Family Learns Statue From A Garage Sale Is Actually An Ancient Treasure

The Liddell family was grieving. Matriarch Doreen Liddell had just passed away, and they were dealing with the emotional turmoil that came with going through her things. She’d accumulated so much over the years that they needed a cleaning crew to sort through it all.

But when that crew went through her Penzance, Cornwall, home, they found a peculiar statue that made dealing with the pain of loss a little easier for the Liddells. Doreen was sitting on a genuine ancient artifact. With such a wild history, auctioneers had no doubt the Liddells were sitting on a gold mine.

Penzance Auction Rooms got the phone call when Doreen Liddell passed away in November 2014. Her family, not wanting the emotionally weighty task of sorting through possessions, needed some professional cleaning help. Penzance sent over auctioneer David Lay, below.

There was a lot of junk in the house, but given Doreen’s penchant for digging through garage sales and thrift stores, the family felt there was something of value hiding in storage. They never suspected the most valuable item was sitting right on the mantle.

David Lay honed right in on a 7-inch cat statue. Sure it was something valuable, he asked the family where Doreen had first found the decoration. He couldn’t believe the answer.

Penzance Auction Rooms

The Liddells said Doreen bought the cat at a garage sale! She never showed it off much, so visitors never paid much attention to it. David Lay, however, was not like most visitors. Some marvelous details popped out at him. This wasn’t an ordinary cat.

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The auctioneer took the statue back to his office, where he gave it a closer glance. After examining the cat’s ornate markings and the brilliant carving job, David Lay had a hunch about there this statue came from. He just needed one piece of information about Doreen.

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So, David picked up the phone, and he called the Liddells, who were taken aback by the information he was asking for. He needed a key piece of information about the previously deceased Mr. Douglas Liddell — Doreen’s husband.

Specifically, he needed to know about Douglas Liddell’s career. Where did he work? The Liddells filled David Lay in: He worked at the Spink and Son auction house in London. David was elated. Suddenly, the cat figure started making sense.

Spink Auctions / Facebook

See, Spink and Son has been in business since 1666 and is known for specializing in ancient Egyptian artifacts. If you were looking for genuine pieces of Egyptian history, Spink and Son was the place to go.

Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images

Part of the reason why the firm is so well-known for selling Egyptian goods is because they handled the estate of archaeologist Howard Carter. Howard is one of the most renowned archaeologists in history for his groundbreaking discoveries.

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In 1922, Howard discovered the tomb and sarcophagus of Tutankhamun. Recording the contents of the massive gravesite was an 11-year process — one that brought great notoriety to the Egyptologist.

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This find was so exciting because it was the only tomb in the Valley of the Kings that hadn’t been plundered by various other explorers over the years. Howard was the first modern person to have rediscovered the Egyptian ruler.

After the 11 years of cataloguing, Howard was an agent for art collectors and museums — he probably got tired of looking at artifacts after spending that much time examining them. When he died in 1939 of lymphoma, he died with an illustrious legacy.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

So, David Lay wondered: was the little bronze cat statue from Howard’s personal relic collection? Or was it a phony knockoff? The auctioneer dug deeper and deeper into this statue’s history.

The cat dates back to 600 B.C., putting it at about 2,500 years old. The Lidells believe that Douglas purchased the feline during Howard’s Spink and Son-managed estate sale, but there isn’t a record of this.

Here’s what we do know about this one-of-a-kind, extremely valuable trinket. The statue was crafted during the 26th Dynasty of ancient Egypt. Under the leadership of King Psamtik I, there were major increases in associating deities with animals, like cats.

Chr. Breninek

Cats themselves were linked to Bastet, who protected them along with households, fertility, and childbirth. Felines who died were often buried around her temples to honor both her and the animal too. She wasn’t the only deity linked to cats.

New Historia

A less-gentle cat connection is the goddess Sakhmet. When Ra, the sun god, was angry with humanity, he sent ferocious, lion-headed Sakhmet to punish them. She got carried away with her task and was a bit too violent while she was eating them alive. Oh, those silly lion goddesses and the deaths they enact.

Alec Frazier, Flickr

Ra knew he had to do something or Sakhmet wouldn’t stop killing, so he gave her a red-colored beer, which mimicked all the human blood she satiated herself with. Once she drank the beer, she fell asleep and stopped eating the humans.

Even though Sakhmet has a violent past with the people who worship her, there were still plenty of detailed, gorgeous statues of her. For instance, at the “Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt,” exhibit at Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., there were plenty of ornate Sakhmet figures.

