The actual chance that you will walk into a yard sale or market and find something that is worth a fortune for cheap is incredibly unlikely. Despite that, whenever you hear a story that resembles that scenario, it only serves to feed the fantasy. After all, if it can happen to them, then why can’t it happen for us?
A concept that we find incredibly attractive, in some cases we can actually remember where we were when we heard a story about someone stumbling across an unrecognized treasure. Still, we knew in our guts that there must be many stories of people paying next to nothing for things of huge value that had somehow flown under the radar. Realizing all of this inspired us to put together this list of 20 incredibly valuable items the uninformed sold to people for relative peanuts.
In order for something to be considered for possible inclusion on this list, it first and foremost needs to be extremely valuable. For the purposes of this list, it makes absolutely no difference if we know that that the item is worth a lot because it was resold, appraised, or discussed in general terms by experts. Next, the person that purchased the item needs to have gotten it for very little. In some cases, that could mean a few dollars and in others, they could have spent several thousands, as long as the value of the item far outweighs the purchase price.
25 Velvet Underground Record
One of the most influential bands in the history of music, The Velvet Underground were ground breaking enough to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. As such, finding a rare looking record of theirs would be awesome for any ardent music fan.
However, when Warren Hill bought a record of theirs that was labeled "4-25-66" at a junk sale, he hit the jackpot.
Created early in the band’s existence, the album includes songs that would appear on their later releases. Bought for only $0.75, he auctioned it off on eBay for $25,200.
24 Stadium Events Video Game
An incredibly popular video game system, the NES was so much fun that decades after it was first released there are still people that are buying old cartridges for it second hand. As such, if you go into a pawn shop or other second-hand store there is a good chance something NES related may be for sale. An extremely fortunate fact for a North Carolina woman, she entered a Goodwill store and bought a Family Fun Fitness: Stadium Events cartridge for just $8. Later valued at $38,000, her investment sure paid off.
23 Vince Lombardi Sweater
Probably the most respected football coach of all time, Vince Lombardi was so respected that the trophy given to the Super Bowl winners each year is named after him. That is why this West Point sweater that once belonged to him, as revealed by footage of him wearing it and his hand-written name on its label, is worth so much.
Purchased from a Goodwill store for a mere $0.58, it took 6 months for its new owners to realize what they had but once they did it was auctioned off for $43,000.
Sometimes, it really does pay off to be a sports fan.
22 Chinese Libation Cup
Defined as “an act of pouring a liquid as a sacrifice (as to a deity)” the fact that this 17th century artifact is named a “libation” cup gives you an idea of what it was used for at the time. Originating in China but purchased in Australia for $4, the person that bought it must have figured out they had something special somehow as they contacted Sotheby’s about it. Told the cup could sell for as much as $30,000, that estimate turned out to be low as it fetched $75,000 at auction.
21 Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Paysage Bords de Seine”
A leading impressionist painter, stumbling across any Pierre-Auguste Renoir work would be amazing even though this painting of his was only napkin-sized.
Found at a flea market and bought for $7, it ended up being valued at $100,000.
For that reason, we can imagine how devastating it would be to learn it had been stolen from a museum which led to a federal judge forcing it to be returned. Either way, it may not have been a windfall for its new owner but it still was sold for very little and worth a fortune.
20 Bond Watch
Able to stay strong through the years and many iterations, the Bond franchise is meaningful to a lot of people that are really invested in the spy. Able to be so influential in part because of how cool the character has always been, adopting his look in even a small way can make you feel all the more suave and sophisticated. That is why this watch that had born worn by the character in Thunderball was sold for more than £103,000 after an eagle-eyed bargain hunter paid £25 for it.
19 17th Century Flemish Painting
Evidently wanting to keep things close to the chest, the person that bought this 17th century Flemish painting at a Goodwill has only identified himself as Leroy.
Either way, he paid only $3 for it and after displaying it in his home for a while his daughter-in-law suspected it may be valuable.
Opting to take it to Antiques Roadshow, they valued it at $20,000 to $30,000 but he got $190,000 for it instead at auction. Hopefully, he cut his daughter-in-law in on the deal.
