From Lost Master Paintings to Churchill’s Hat: The Best Unexpected Finds of the Antiques Roadshow

Antiques Roadshow is always full of surprises, especially for the owners of these random antiques. But would you have been able to guess there was more to these items than meets the eye? We’ve taken the best “a-ha” moments from our favorite TV show to see what all the fuss was about.

Image: AOL

Crying, laughing, or almost falling off their chair, when people are caught off-guard with a shocking appraisal, they really can’t control their honest reactions. Check out which lucky visitors made bank after visiting their local roadshow – by the end of it, you’ll probably be inspired to rummage through your attic, too.

The Mother-In-Law’s Hefty Heirloom | $40,000 – $60,000

A stunning Tiffany & Co. necklace from 1910 was inherited by one woman from her mother-in-law; she knew there had to be something special about the jewelry, but she didn’t know what. Having only worn it once in her life, the high-collar necklace boasted of high-quality stones and large teardrop pendant.

Image: Cleveland

The appraiser revealed that “you are seeing less and less of this material in the market place,” before revealing that it is estimated to reach $40,000 to $60,000. She advised estimating the value at $120,000 dollars for insurance purposes, to which the surprised owner said, “Wow… That makes my heart skip a beat!”

The Rhinoceros Cups That Raised the Bar | $1 million – $1.5 million

One man who appeared on the Antiques Roadshow in 2011 turned up to the convention center in Tulsa, Oklahoma with some rather exquisite looking Chinese cups. These were extra-special however, as they were carved out of real rhinoceros horns. Despite the fact that he himself was an antique collector, he had no idea that his little collection would break a record of the time.

Image: Jeff Dunn for WGBH

In the shows 16-year history, it’s one of the most expensive collections to have been brought on the show. It was valued somewhere between $1 million to $1.5 million, as they were rare cups given as gifts to the aristocratic for special occasions. The executive producer of the show commented on the man who brought them in: “You clearly could even see the color rush over his face.”

The King’s Sword | $75,000 – $100,000

When this eccentric gentleman brought his antique sword to the showroom in 2011, he wasn’t ready to hear how much it was worth. He had purchased it for $500 previously, having thought it was quite the eye-catching item. It’s finely decorated with diamonds, enamel, and silver and bears the Cyrillic monogram of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

Image: The Oregonian

Appraiser Mark Schaffer almost threw him off his chair when he estimated it as likely to fetch around $75,000 to $100,000. Officially, it’s called a Jeweled Caucasian Presentation Sword and is a finely kept and highly decorated treasure from the early 20th century. You really do find all sorts at the Antiques Roadshow!

The Iconic Hair Book | $10,000

Luckily, book expert Ken Sander’s was on hand to appraise this one. She didn’t know a whole lot about this item, other than it was an old hair-styling book for African-American women. When he revealed the book was over 100 years old, she couldn’t even believe it. Having been given as a gift to her – as she’s a hairdresser – she really didn’t know what to think of it.

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As it turns out, it was the first edition of the first-ever book about African-American beauty by Madam C.J. Walker from 1928. The writer was born under enslaved parents on a plantation and was the first child born into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation. She’s also the first female, American, self-made millionaire. As such an important historical item, it would have been retailed for $10,000. And when she found out… she burst into uncontrollable giggles.

The Faberge Flower of Fantasy | $1.5 million

When jewelry expert Geoffrey Munn saw one gentleman bring in this particular decorative flower, he felt his “pulse race.” He recognized it as an original Peter Fabergé creation, having had that special touch of the iconic jeweler. At six inches long, it is made up of gold, diamonds, and jade. Geoffrey explained: “To make a judgment of that enormity is a tricky thing to do so I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t pressurized.”

Images: Standard (left) / The Worchester News (right)

In the end, he valued the flower at around $1.5 million, making it the single most expensive item on Antiques Roadshow. Geoffrey described the flower as an “object of fantasy” because “it has absolutely no function whatsoever except to be a source of pleasure. And it is.” The tall masterpiece goes down in history as one of the most memorable items on the show.

The Secret Swiss Watch Goldmine | $46,000 – $57,000

This woman knew nothing about the watches she brought in, having found them while tidying up her elderly father’s office. They were in a cardboard box and consisted of some of the biggest names in watchmaking such as Rolex, Cartier, and Patek Philippe. One of which, had an 18k gold chain strap. She wasn’t ready to hear what the expert valued the items.

