Anyone who’s ever cleaned out an attic or a dusty garage has probably looked around and wondered: could any of this old junk actually be worth something? Most of the time, all that stuff collecting dust is pretty useless, but every so often, there’s a treasure hiding in plain sight.
That’s exactly why lots of people have their items appraised—especially on PBS’s popular TV series Antiques Roadshow. While most of the guests head home with nothing more than some insight, the lucky owners of these 20 objects ended up making some serious bank!
1. Gold-plated Luxus II camera ($620,000): This pricey camera was once called “the rarest camera in the world.” Only four of these gold-and-snakeskin devices were ever made; this one (pictured) is the last in existence!
2. Jardiniere vase ($820,000): Believe it or not, the woman who owned this vase used to let her children use it as a goal post when they played soccer. She had no idea that it worth such an impressive sum.
3. Prussian plate ($185,000): When the owner of this plate asked to have her items appraised, she was counting on her books to be the most valuable. That was until she found out that this plate was once owned by the King of Prussia himself!
4. Diego Rivera painting ($800,000): This man had this painting—by none other than Diego Rivera himself—hanging behind his office door for years before he decided to get it appraised. Thank goodness he did!
5. Original 1950s mobile ($400,000-$600,000): This might not look like much on the surface, but it was actually one of the first mobiles ever made—and by the toy’s inventor, Alexander Calder, no less!
6. Jade bowls ($1.5 million): An amateur art collector who really knew his stuff picked up this lot of jade in China for less than $20. Now his children and grandchildren are reaping the rewards of that investment.
7. Navajo blanket ($750,000): Blankets just like this one were once made exclusively for Native American Ute chiefs. To date, this is one of the most well-preserved examples of this type of blanket. Its value will only ever go up!
8. “Ozzy the Owl” ($25,000): This vase might not look like very much, but it’s actually a rare piece from the year 1640. The previous owner used it for flowers and had no idea of its actual value. It is now safe in a museum.
9. Clyfford Still painting ($500,000): When the owner of this painting moved into a new house, a family friend gave it to her as a housewarming gift. They had no idea it was painted by one of the American greats!
10. Original Peanuts comic strips ($450,000): The late comic artist Charles Schultz famously used to give away his original comic strips once they went to press. This woman’s collection cost her just $400! Talk about a good return on investment.
11. Anthony van Dyck painting ($673,000): A local parish priest was able to snag this painting for only $500 because it was believed to be a fake. However, the joke’s on the seller—it is absolutely the real deal!
12. Edgar Allan Poe photograph ($50,000): Sometimes it turns out that good things really do come in very, very small (and very, very old) packages! The tiny photograph of the late dark and dreary poet was worth way more than anyone expected.
13. Rhino horn teacups ($1.5 million): These were purchased on a whim by a tourist in Africa in the 1970s. When he learned how much they were worth, the man had an actual asthma attack.
14. Norman Rockwell’s The Little Model ($500,000): Believe it or not, this famous painting by the legendary American artist Norman Rockwell was simply given as a gift to this lucky owner. He couldn’t believe how much it was really worth!
15. Winston Churchill’s cigar ($1,000): This cigar, which the former United Kingdom Prime Minister reportedly chomped on during his famous D-Day decision, earned its owner a pretty penny. Other cigars once owned by Churchill have been valued up to $12,000!
16. Original Honus Wagner baseball card ($780,000): This is one of the earliest baseball cards on record, and it’s even more special because so few were printed of Honus Wagner. Thankfully, this one was in mint condition.
17. Patek Philippe pocket watch ($1.5 million): It isn’t just the beauty of this watch that makes it so valuable; it’s also the fact that it was made for American entrepreneur George Thompson.
18. Joseph Kleitsch oil painting ($500,000): When this woman found a painting for sale at a thrift store, she thought it was worth the “pricey” $100 fee and bought it happily. She was even happier when she learned how much it was really worth!
19. Boston Red Sox memorabilia ($1 million): Baseball cards and paraphernalia will also catch a pretty penny, but this collection predates the collecting craze, which is part of what makes it so valuable!
20. Seymour card table ($600,000): The woman who owns this tiny table actually purchased it at a yard sale for no more than $25! Why is it worth so much? Because it was made by a very renowned designer. This woman, however, wasn’t the only one to strike it rich thrifting…
21. When students Skyer Ashworth and Talia Rappa were looking through clothes at a thrift store in Florida, they couldn’t help but notice six NASA spacesuits on the rack. They purchased the official 1980s-era suits for a mere 20 cents each, only to discover later that they were actually worth much more: $5,000 per suit!