Though ancient Egyptians didn’t worship cats, the museum’s curatorial fellow Antonietta Catanzariti explains, they were obsessed with their nature as animals. “What they were [actually] doing was associating cats to specific deities because of their attitude, how they were behaving in the natural world,” Antoiniette said.

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“Everything had a meaning. A cat protecting the house from mice. Or it might just protect kittens. These were attitudes that were attributed to a specific goddess,” Antoiniette said. Egyptians just truly appreciated cats — a people after our own hearts.

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So, what does this have to do with the bronze cat statue? Because of its connection with both a famous Egyptologist, it’s condition, and its depiction of an animal extremely important in an ancient society, the figurine is worth a great chunk of change.

Christie’s

David took to the cat figurine to the British Museum to check for authenticity, and was delighted to tell the Liddells that the institution was excited to examine such a wonderful example of ancient art.

Penzance Auction Rooms estimated ‘very conservatively’ that the family could get £5,000 to £10,000 but could even receive £50,000, or about $64,000. Even David Lay knew, that when auctioning off pieces from history, the selling point was anyone’s guess.

Even in London, he knew of a family from New York that, in 2007, picked out several porcelain and ceramic bowls from a neighborhood yard sale. Most were basic white dishes, but there was one that stood out. At this point, they had no idea about its history.

One of the small dishes had unique floral patterning on the inside and outside that the others were lacking. This piece in particular would fit perfectly with their kitchen decor.

Sotheby’s

The family placed the bowl on a kitchen shelf, thinking nothing of it — it was just a bowl. For six years it was just an aesthetically pleasing part of the kitchen that sometimes held spaghetti… until a small detail piqued their interest.

They couldn’t help but think the floral engravings might indicate the bowl was worth more than the measly three bucks they paid for it. After speaking with experts, they were advised to bring the bowl to Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s is one of the most prestigious auction houses in the world, and the auctioneers who work with them are truly experts in their fields. The bowl immediately garnered massive attention when the family brought it in.

Sotheby’s

Not only did the experts at Sotheby’s tell them the bowl would likely sell for a lot of money, but the porcelain was also nearly 1,000 years old! The family was stunned beyond belief.

Sotheby’s

The bowl apparently was crafted around the tenth or eleventh century during the reign of the Northern Song dynasty. It’s official name was a “Ding” bowl, and this piece was as rare as rare can get.

Wikimedia Commons

The name “Ding” referred to the county of Ding in China’s Hebei province that housed all the kilns used to craft them. As the family learned more, they realized they owned one of only two remaining bowls on the planet.

The only other one known by experts was on display inside the British Museum. Can you believe the second was lying on a table next to someone else’s tag sale junk?

The Ding bowl in the British Museum had been on display for over 60 years, and it was left to the museum by Henry J. Oppenheim, a famous collector. An author named Rose Kerr had an interesting theory about these pieces that only drove the value up.

Royal Asiatic Society

Because only a handful of Chinese during the Song dynasty were able to live inside the palaces, these bowls were made to mimic the ornate gold wares royalty used. Curious buyers considered this when they started letting their bids fly.

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During the anticipated auction, the family was in a surreal state of shock about everything that went down. Would they really walk out with several hundred thousand dollars? They held their breath, and then… the bidding went out of control.

The New York Times

A London art dealer named Giuseppe Eskenazi stepped up to the plate and blew everyone else’s bid out of the water. This guy proudly offered $2.2 million for the bowl. A silence fell over the auction house. Could anyone outbid him?

Antiques Trade Gazette

Eskenazi was, after all, no stranger to forking over a boatload of cash for ancient relics. Eight years prior to bidding the Song dynasty bowl, he spent just over $23 million for a rare 14th-century glass jar. If he wanted something, he would have it.

With the $2.3 million bid, Eskenazi won the bowl. The proud new owner told CNN reporter Richard Roth, “There’s only one other. It’s also in perfect condition; considering its past history, it’s a miracle.” Others share his enthusiasm.

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The auctioneer in charge of the sale, Henry Howard Sneyd, weighed in on the historic event. “The moment the box lid was opened I knew that I was looking at something completely special.” Still, the buyer had questions.

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That only two of these survived a thousand years in perfect condition was almost unfathomable. So how did this particular bowl end up at an American tag sale?

Sotheby’s

The answers weren’t clear. The New York family only knew it came from a garage sale — and that the previous owners of the bowl were surely kicking themselves. Still, they knew there were ways to track down an item’s history.

