Shows like Antiques Roadshow and American Pickers never cease to amaze. They prove to us that one man’s trash might just be another man’s treasure. Join us as we explore the most unexpectedly rare and valuable items ever seen on these programs.
Crawley Silver Collection- $458,000
In 1994, we saw an unforgettable Antiques Roadshow moment when an unlikely collector brought forth an incredible rare collection of silver items. The collector, who was slightly younger than the show’s usual demographic, presented an assortment which sold for over $458,000.
Elephant Head – $9,500
When the American Pickers paid a visit to Nashville, Tennessee, they knew who they had to see – none other than Jack White of the popular rock group, The White Stripes. One of White’s all-time-favorite White Stripes albums was titled “Elephant.” To honor this awesome rock’n’roll record, the Pickers presented Jack with this taxidermy elephant head, which he was thrilled to buy for $6,000. He also purchased another $6,000-worth of personal antiques. The original price of the elephant head was a staggering $9,500.
Chinese Cups Made With Rhinoceros Horns – $1 Million-$1.5 Million
Back in July 2011, one antique collector from Tulsa, Oklahoma broke records when his collection of Chinese rhinoceros horn carvings was appraised at somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million. When the set was put up for auction at Sotheby’s, only two of his cups sold for a staggering $329,000. The man had started collecting the rare pieces during his trips overseas back in the 1970s. Some pieces in his collection date all the back to 1,000 B.C.!
Yoda Prototype – $6,250
The American Pickers pretty much live by the motto, “Do or do not. There is no try.” The classic quote from the Jedi master followed them when they procured this original Yoda prototype from a woman specializing in selling original movie memorabilia. Like the pawn shop professionals they are, the Pickers were sure to double check the authenticity with Mario Chiodo, the man who created them in the first place. Once the authenticity was confirmed, the Pickers put down $6,250.
Qianlong Jade Collection – $710,000-$1 Million
In the 1930s and 1940s, a man serving in China during World War II began collecting jade, which dates all the way back to 1735-1796. the time of the Qing Dynasty. Today, the collection is owned by the man’s daughter, who lives in North Carolina. When the Antiques Roadshow professionals examined these pieces, they noticed the fine detail and imperial order mark. This could only mean one thing – that this dragon bowl was created for the emperor, hence the incredible appraisal.
1910 Royal Pioneer Motorcycle – $55,000
While this certainly isn’t the greatest sum that the Pickers have spent in one place, it’s definitely the most they’ve forked over for one specific item. That’s because the Royal Pioneer company produced less than 500 of their signature luxury motorcycles before a massive fire shut down business. Now, antique collectors will do just about anything to get their hands on one of these old-school bikes. Wolfe was satisfied putting down $55,000, especially when he learned that another Royal Pioneer went for $92,000.
Patek Philippe Pocket Watch – $1.5 Million
If you find yourself asking how a pocket watch could possibly be worth 1.5 million dollars, you’re not alone. Back in 2004, Antiques Roadshow visited St. Paul, Minnesota, and appraised the watch at a value of $250,000. Once they discovered that this Patel Philippe pocket watch was made in 1914 specifically for George Thompson, an Anglo-American living in St. Paul at the time, the value skyrocketed. In 2006, the unique pocket watch sold at Sotheby’s for a staggering $1,541,212.
Lionel Train Set – $8,000
If there’s anything we can learn from American Pickers, it’s that even the professionals make mistakes now and then. In a season 7 episode, Fritz was under the impression that he found an original, mint-condition Lionel Train set, so he put down $8,000 for the vintage toy, hoping he’d be able to flip it for profit at auction. Unfortunately, the Pickers would later discover that the train had several replacement parts, and was only worth $3,400 when sold at auction.
Angel Of The North Model – $1.3 Million
In a 2008 episode of Antiques Roadshow, filmed in Gateshead, Newcastle, viewers witnessed one of the show’s most remarkable finds. Anthony Gormley’s “Angel of the North” was valued at over $1.3 million. Before the Antiques Roadshow crew came across this treasure, it was found at the Gateshead Council offices. “It’s a great thrill to me that something produced in the past 15 years has broken the record for the most valuable item to have ever been on the show,” said fine art expert Philip Mould.
Handmade Model T – Not Sold (Priceless!)
