History lovers dream of digging through the attic and uncovering some hidden artifact worth millions of dollars but in reality the chances are pretty slim that grandma’s old violin is a stradivarius or that painting is a rare collectors item. The mere possibility of owning a valuable piece of history draws people into the hunt and brings people together at the filming of The Antiques Roadshow. People line up to get a family heirloom appraised in hopes of it being a hidden treasure in their own homes. Usually it ends in disappointment but sometimes their prized possession is found to be the real thing and is worth way more than anyone anticipated.
The most common possessions taken to the Antiques Roadshow are family bibles, old paintings and china tea cups that usually aren’t worth much. The average object appraised is only worth about $100 but since the shows debut in 1979 many happy people have left with life changing appraisals. Since most of the objects have been in the family for generations, many people who receive the big appraisals don’t cash in on the deal. Most choose to keep their antiques and loan them to a museum.
The Antiques Roadshow has been around much longer than most shows currently on air and like many popular TV shows has been the inspiration of copy cats like American Pickers and Pawn Stars. There were rough patches during the years but it has always managed to bounce back. In 1997, experts were charged with faking their appraisal of a confederate sword. They were banned from the show as a result and Russ Pritchard was later found guilty of cheating his clients and went to prison. George Juno also plead guilty to federal criminal charges. The show bounced back and even in Washington D.C. got 23,000 applications for tickets and only 6,400 tickets were available. It was the most applications in the shows history.
10. Rare Victorian Brooch: $18,500
A rare Victorian brooch became one of the biggest Roadshow finds in 2011. Jill Cousins tuned into an episode of the show one day to be shocked by Geoffrey Munn, the shows jewellery expert holding up a sketch of six brooches. He claimed they were his most wanted items in the world in which he had been searching for over 20 years. The brooches were portrayed in a series of watercolor painting done by William Burges, the architect behind Cardiff Castle. There was no evidence the brooches were ever made. Cousin’s mother got the brooch from her elementary school teacher and neither of them ever wore it. Munn valued the rare piece of jewellery and confirmed it matched the painting.
9. Rare Edgar Allen Poe Daguerreotype: $50,000
A picture of Edgar Allen Poe may be rare enough but this particular daguerreotype was stolen from Players Theater in New York City. According to roadshow appraiser Wes Cowan only a few Edgar Allen Pe portraits are known to exist. Had the portrait been a new unknown piece it would have been an important historical find, but it turned out to be the most famous theft recovery story in Antiques Roadshow history. The photo from 1847 was appraised for $30,000-$50,000 and has since been returned to its rightful home.
8. 18th century Prussian Plate: $185,000
Wendy Jones arrived at the Roadshow in 2008 with a 22-inch plate that sat in her house for years on a rickety shelf. The plate ended up getting the highest evaluation for a plate in the shows history. It was made between 1750 and 1755 and commissioned by the Prussian East India Company for Frederick II. The plate is made of hard paste porcelain with the coat of arms from the Hohenzollern family, the order of the black eagle and the Maltese Cross. There are similar pieces in museums around the world and only two pieces were sold to the public in the last decade. The plate belonged to Jones’ son who inherited it from his paternal grandmother.
7. Seymour Card Table: $250,000
At a Roadshow stop in New Jersey in 1997 two experts, Leigh and Leslie Keno appraised a regular looking card table the guest purchased at a yard sale for only $25. It was discovered as being a rare 18th century piece worth $200,000 to $250,000. Back in 1997 it was the most valuable Antiques Roadshow find in the American version of the show. recently the table sold at an auction at Sotheby’s for over half a million dollars.
6. Navajo Chief’s Blanket: $350,000-$500,000
The blanket was discovered in Tucson Arizona in 2001. The guest claimed to have received the blanket from legendary frontiersman Kit Carson. The blanket has a simple design with brown, white and blue stripes. It’s the simplest pattern of all the known 19th century Navajo first phase blankets. Less than 50 first-phase blankets made before 1865 are still around today. The appraiser Donald Ellis sold the blanket to the Detroit Institute of Arts. The price of the sale was never disclosed.
5. Peanuts Comic Strip: $450,000
The guest started the Peanuts collection in the 1990’s because her son enjoyed the show. The collection included the daily and Sunday comics dating back to the 1952. They were done by Charles M. Schulz and included his coverage of the Halley’s Comet. The guest paid $400 to $500 for the comics. The appraiser Gary Sohmers said the comic strips were one of a kind. Schulz produced the strip and sent copies to the publishers then would give away the originals.
4. Oil Painting by Clyfford Still: $500,000
The painting was brought into The Antiques Roadshow at Palm Springs California in 2009. The couple got the painting for free as a housewarming present. It depicts the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. The painter Clyfford Still was one of her husbands college professors and he was the founder of the Abstract Expressionist Movement. Still’s artworks rarely come onto the market. The artist painted abstract works designed to hit the viewer all at once. A museum in Denver is dedicated to the artist. The Grande Coulee Dam painting hasn’t been sold and remains with the couple.
3. Anthony van Dyck Painting: $673,000
Fiona Bruce followed the hunch and identified a painting brought into the Antiques Roadshow as an original Anthony van Dyck painting. It was originally purchased by Priest Jamie Macleod at an antiques shop in Cheshire twelve years earlier which has since closed. The painting was labeled as a fake and was bought for a mere $400 and he brought the artwork to the roadshow in hopes of raising some money for new church bells. Bruce recently finished working on a documentary of the artist and suspected it may be genuine. After months of restoration and peeling off layers of 18th century paint the piece was confirmed a genuine Anthony van Dyck painting by expert Dr. Christopher Brown
2. Jade Bowls: $1.07 Million
Jinx Taylor inherited her father’s Jade collection. They were originally collected during his stay in China with the U.S. Army during the 1930’s and 40’s. The bowls were from the Qianlong period which dates back to 1735-1736. The collection includes bowls and a statue of a mythical creature to ward off evil. The appraiser claimed the bowls were purchased at a time it was unlikely they cost more than $100 a piece. Jinx’s collection also expands to include 30 items not shown or appraised on the roadshow, which she intends to sell.
1. Rhino Horn Teacups: $1.5 Million
At the filming of The Antiques Roadshow in July 2011, an Oklahoma man broke the shows record with a set of Chinese teacups made from the horn of a rhinoceros. The teacups were from the 17th or 18th century and valued at between $1 million and $1.5 million breaking the previous Roadshow record for most valuable artifacts. They were purchased in the 1970’s for a cheap price and he had no idea the true value of the set of five cups. The appraiser Lark Mason identified the cups. The episode aired in 2012 in the 16th season of the U.S. version of the show.