Wikipedia

Like the New York couple, 64-year-old Rick spent his spare time at yard sales. As a carpenter and painter, he enjoyed repurposing antiques, and in 2000, he was driving by a sale in Fresno when a barber’s chair caught his eye. He was about to go down a history rabbit hole.

After determining the chair was useless, Rick ended up browsing the other items. He opened a few lids and found a collection of film negatives packed into two boxes. They were being sold as a set for $75. Back then, Rick thought the price was much too high, which now makes him laugh.

Homes by Ottoman

Rick haggled with the seller, who’d bought them in the 1940s at a Los Angeles warehouse. Rick pointed out problems with the boxes, such as obvious wear and smoke damage. Reluctantly, the seller knocked the price down to $45, which turned out to be his biggest mistake.

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Back at home, Rick counted 65 negatives. With his 65th birthday coming up, he figured it was destiny. Proud of his purchase, Rick stored the boxes safely under his pool table. Once in a while, he’d pull out the negatives to show his friends, knowing full-well what the images depicted.

Having worked there as a kid, Rick had no doubt that these photos were of the world-famous Yosemite mountains. Two years after his purchase, Rick began to suspect more. He decided to move the negatives to a secure bank vault. If he were correct about their origin, he could become a very wealthy man.

Chris Peeters

Now, if Rick were wrong about his suspicions, there would be legal consequences to pay. But he’d done his research and even consulted with professionals who claimed these prints could actually belong to the father of American photography himself.

Andy Holzman

Ansel Adams is a beloved name. His black-and-white photos of the American West inspired environmentalist efforts, including the preservation of what are now the US National Parks. He even helped establish photography as an official discipline in higher education. However, his early career faced an unfortunate tragedy.

Wikimedia Commons

Years of Ansel Adam’s work from the early 1930s had gone missing from the records. Most experts believed the entirety of these photographs, which would have shown his transition from amateur to master, were lost for good. How could so much of the photographer’s work disappear?

Ansel Adams

In 1937, there was a fire at Ansel’s studio, burning up thousands of his stills. When Rick claimed these negatives were the missing link to Ansel Adam’s pioneering career, he was met with harsh backlash from every side, including art directors, historians, and the Adams estate itself. Rick needed back up.

Columbia Pictures

Rick hired a lawyer named Arnold Peter who claimed he could make up to $200 million from his find! Arnold quoted many experts, including a former FBI agent and a US attorney, who said, “no reasonable person would have any doubt that these, in fact, were the long-lost images of Ansel Adams.”

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You don’t just march into a museum and demand $200 million for your box of junk. Arnold, who was eager to represent Rick, needed to prove authentication. He told reporters they were putting these negatives “on trial.” He found a team of experts in art, forensics, handwriting, and even weather to explore the possibilities.

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“It truly is a missing link of Ansel Adams and history and his career,” said art dealer David Streets. “This is going to show the world the evolution of his eye, of his talent, of his skill, his gift, but also his legacy.” The media remained skeptical of these expert opinions. Criticisms started getting personal.

Art Listings

The managing director of the Ansel Adams Trust, who is in charge of copyrighting anything to do with the famed photographer, told news channels that these so-called experts were “crooks” and “con men.” Nevertheless, Rick was determined to win.

David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Why would these negatives be left in an LA warehouse? Arnold’s photography expert, Patrick, suspected they were used for teaching purposes, namely “to show students how to not let their negatives be engulfed in a fire.” Still, experts were skeptical. To end the legal battles, Arnold had Rick sign an agreement.

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Rick agreed to have a company called Media Partners Global sell the prints on his behalf, barring him from legal responsibility. They were eventually sued, but not before the company made an enormous profit. Once the company was forced to stop using the Ansel Adams name, Rick realized something was off.

Flickr

News reports indicated the company made $1.8 million in profit, but Rick didn’t get his fair cut. As time went on, more officials denounced the authenticity of the negatives, claiming they actually belonged to a photographer named Earn Brooks. After looking into it, Rick made a troubling discovery.

Lawrence K. Ho

The company selling his prints, Media Partners Global, was owned by none other than Arnold Peter! The attorney pocketed a majority of the $1.8 million in profits behind Rick’s back. He used confusing legal jargon to put loopholes in their agreement. Even the people he hired were scammers!

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One of the appraisers, David Streets, turned out to be a convicted felon! He, along with the other “experts,” had been hired by Arnold to fake authentication of Rick’s negatives. Naturally, Rick hired new attorneys — ones he actually vetted — to sue Arnold. By that point, it was too late.