18 Alexander Calder Necklace
We’re just going to say it, obviously we have no eye for collecting as we see this necklace and it looks like something we’d walk right past. Fortunately for the person that came across it at a Brooklyn flea market, they were not so foolish and they forked over $15 for it. Identified as being a necklace that was crafted by the important American sculptor Alexander Calder, it was authenticated by his foundation and sold for more than $267,000.
17 John Constable Painting
An English landscape painter that rose to fame in France, since John Constable died in 1837, the respect he gets in the art world has only grown. As a result, even a postcard-sized painting that he created is worth far more than we ever would have expected.
Part of a box full of items that a man named Robert Darvell bought for $46, he eventually gave it to his son who researched the history of the painting.
Discovered to be the work of Constable after a year of tests, it turned out to be valued at $390,000.
16 Seymour Card Table
Owned by a retired school teacher for more than 30 years, Claire Wiegand-Beckmann bought this small table for $25 at a local garage sale. One of 6 that were built by the Boston furniture-making company John Seymour & Son in the 18th century, Wiegand-Beckmann went on Chubb’s Antiques Roadshow and learned she had a gem.
Taken to Sotheby's who sold it at auction in 1998, a New York dealer bought the table for $541,500.
Guess he really wanted that table.
15 Philip Treacy Handbag
A pretty unique handbag, this piece is adorned with a recreation of an Andy Warhol design that features the distinctive face of music-legend Elvis Presley. One of only 10 ever made by Philip Treacy, evidently, he is a world-renowned milliner.
Discovered by a pensioner in a box in the corner of a shop, John Richard paid £20 for it and has admitted that at the time, he thought he was being overcharged.
Oh, how wrong he was. We say that because it was estimated to be worth £350 instead.
14 Cracked Teapot
An important person, John Bartlam, was the first known porcelain manufacturer in the United States which is why this teapot he created in the 1760s has cultural relevance. Cracked by the time it was bought through a bid on an English website for around $20 in 2016, it was sold by an actual auction house in 2018 and the results were extremely different.
This time sold to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, they paid $860,000 for it.
Imagine if it wasn't cracked!
13 26-Carat Diamond Ring
One of the biggest symbols of wealth in much of the world, jewels are gorgeous and relatively rare which gives them huge value. For that reason, when you see an oversized jewel it seems safe to assume it is a fake, which is why a ring that was adorned by a massive stone sold in a boot sale for£10 in the '80s.
Eventually discovered to be a real 26-carat diamond, prior to that, it had been worn while doing daily chores.
Once its origin was confirmed, however, it was sold for more than £656,000.
12 Bullitt Mustang
A box-office and critical success when it was first released, Bullitt is now considered a classic film that any fan of car movies absolutely has to watch. Largely based around car chase scenes in which McQueen’s character drove his incredible 1968 Ford Mustang GT, in real life, there were two vehicles used to film those scenes.
We have no idea how this happened, but the Mustang reportedly used for stunts in the movie ended up in a junkyard in Mexico where it was acquired for nothing.
Identified as the real deal due to its VIN number, the car is now said to be worth a $1 million.
11 Martin Johnson Heade Painting
An accomplished still-life painter, a piece created by Martin Johnson Heade was bought by a tool-and-die worker out of Indiana who reportedly used it to cover up a hole in one of his walls for years. Said to have been bought by that anonymous person alongside some furniture for “next to nothing,” after it was authenticated, he sold it to The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Purchased by that museum for $1,250,000, they were pleased to get the painting, but we’re sure the worker was much happier with the deal.
10 Andy Warhol Sketch
An extremely competitive field, despite that, Andy Warhol beat the odds and is now seen as iconic by a lot of people. Known for a unique sensibility that expressed itself in a lot of different ways, he didn’t limit himself to one discipline as he worked with paints, film, and even created some sketches.
An example of the latter, this piece was bought at a garage sale for $5 by a businessman.
Discovered to be a Warhol after the decision was made to reframe it, it was then valued at $2 million.
9 1,000-Year-Old Chinese Bowl
Proof positive that some things gain a great deal of value over time, as far as we can tell, this Chinese bowl was not created by any kind of famous person. Instead, it is only the fact that it had been discovered to be a 1,000 years old that led to a London dealer to spend a fortune on it. Previously bought by an unnamed New York family for $3, they stored it on their mantelpiece prior to discovering its origin. Put up for auction after that, they received $2,200,000 for the dish.