During the episode titled “Hot Rod Hero,” the Pickers met the owner of this beautiful, hand-crafted, wooden Model T. The vehicle was actually whittled by the owner’s father, who spent seven years crafting the magnificent automobile. Amazingly, the machine still works to this day. Because the owner didn’t feel right selling the Model T, Mike and Fritz helped out in a different way. Rather than buying the car, they helped the car’s owner get the glorious piece of artwork into a museum.
Diego Rivera Painting – $800,000-$1 Million
This Diego Rivera original was first purchased sometime around the 1930s in Mexico. Rivera created this piece back when he was still a teenager. Little did anyone know it at the time, but Rivera would eventually become one of the most prominent and influential Latin American painters of all time. For decades, the painting hung behind a door in his family’s house. Thanks to his signature in the bottom right corner, Antiques Roadshow estimated the painting’s value to be between $800,000 and $1 million.
Sideshow Banners – $5,000
During the first episode of season 3, the American Pickers paid a visit to Bushkill Park in Easton Pennsylvania, where they scavenged through an old abandoned amusement park and found some vintage worn-down sideshow banners. They put down just $700 for the entire collection. When they brought the banners to be appraised, they learned the banners were worth somewhere between $5,000 and $6,000, so they decided to pay back their loyal tour guide with a tip of $5,000.
Henderson Cyclecar – $12,000
Back in the early 1900s, cars were still relatively new, and, because manufacturers still hadn’t quite figured out the most efficient production methods, only the wealthiest folks could afford them. Luckily, cyclecars were a cheaper, lightweight alternative. Once companies like Ford rose to prominence, however, the appeal of the cyclecar went down. It’s safe to say that the American Pickers had their hearts set on one of these old-school finds. They bought this Henderson cyclecar for $12,000 and turned a profit, selling it for $14,500.
Navajo Ute First Phase Blanket – $750,000-$1 Million
Dating all the way back to the 1840s, this Navajo Chief’s Blanket was given as a gift from Kit Carson, the famous American frontiersman, to his grandmother’s foster parents. This rare Ute blanket is so valuable because it’s not just a blanket, but also a piece of history. As one of the last remaining pieces to mark the start of Navajo weaving, the blanket is made of handwoven wool structured so fine that it could actually repel water.
1958 Gretsch Chet Atkins 6120 Guitar – $9,500
When the American Pickers opened their store in Nashville, a city known for music-greats, they were able to meet Jack White, in addition to Dan Auerbach, the guitar player for the Black Keys. Once Auerbach found out the Pickers had a Chet Atkins guitar, the Black Keys ax man had to make it his. Wolfe and Fritz bought the instrument for $9,500 and sold it to Auerbach for $10,000. While they didn’t turn a huge profit, they were happy to help a local rock star.
Polarimeter – $1,000
Deals don’t always go over smoothly on The American Pickers. In fact, Fritz found himself dealing with a lawsuit following a dispute with one customer. The South Carolina resident contacted Fritz, hoping to purchase an antique polarimeter. After sending $300, the man never received his prize and decided to lawyer up. To make matters worse, Fritz refused to show up on his court date. Eventually, a judge ordered Fritz to pay the man $1,000, and he reluctantly forked over the cash.
Leather License Plate – $1,000
These days, cars have standardized metal license plates. When cars were first rising to prominence, however, the tracking system was less organized. Initially, the government told folks to simply write the license number on their car, without specifying a way to do so. Some people painted the number onto their cars, others used a wooden plaque, and some engraved their number in leather. In one episode, Mike found the only leather license plate ever issued to an Oldsmobile and bought it for $1,000.
Frederic Remington Portrait With Letter – $600,000-$800,000
When Antiques Roadshow visited Birmingham, Alabama, they appraised this portrait of Frederic Remington, the now-famous American artist. It turns out that the great-grandfather of the portrait’s owner was a close friend of Remington. So much so that Remington chose him as a subject for this piece, which he painted on a military document. Remington even included a letter with the painting, in which he described his adventures with the owner’s great-grandfather. The portrait, along with the letter, was valued between $600,000 and $800,000.