22. Zachary Bodish was immediately drawn to this reproduction Picasso poster when he spotted it at a thrift store near Columbus, Ohio, and he purchased it for $14. Not long after, he discovered that it wasn’t a replica at all, but a linocut made by Picasso himself. He eventually sold it to a private buyer for $7,000!
23. Vinyl collector Warren Hill always kept his eyes peeled for rare records selling at New York City street sales, though he never had much luck. That is, until he stumbled upon a Velvet Underground test-pressing that was only intended to be seen by the record label and the distributor. He later sold it on eBay for a stunning $25,000!
24. Jennifer Thompson purchased the Nintendo game Stadium Events from a North Carolina thrift store for just $8. Little did she know that it was highly coveted by collectors. She couldn’t believe it when someone purchased it from her for $25,000!
25. A German student returned home with a $215 foldable couch she’d picked up at a flea market, only to have a rare painting fall from its crease. Created between 1605 and 1620 by an unknown artist, it depicted Italian master Carlo Saraceni. Despite the nameless artist, it eventually auctioned for $27,630!
26. A woman shopping at a thrift store in Somerset, England, was happy to pay $3 for this metal bowl. When she brought it to have appraised, the experts instantly knew it was a Chinese tripod censer that dated to the 18th century Qianlong period. That could certainly help explain why it eventually fetched $30,000 at auction!
27. When Zach Norris went to a Phoenix thrift store in search of a cheap golf trolley, he got much more than he bargained for. He forked over $5.99 for a neat-looking watch by Jaeger-LeCoultre. It wound up being worth a whopping $35,000!
28. A couple from Knoxville, Tennessee, Sean and Rikki McEvoy, randomly purchased a black sports sweater from a thrift store. They had no idea it had once belonged to famed football coach Vince Lombardi. They paid just 58 cents for the item, though it was worth $43,000!
29. When an Australian man purchased this pretty item for $3 from a shop in Sydney, he had no idea it was actually an incredibly rare Chinese libation cup made of rhino horn. He later earned a cool $60,000 when the cup was auctioned by Sotheby’s.
30. In 1994, an avid golfer walked into a Toronto thrift store and found an eye-catching green jacket selling for just $5. The jacket turned out to be an authentic jacket from a 1950s Augusta National! Even without the golfer’s name stitched onto it, a memorabilia company purchased it for the high price of $139,349.
31. One British man spotted this watch at a parking lot sale and paid $35 for it. He was elated when he found out that it was the exact same watch Sean Connery wore when he starred as James Bond in the 1965 film Thunderball. Even better: he sold it for a staggering $145,000!
32. When this painting was donated to the Columbia-Williamette Goodwill, the staff priced it to sell for $10. It wasn’t long before someone recognized it as a watercolor by American artist Frank Weston Benson. It later sold for an astonishing $165,002!
33. A person was shopping at a flea market in Brooklyn when they stumbled upon a $15 necklace designed by American sculptor Alexander Calder. Though Calder wasn’t known for his jewelry, they couldn’t turn down such a deal. It’s a good thing they didn’t, because it turned out to be worth $267,750!
34. London man John Richard paid only $30 for this Andy Warhol print bag—featuring the likeness of Elvis Presley—at a local thrift store. After it was appraised, he learned that only 10 were ever made by designer Philip Treacy, which explains why it is rumored to be worth a grand total of $480,000!
35. When this item was donated to a charity shop in England, staff members quickly realized it might be worth something. As it turned out, it was a bamboo pot created between 1662 and 1672 by Gu Jue, a famed Chinese artist. Even though it needed to be restored, it sold for a whopping $500,000!
36. Claire Wiegan-Beckmann purchased a card table from a garage sale for $25 in the 1960s. Years later, she decided she would have it appraised on the TV program Antiques Roadshow. That’s when she discovered it was from the 1700s and worth $541,500!
37. In the 1980s, a ring caught a shopper’s eye at a parking lot sale at a London hospital. He purchased it for $14, and after wearing it for five years, he decided to have it officially appraised. That’s when he learned it was a 26.27 carat diamond! He eventually sold it for a staggering $915,000.
38. An Indiana man paid $30 for this painting hoping to use it to cover a hole in his wall. One day, while playing a board game based on art auctions, he noticed that one of the cards featured a similar painting. That’s when he discovered it was the “Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth” by Martin Johnson Heade… and it was worth $1.2 million!
39. One New York family spent $3 to have this seemingly ordinary bowl displayed on their mantel. But they began to wonder of its true worth and they brought it to Sotheby’s, where they ere informed that it was an ancient Chinese ceramic—and would fetch between $200,000 and $300,000. It later sold for a cool $2.2 million.
40. In 1989, a man purchased a painting for $4 because he liked the frame. He removed the painting to put something else inside and discovered an original print of the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence. It was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1991 for $2,420,000!
Sothebys / Wikimedia commons