8 United States Declaration of Independence
An incredibly important document, the United States Declaration of Independence announced that the 13 colonies were no longer under British rule. Integral enough to the government to be recreated after its initial creation, one of the copies from the first printing was discovered inside a picture frame that was sold at a flea market.
Put up on auction by Sotheby’s, it sold for $2,420,000 because the buyer thought it “is a living document and the words are every bit as live today.”
While it's worth a whole lot, we're not sure if we'd want to sell an actual piece of history.
7 Billy the Kid Croquet Photo
Probably the most famous bandit in the Old West, Billy the Kid was a rebel. Also remembered for being part of New Mexico’s Lincoln County War, his reputation and involvement in major moments has allowed him to go down in history in books, music, and films.
A legendary character that died during photography’s early stages, when a photo that seemingly includes Billy was bought for $2 at a garage sale, it was a huge deal.
A somewhat debated piece, if real it could sell for $5 million.
6 Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett Photo
The second Billy the Kid entry in a row, this picture is even more historically important for one gigantic reason, Pat Garrett. A former friend of Billy’s that was named Sheriff and instructed to get him, Garrett gunned down the famous gunslinger and this is the only known photo of both of them. While there were rumors that Billy was taken out in that incident, whether you take that seriously or not, the fact that this image features the rebel and his enemy. Purchased at a flea market for $10, the photo is believed to be worth “millions.”
5 Jackson Pollock Painting
Someone whose work may not be for everyone, nevertheless, Jackson Pollock is an important artist that was unique for his time due to his distinctive drip-painting method and look. A perspective that Teri Horton has been banking on for more than 25 years, she has held onto one of his works she bought for $5 at a thrift shop all that time.
Unwilling to sell until she gets the price she thinks she deserves, in the past, she turned down a $2 million and a $9 million offer for the painting.
Talk about will power.
4 Arthur Pinajian Art
A huge opportunity, if you have an eye for undervalued real estate and cash to spend, you can rake in money. That is why a pair of investors decided to buy a Long Island bungalow that had belonged to a man that died years earlier.
A last-minute addition to the deal, in the property’s garage, they found thousands of pieces of art which they gave the previous owners $2,500 for.
Discovered to be created by the obscure Armenian-American artist Arthur Pinajian, once restored, they were then estimated to be worth $30 million.
3 Third Imperial Fabergé Egg
Admittedly artifacts that we’ve never understood, for some reason the House of Fabergé created insanely valuable eggs. A very limited line, one of them was created for the Russian tsar Alexander III and presented to his wife. Named the Third Imperial egg, for a long time, it was lost. Eventually bought by a scrap dealer for £8,000, he intended to melt it down for the gold but held onto it in his kitchen instead.
Discovered to be the Third Imperial Fabergé egg after a google search, still in its original form, it is now worth £20 million.
Imagine if he actually melted it down! He would have gotten rid of a piece of history.
2 Tudor Bed Frame
Monarchs that ruled within the Kingdom of England and the Tudors Welsh royal ruled from 1485 until 1603. No longer in power for centuries at this point, artifacts from their heyday are quite old, mostly gorgeous, and insanely valuable. An example of one of their artifacts left behind, a bed frame that could have been where Henry VIII was conceived sold at auction for £2,200. We know what you must be thinking though, that is not impressive. Don’t worry, its origins were discovered after that and it is now valued at £20 million.
1 Ansel Adams Prints
Incredibly respected, Ansel Adams was renowned for taking black-and-white pictures of Yosemite National Park. With much of his work becoming somewhat legendary over the years due to it being reproduced in things like posters and books, a set of lost negatives said to be his are now treasured.
The subject of a lengthy legal battle, his estate has been battling with a man who paid $45 for the 65 glass negatives at a garage sale.
Another example of disputed pieces, his estate claims they are fake but if they are proven to be real they have been valued at $200 million.
References:: independent.co.uk, dailymail.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk, latimes.com, cbsnews.com, fox59.com, nytimes.com, huffingtonpost.com, bbc.com, nytimes.com, foxnews.com, metro.co.uk, theweek.com, nytimes.com, cnn.com, express.co.uk, artmarketmonitor.com, viralplace.net, dailymail.co.uk, reuters.com, gemr.com, huffingtonpost.ca, merriam-webster.com, wvlt.tv, yahoo.com, exclaim.ca