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He proceeded to appraise each watch one by one, giving each of them valuations of a few thousand dollars. The young woman couldn’t believe it, gradually tearing up and trying to hold it together for the cameras. The total value estimate for the entire Swiss watch collection came to somewhere between $46,000 – $57,000. Her father had a treasure trove of rare watches all this time.

The Sculpture With a “Flabbergasting” Price Tag | $500,000

James Keener had inherited this sculpture from his father’s great-aunt, and when he heard that Roadshow would be passing through Houston, he thought to bring it along for evaluation. It was signed by Rodin, the French sculptor and founder of modern art. Expert Eric Silver began to describe how figurative sculptures were frowned upon at the time.

Image: Fort Worth Star – Telegram

Eric admitted that he thought it was an authentic period bronze sculpture c. 1900, of Rodin’s lifetime. James would need to get it authenticated through the official channels, and if it turned out to be authentic, it would be worth around half a million dollars. He was stunned and couldn’t stop repeating the word “wow” before admitting, “I’m flabbergasted. I suddenly want a beer.” As it turns out, it was a real Rodin.

The Baseball Bonanza | $1 million

Back in 1871, one woman’s great-great-grandmother had a boarding house in Boston, where she housed the Boston baseball team. They happened to be one of the first professional baseball players. Her great-grandfather collected cards of the men, and they ended up being some of the earliest known photographic baseball cards.

Image: CNBC

Along with the card collection, she had a bunch of personal letters from them addressed to her great-great-grandmother, which were personal in nature (i.e. talked about her cooking.) The expert valued the entire archive for at least a million dollars. “Are you serious?” the unsuspecting woman replied. “I better put it in a time fund!” she joked.

The Pinup Painting She’s Not Giving Back to Her Mom | $20,000 – $30,000

This young lady had never thought to look up much about the painting, she just knew it would go perfect on her freshly-painted pink wall. Her mom had picked it up at an estate sale 15 years prior and kept it around the house. It turns out its an original Earl Moran Pinup painting which the expert said, “are valued on a sliding scale, but not the usual sliding scale.”

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“The more clothes that slide off the pinup girl the more valuable they tend to be.” she cheekily admitted, adding that “This is a very special one; she is a very wholesome young girl wearing a bright green bathing suit, the great period car, the period sailing…” She finally revealed her estimate to be $20,000 to $30,000 at auction. The young woman was in shock: “Is my mom gonna see this because she’s not getting it back!” she exclaimed.

The Wartime Leader’s Crown | $15,000

David Rose worked at a dump and collected interesting looking, discarded objects from jobs for the last 15 years. He explained to the expert that he thought he had come across wartime leader Winston Churchill’s belongings such as a top hat, cigar and case, and letters from Churchill’s chef to her son giving insight to the ex-British Prime Minister’s life.

Images: Sky News (top) / BBC (bottom)

The expert, Mr. Smith, calmly described how his dumpster collection would take in around $15,000. David’s jaw dropped, and after a few moments he managed to get out the words: “Oh my god, that’s crazy.” You can say that again. He explained: “I’ve worked there for like 15 years and I get to pull out whatever I like, mostly antiques.” Perks of the job!

The Ring That Wasn’t Cubic Zirconia | $25,000 – $30,000

This woman was left suspicious after spotting some markings on the ring she bought in an auction. It was sold to her as a very large cubic zirconia gem set in silver, which she snapped up for $30. But the strange etchings on the ring made her feel like there was more to this story than she knew.

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She was right to follow her gut. After much careful examination behind the scenes, the Antiques Roadshow team realized it was in fact made up of a group of gems, not a single one. The largest sat in the middle and had the highest clarity, but they were no cubic zirconia – they were all diamonds. He said its value is around $25,000 to $30,000. Needless to say, she was beside herself, and kept repeating the word “amazing.”

The Million Dollar Inheritance She Didn’t Know About | $1 million

The owner’s father had been to China on two occasions in the 1930s and 1940s and brought a few jade pieces back with him in the process. They are exquisitely detailed to the extent that you might miss something important. They bear the imperial order mark, which means something very significant – they were created for the Emperor of the Qing Dynasty himself.