Ansel Adams

Swindled out of the chance to make millions, Rick is limited to selling the prints online only under the title of “The Lost Negatives.” With printing technology these days, however, business isn’t exactly booming. But his misery hasn’t deterred other antique hunters from looking for famous relics.

Robert Durell

One of the most special items Antiques Roadshow has ever seen really doesn’t seem like much. In fact, at first glance, it looks like a dime-a-dozen wooden box your grandmother once used to store things like bobby pins or fancy soap…

But this wooden box goes back further than bobby pins. In fact, it goes back even further than your own grandmother. The small box, which can fit in the palm of your hand, is engraved with the year 1785 — almost 235 years ago. 

Nitrate Ville

Still, its age isn’t what makes this box so special. The truly captivating characteristic of the box is the numbers engraved around the lid. They made for a beautiful design, but as it turned out, they were much more than just decoration.

When Antiques Roadshow-viewer Paul Wisken started the episode featuring the box, he figured it would be like any other — except it wasn’t. As soon as the mysterious box appeared on screen, he was intrigued. The numbers stood out to him.

Meanwhile, the box’s owner and Antiques Roadshow experts answered the easy questions: It was a Georgian cosmetics box, and as the tradition of that romantic time period goes, it was probably a gift given from a gentleman to his lover.

Moreover, the box was purchased for around 20 pounds (AKA 30 dollars) by the owner’s father. That was all they knew about the box’s lineage of owners. Then, they looked to the outside of the box, where a romantic message was clearly engraved.

“The ring is round and hath no end, so unto my love, now my friend,” the engraving read. What left even the Antiques Roadshow experts stumped, though, were the weird assemblage of numbers on the lid of the box. 

The said, Antiques Roadshow expert Jon Baddeley was able to give some insight as to the box’s centuries-old origin. He knew it once held rouge or makeup patches, and Jon was even able to confirm the name of the original gift-giver.

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The name was J Jones. As for the numbers, Jon was as flummoxed as everyone else. “You’ve brought in this tiny little box and many many questions,” Jon told the owner. He was forced to say something no historian ever wants to say.

“I think with this one I’m going to be at a bit of a loss,” he said. He estimated the box’s value at $1,500, adding that it had “sentimental value.” Everyone wondered if cracking the code would add to the monetary value, but there was no Rosetta Stone to reveal the answers.

There was Paul, though, who, back at home, had hatched a plan. “As soon as I heard them say ‘we can’t solve it,’ I thought, ‘I bet I can,’” Paul said. As confident as he was, the retired engineer had his work cut out for him.

His natural affinity for numbers and his love of crossword puzzles made this “too much of a challenge to resist, ”as Paul said. He hoped that his lifetime of amateur code-cracking would help him solve the puzzle once and for all.

Kevin Van Paassen

The grandfather created a system to match digits with letters, starting with double 8s he assumed represented LLs. From there, his complex number system grew. J Jones kept floating into his mind — what was he trying to conceal? 

Even after 5 hours of work, Paul was unconvinced that he had cracked the code. He had a smattering of words, including “small” and “love,” but couldn’t figure out what the message truly said. Days went by, and still Paul was stumped…

Until a few nights later, that is. He woke up “with a click,” as he said, and realized the word that had eluded him: “gift.” As a whole, the message read, “The gift is small but love is all.”

Finally cracking the code was a triumphant moment for Paul, but he was modest about his accomplishment. “It was a beautiful challenge thrown in my lap,” he said, and he even proclaimed himself as “a bit of a nerd.” 

The fact that the message could be cracked at all was important, since secret codes are pretty much created to be broken. This certainly brought to light even more questions about the lovers who first exchanged this small gift. 

The biggest question is, why hide the lovely message behind code? The only answer that made much sense in this case — or, at least, the answer that had the juiciest implications — was that the couple was in an illicit relationship. 

When Antiques Roadshow was informed of Paul’s discovery, they dubbed him a “genius” — and estimated an added 10-20% to the monetary value of the box. Still, Jon thinks that the box’s significance goes beyond money.

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He feels that the cracked code adds even more to the box’s incredible story. With a backstory involving mysterious codes, centuries of secrets, and possible illicit lovers, the vintage box spun quite a mystery!

Variety

And Paul knew what an exciting backstory could do for an item. Given his interest in antique appraisal, he likely heard the story of the junk-bowl-turned-priceless artifact a New York man bought from a 2007 garage sale.

