Jaw-Dropping Antique Appraisals on 'Antiques Roadshow'

Antiques Roadshow Cover

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Antiques Roadshow Cover
Cheapism / PBS

Attic Rot Turned Million-Dollar Lot

Have you ever rummaged through a dusty attic, wondering if that old painting or tarnished trinket might be worth a fortune? If so, then you're not alone. The ever-popular "Antiques Roadshow" (currently filming its 28th season on PBS) thrives on uncovering hidden treasures, often transforming unsuspecting family heirlooms into valuable pieces of history. 

Here are some of the most astonishing appraisals the Roadshow has handed out.

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Chinese Rhinoceros horn cups

1. Chinese Rhinoceros Horn Cups

Appraisal: $1-1.5 million

Some of our favorite "Antiques Roadshow" moments were watching folks who spent a modest amount of money on something they simply admired or enjoyed, only to find out from an appraiser that their prized possessions were prizes indeed — of considerably heftier fortunes. Such was the case with these intricately carved Chinese rhinoceros horn cups, believed to originate from the late 17th or early 18th century.

Each cup showcased a unique design, some depicting mythological creatures like dragons clambering up the sides, while others were adorned with blooming flowers. The owner, who had collected them affordably (about $5,000 for the entire set) was seemingly unaware of their immense value. The appraiser identified them as ceremonial libation cups, used by the wealthy Chinese elite, which led to a record-breaking appraisal of $1-1.5 million.

Related: You Won't Believe How Much These Collectibles Fetched at Auction

1871–1872 Boston Red Stockings archive

2. 1871–1872 Boston Red Stockings Archive

Appraisal: $1 million

Sports memorabilia has a reputation for fetching some seriously sky-high price tags at auction, and this piece of baseball history is the most expensive sports-related collection to appear on "Antiques Roadshow."  

The 1871-1872 Boston Red Stockings archive belonged to the great-great-granddaughter of a Boston boarding house owner who housed the team.  This particular Red Stockings squad held immense significance since it included players from the Cincinnati Red Stockings team, who were considered one of the first fully professional baseball teams. The archive reportedly contained items like player cards (possibly some of the earliest ever made) and a letter written by the first lineup.

Diego Rivera oil painting

3. 1904 Diego Rivera 'El Albañil' Oil Painting

Appraisal: $800,000-$1 million (now $1.2-2.2 million)

Oil paintings have been known to rack up a few cha-chings from "Antiques Roadshow," and this 1904 Diego Rivera painting is only the first (not the last) oil painting on this round-up. The oil painting "El Albañil" was an early work by the famed Mexican muralist, painted during a time with few known paintings by him. Unaware of its significance, the owner took the painting off the wall behind a door in his home and brought it to the roadshow.

The appraiser authenticated the oil painting and crowned it with an appraisal of $800,000 to $1 million, which was later revised upwards to a range of $1.2 million to $2.2 million.

Related: What Makes a Postage Stamp Worth $15 Million?

Jade collection Qing Dynasty

4. 18th-Century Qianlong Jade Collection from the Qing Dynasty

Appraisal: $710,000-$1,070,000

If you watched this episode, you undoubtedly scooted to the edge of your seat when you heard the words "jade" and "Qing Dynasty." Any time precious gems and history collide, it's gonna be a good one. The appraiser even called this collection the "best thing I have ever seen on the Roadshow" right before he graced it with a big fat appraisal. 

Frederic Remington portrait

5. 1896 Frederic Remington Portrait and Letter

Appraisal: $600,000-$800,000

We love the twinkle that an appraiser at the Roadshow gets in their eye anytime a letter accompanies the item that's brought in. This portrait was particularly compelling since the owner had an actual connection to the painter. The painting captured the dashing image of the owner's great-grandfather, a military captain. 

The accompanying letter, written by Remington himself, added a personal touch, revealing details about their interaction during the portrait's creation. While the portrait alone held merit as a Remington work, the personalized letter (a historical document in its own right) led to a surprising appraisal that far exceeded the owner's expectations.

Related: Unusual and Rare Items That Sold at Auction for Serious Money

Joseph Kleitsch oil painting

6. 1925 Joseph Kleitsch Oil Painting

Appraisal: $500,000

The owner of this Joseph Kleitsch oil painting purchased the piece for $100. After bringing it to the Roadshow and showing off its charm, likely depicting a California scene which offered a glimpse into the early 20th-century, the surprise at a half-a-million-dollar appraisal was palpable. 

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Alexander Calder mobile

7. Alexander Calder Mobile

Appraisal: $400,000-$600,000

No, this isn't a case of someone saving their baby's childhood mobile that hung above their crib. This particular mobile was crafted by famed American sculpter, Alexander Calder. Still, the trendy piece was a family heirloom according to the owner, and it wound up being worth a bundle.

Related: 11 Things From the 1960s That Are Now Worth a Ton of Money

Navajo Ute First blanket

8. Navajo Ute First Phase Blanket

Appraisal: $350,000-$500,000

This owner was one of those adorable "Antiques Roadshow" participants who had something in his house that he thought was entirely no big deal but just wanted to check and see so he headed to the roadshow to be told he was wrapping himself up with a fortune every night on his couch when he got cozy with this Navajo Ute First Phase blanket. Okay, so we're not sure he was so daft about it that he was using it like any regular blanket, but he was certainly astonished it could be worth as much as $500,000. 

The appraiser explained that it was a rare example of a "chief's blanket," woven by the Navajo people specifically for Ute chiefs. So definitely not a couch garmet. 

Robert Henri oil painting

9. 1907 Robert Henri Oil Painting

Appraisal: $250,000-$300,000

Watching folks head to the Roadshow with supposed family heirlooms that ended up being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was both endearing and infuriating (why aren't we all sitting on goldmines in the form of portrait paintings?!) The owner of this 1907 Robert Henri oil painting explained that the woman in the portrait was her grandmother, and the appraiser in turn informed her that the impressive artistry of the painting meant it was worth a lot more than your average family memento. 

Patek Philippe pocket watch

10. Patek Philippe Pocket Watch

Appraisal: $250,000 (now valued at $2-3 million)

Any Patek Philippe pocket watch would see a nice chunk of change, being that Philippe was a notoriously prestigious Swiss watchmaker, but this particular pocket watch left the "Antique's Roadshow" appraiser speechless. This incredibly rare timepiece, crafted in 1914, was a family heirloom passed down through generations. Not only was it a beautiful 18-karat gold watch, but it boasted a multitude of complications.  These included a split-second chronograph, a perpetual calendar with moon phases, and even a minute repeater that chimed the time.  

The watch's excellent condition and unique features inspired an original appraisal of $250,000. The pocket watch was later discovered to be a one-of-a-kind creation and its original appraisal was dwarfed by its eventual sale price at auction in 2016 – a staggering $1.5 million. By 2018, the value was updated again to its current $2-3 million price tag.