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Then he dropped his estimation. He declared that she’s looking at getting anywhere from $710,000 to $1 million for her Qianlong Jade Collection – a value she wasn’t expecting. Clearly a bit lost for words, she just shook her head in disbelief for a while before exclaiming, “damn!”

The Very Personal Portrait | $800,000

In Birmingham, Alabama, this gentleman brought this inherited portrait down to the showroom to get an appraisal. It was painted by Frederic Remington who is today, a famous American artist. The owner’s great-grandfather turns out to have been close buddies with the artist, so much so that Frederic chose him as the subject of this painting!

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The artist gave his great-grandfather this portrait along with a personal letter, where he describes some of the things they got up to. He painted this on a military document and was estimated to be a whopping $600,000 and $800,000. It’s one of the most valuable items to appear on the Roadshow.

The Life-Changing Diamond Ring | $165,000 – $175,000

When the Roadshow passed through Las Vegas, Nevada, one guest was reduced to tears in front of the camera when she learned about this family heirloom. She had inherited it from her grandfather’s pawn shop but didn’t know the extent of its value. Jewelry expert Adam Patrick weighed in.

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He said the ring held an extremely high-quality, five-carat Asscher-cut diamond and was set in platinum. Such an item was said to bring about $165,000 to $175,000 in an auction. It was such shocking news that the owner was reduced to tears. It’s a truly life-changing sum of money.

The Pricey Portrait of a Dominant Grandmother | $250,000 – $350,000

One lady made the big effort to bring this great painting along to the Antiques Roadshow convention. It’s a portrait of her aristocratic grandmother by the artist Robert Henri from the Ashcan School. She soon learned that she was right to have made the effort.

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Filmed in San Diego, expert Peter Fairbanks gave her “a kick in the stomach” when he announced that it is valued between $250,000 to $350,000. “I’ve always loved her,” she admitted, adding, “It’s great to have a painting like that in your family of someone we love.” In describing her grandmother as a person, she said: “she dominated, but she dominated with a velvet glove. The moment she walked into a room, everyone fell for her.”

The Multi-Million Dollar Masterpiece | $2.2 million

This man was a little different from a lot of the other guests on the show. He knew a bit about this painting; he understood it was an early Diego Rivera, and held some significance. His great-grandparents had purchased it in 1930 in Mexico, and he remembers it hanging in their home.

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The painting was actually from 1904, making the famed artist only 18 years of age at the time he made this. And the appraiser knew she was onto something special, admitting to the owner that it is, in fact, a very significant piece as not many of that period exist. It was valued at up to $2.2 million on the market. “It’s a really terrific image,” she admitted to the shocked owner.

The Ax of a Genius Craftsman | $30,000

This guest walked into Anaheim, California with none other than a Spontoon Tomahawk Pipe. It’s an ax that can be used as either a weapon or a ceremonial object, and appraiser Ted Trotter had quite a bit to say about it. He thought it related to the French and Indian war and is pre-reservation, probably from the 1840s to the 1850s.

Image: The Oakland Press

It’s a Native American historical item that Ted said was created by a “genius” craftsman. He estimated it’s worth at around $30,000, which the school teacher really didn’t see coming. “this would make a collector really, really happy,” he explained, adding, “this would move to the head of the table.”

The Rainbow Chocolate Pot | $7,000 – $9,000

This tinware pot was passed down through the family. It was so precious, her husband’s grandfather would hide it when guests came into the house! It was made in 1880 and had toile flowers painted on the body in bright, primary colors. And it was affectionately known in the family as the chocolate pot.

Image: Lancaster Online

The expert, Kelly Wright, called it a wonderful example of Pennsylvania Dutch tinware, citing the vivid warm colors as an especially exciting feature about it. e explained that black was almost always the color you’d see of these, so this was a rare find indeed. He named its value between $7,000 to $9,000, to which the stunned owner replied, “Are you kidding? Never in a million years would I have thought that.”

The Incredibly Expensive Illustration | $500,000

“We’re not gonna sell it so it’s immaterial,” said Randy, the owner Norman Rockwell’s painting, Little Model. It had been in the family for generations and it held sentimental value more than anything. Still, he brought it to the roadshow to see what kind of price it could fetch.

