, the internationally loved tenor, recorded a revised version of Penella's El Gato Montes recently, the value of the Amor Ciego manuscript could increase to $1.5-million, Brooks-Bruzzese wrote.

It's not the potential royalties he could earn if Jones' music is recorded that excites him, but having made a rare find that will bring pleasure to music lovers around the world.

"I was a millionaire when I found the map," he says nonchalantly.

A country boy who grew up on a Memphis farm, Jones contracted the finding fever when he was 7 years old and heard stories about people finding rare coins, watches, old bottles, rocks and diamonds.

"I decided 20 years ago I would be someone who finds things," says Jones, who played guitar for the Vanguards in the 1960s. "Columbus discovered America. It's like a woman finding a boyfriend. It's something I like to do. It's a gift of mine and I'm very successful at doing it."

Even though he has found enough to make himself rich, Jones still gets up at 6 a.m. every day and heads for flea markets and other places of undiscovered treasures, looking for his next adventure.

He hopes to find enough to one day do some founding of his own: a World History Foundation and an institute to help children.

"He has a heart for kids. All Kids, everybody's kids," says friend Cynthia Carey. "His main goal is to help kids of every race as God leads us."

Worthy finds

+ 17th century world map potentially worth $19-million.

+ Original score of operetta Amor Ciego by Manuel Penella potentially worth $1.5-million.

+ Score of Sidney Jones' operetta La Geisha.

+ Score of Tomas Lopez Torregrosa's opera La Fiesta de San Anton.