The piece in question was this beautifully crafted bowl, which they quickly purchased from the yard sale for a measly $3. Much to their surprise, this seemingly ordinary purchase turned out to be the best investment of their lives…

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Upon a close inspection of the bowl, you can see there was quite a lot going on with it. Fine details like the lotus patterns carved into the interior were one of many reasons the family placed the bowl on their mantle for all to see.

bowled-over-4Sotheby’s

For six years, the bowl sat on the mantle, relatively untouched, save for the occasional dusting. Eventually, though, the intricacies of the bowl piqued their interest, and the family suspected that they had more than just a $3 cereal bowl on their hands.

They brought their garage sale purchase to various experts, hoping to confirm their suspicions. The couple ended up at Sotheby’s, a broker with a sterling reputation for appraising the finer things in life: art, jewelry, collectibles, and more.

If anyone knew art, it was Sotheby’s. In 2012, the publicly traded corporation managed to auction off Edvard Munch’s most iconic work, The Scream, for almost $120 million. In other words, if the garage shoppers’ bowl was worth something, Sotheby’s would know.

Jennifer S. Altman / The New York Times

When the family brought the bowl to Sotheby’s for appraisal, they were told it was a thousand years old—and it actually originated from China’s Song dynasty. Unbeknownst to them, they’d been living with an ancient Chinese artifact all along!

The crazy revelations didn’t stop there. When the auctioneers at Sotheby’s crunched the numbers, they concluded that the bowl was worth anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000! But that was just an estimate…

Sotheby’s

Before the family made a dime off their $3 garage sale purchase, however, someone would have to pay for it at auction. But with Sotheby’s slinging all kinds of impressive fine art, would a five-inch bowl really make $200,000? They’d have to wait and see.

Julie Gamble Smith

The auction took place on March 19, 2013. The family anxiously waited for the live bidding to start, and they didn’t realize just how many people were hungrily eyeing their ancient bowl. One of those people happened to be Giuseppe Eskenazi, a man considered to be the world’s foremost dealer of Chinese art.

Just eight years earlier, Giuseppe proved he wasn’t afraid to shell out some serious money for valuable antiques when he purchased a 14th-century jar for $23.5 million! His next target? That New York family’s Song dynasty bowl.

When the bidding started, there were five prospective buyers, including Giuseppe. They went back and forth, trying to outspend one another on the ornate artifact. After a few minutes of furious bidding, the auction was over. The final bid was astronomical…

CNN Money

Giuseppe managed to win the bowl after dropping $2.2 million on it. The family—who purchased the bowl for $3—definitely made their money back! If it’s hard to believe this modest dish could’ve fetched such a high price, there’s one thing you’re not considering…

Sotheby’s

This bowl was worth far more than any other because of one particular reason. After the auction, CNN’s Richard Roth spoke with both Giuseppe Eskenaz and the Sotheby’s auctioneer, Henry Howard Sneyd, to find out why…

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When asked what made the bowl so special, Giuseppe put it simply: “There’s only one other,” he said. “It’s also in perfect condition; considering its past history, it’s a miracle.” No kidding. The bowl even survived a garage sale!

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Giuseppe continued explaining what made the bowl so unique. “It’s decorated both on the inside and outside, which is also very, very rare,” he said. Auctioneer Henry echoed his sentiments…

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“The moment the box [containing the bowl] lid was opened,” Henry said, “I knew that I was looking at something completely special.” He described the carver’s precise and beautiful work as “a little bit like Mozart.” Talk about high praise!

As a final note, Giuseppe made it clear just how special the bowl was. “I can’t think of another bowl—except for [the one at] the British Museum [pictured]—that is as sophisticated as this one.” Again, this was no cereal bowl.

So how did a bowl so priceless end up as $3 yard sale purchase? That remained a mystery. The bowl, Henry said, “has come out of the blue in terms of being a complete discovery.” But for as much as it sold for, you couldn’t put a price tag on the seller’s reaction…

“I got back to my desk after the auction,” Henry recalled, “and I found an email, which was in capital letters: WOW. And then a new line: WOW. And then a line of exclamation marks.” And with a profit of over $2 million, there couldn’t be a more fitting reaction!

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Turns out there’s plenty of old items lying around, just waiting to be noticed for there value! And apparently, it’s a lot easier to find these things than most people think. You might have these undiscovered treasures laying around your own home!

1. 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!

2. 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!

3. 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!

4. 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!

5. 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!

6. 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!

7. 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!

8. 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!

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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!

12. 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!

13. 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!

14. 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!

15. 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!

16. 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!

17. 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.

18. 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!

19. 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

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