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The appraiser, Nan Chisholm, confirmed it was an original 1919 illustration by the artist, for a cover of the Collierâs Weekly magazine. She estimated it’s worth to be around half a million dollars, which at the time was “tied for the second most valuable item ever appraised in the 15-year history.” We wonder if he’s still not thinking about putting it up for auction.

The Rediscovery of a Lost Victorian Masterpiece | $250,000 – $400,000

Described as one of the best pictures to have been seen on the BBC version of Antiques Roadshow, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s portrait of his friend the engraver Leopold Löwenstam, was an especially cherished find. Art appraiser and dealer Rupert Maas talked to the host Fiona Bruce about what makes it so special.

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Originally intended as a wedding present to his friend, it had since been considered a lost work of art by the great Victorian painter. Rupert gave it the high estimation of $250,000 to $400,000, as Sir Lawrence is considered one of the “most valuable Victorian artists today” for his contribution to neoclassicism, as well as the shock sale of one of his paintings for $36 million a few years ago.

The Rare Book Belonging to a Single Little Girl | $20,000

This guest brought in a humble-looking copy of “Anne of Green Gables” that she had picked up in a flea market for her young daughter. Written by L. M. Montgomery, this copy was dated back to 1908. Up until that time, there really wasn’t much else on the market in the way of girls’ books.

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This book happens to be a “true, true first edition.” The expert in vintage books explained that he had only ever come across three in his entire career, to prove how rare it was. With the fine condition it was in, he estimated it to sell for approximately $20,000. “Oh my gosh. Now I’m worried! My daughter is not gonna believe it,” the owner exclaimed.

The Catholic Priest With an Eye for Fine Art | $500,000 – $700,000

The Flemish Baroque artist Sir Anthony Van Dyck is long considered to be one of the greats in court painting. So when it showed up on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow in 2014, the showrunners were very excited. It had been purchased by a Catholic Priest (pictured below) for $500 – a drop in the ocean compared to what it’s worth.

Image: Independent

A specialist from Christie’s auction house admitted: “The picture is of great importance as it provides a fascinating insight into Van Dyck’s working method and also constitutes a significant surviving document for the artist’s lost group portrait of The Magistrates of Brussels.” This $500 dollar investment was valued at reaching $500,000 to $700,000. Now that’s the jackpot!

The Pretty Painting Worth a Pretty Price | $120,000 – $200,000

The owner of this painting really wasn’t sure what to make of the image that she hung in her house. Still, something told her to come on down to the convention and get an evaluation. Having gone down to her local roadshow in Orlando, Florida in 2007, she didn’t expect anything too extraordinary.

Image: Chicago Tribune

But once again, the Antiques Roadshow expert left her speechless. When the painting’s appraiser told her that the painting would sell in auction for around $120,000 to $200,000, she was left speechless.

The Early Hymn Book That Reduced the Owner to Tears | $40,000 – $50,000

This woman found a rare artifact right in the depths of her basement. She had no idea where it had come from or what it was about, only recalling that it had been her grandmother’s once. But appraiser Ken Sanders knew he was onto something as soon as he saw it: “I was quite shocked when [the lady] brought it up to the table,” he recalled.

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Having been produced in 1844, Ken explained: “This is the so-called Bellow Falls Hymnal of the LDS Church. It is one of the earliest hymnals that the church produced. The very first LDS hymnal was printed in 1835 and it was done by Joseph Smith – the founder and prophet of Mormonism’s wife.” He then told her to expect $40,000 and $50,000 for it at auction. The owner was overcome with emotion at the estimate, proceeding to weep right then and there!

The Queen of England’s Moment of Truth | Her Highness Would Never Disclose Such a Thing

No, we’re not joking, Her Majesty The Queen appeared on an episode of the Antiques Roadshow. It was the British version of the show on the BBC, which the monarch admitted to watching and loving herself. She and Prince Phillip were visiting their Northern Ireland residence, Hillsborough Castle, when the show’s appraisers displayed a few of their choice items.

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“What was lovely about this is, this is a piece unlike the other objects as it has a direct family connection,” one of the experts said about a particular christening cup. But despite her appearance on the long-running show, she didn’t ask them to value any of her antiques. She doesn’t need the money, after all!