1914 Merz Cyclecar – $35,000
When the Merz Cyclecar was first released in 1914, it sold for about $450. When you factor in inflation, that comes out to just over $10,800. When Wolfe and Fritz found a collector who possessed one of only two remaining Merz Cyclecars, they simply couldn’t resist! The collector originally wanted to sell the vehicle for $37,500, but because it was missing a few parts, The Pickers were able to bargain off a few thousand and eventually handed over $35,000.
John F. Kennedy’s Jacket – $262,000-$393,000
Another hidden gem was discovered in the U.K. when one man brought a leather jacket, which was reportedly owned by John F. Kennedy, to Walmer Castle in Kent. According to the story, the 35th President of the United States gave the coat to an old Swedish girlfriend he had back in the 1950s and never saw it again. Jon Baddeley, an Antiques Roadshow expert, stated that the jacket is an “iconic piece.” Its estimated value is about $300,000.
Dodge A100 Hot Rod Truck – $12,500
Not every vehicle that the American Pickers find is fit for both Frank and Mike. When the duo came across this bright orange Dodge A100 Hot Rod truck, Mike could only watch from the sidelines as Frank took the vintage treasure for a test drive. This is because the truck’s surprisingly low roof doesn’t allow Mike, who stands 6-feet-tall, to sit comfortably in the driver’s seat. The Pickers only needed to pay $12,500 to make this super-cool machine their own.
Tether Toy Car – $1,100
The tether car, which became popular back in the 1920s and 1930s, is a toy car with a real engine inside. These miniature vehicles, which are tethered to a pole and drive around in circles, can reach surprisingly high speeds. Some can even hit 150 miles per hour! On one episode of American Pickers, Mike came across one of these vintage toys and paid $1,100 for it. He also scored a few additional tether car bodies. Now, he can customize his ultimate tether car!
FA Cup – $1.3 Million+
In 2015, Eddie Gray, a former soccer player form Leeds United, and Gabby Logan, a soccer presenter, appeared on Antiques Roadshow with the third version of the FA Cup, which was also the longest-serving trophy in the sport’s history. “This is, alongside the Wimbledon trophy, the most famous cup in the country. I think, quite comfortably, this has got to be worth well over £1million – the highest value I have ever given on Antiques Roadshow,” said Alastair Dickenson.
1935 Auburn Phaeton 653 – $26,5000
Despite it’s rusty and worn-down appearance, this 1935 Auburn Phaeton that the American Pickers came across was actually quite valuable. After ripping through an old barn in search of hidden treasure, Mike and Fritz found the old machine and purchased it for $26,500. They put down another $1,000 to ship the Phaeton, and another $10,000 to repair it. When it was all said and done, the vintage car was valued at around $45,000, meaning the Pickers got a $7,500 discount.
18th Century Doll House – $196,000
When the U.K.’s version of Antique’s Roadshow visited Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, Fergus Gambon couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw this set of dolls. Without thinking, Gambon brought his camera crew to the owner’s home in Westbrook to examine the original dolls’ house. “As soon as I saw the dolls I recognized the importance of it,” said Gambon. “It’s extraordinarily fragile – not something that you can just shove in the back of the car.” Gambon valued the set at over $196,000.
Joseph Kleitsch Oil Painting – $500,000
This Joseph Kleitsch original oil painting is the true embodiment of the expression, “some things just get better with age.” The work of art was originally purchased by the current owner’s parents for just $100 back in the late 1920s. Nearly a century later, it made an appearance on Antiques Roadshow, where the experts estimated that it was worth close to half a million dollars! The painting’s owner couldn’t believe that such a valuable treasure was just lying around her home.
Shakespeare’s Notebook – $30,000
This tiny notebook might not look like much, but once the crew at Antiques Roadshow took a closer look, they realized it was a true historical treasure. It turns out that the notebook dates all the way back to the 17th Century, and that it once belonged to the great William Shakespeare. This notebook probably helped shape the greatest stories of all-time. As a result of its incredible history in classical poetry and literature, the notebook was valued to be worth about $30,000.
Aerosmith’s Original Tour Van – $25,000
In an episode of American Pickers that aired in August 2018, Mike and Frank found a piece of rock’n’roll history in the woods of western Massachusetts. The 1964 Internation Harvester Metro Van once belonged to the legendary band Aerosmith. In fact, Steven Tyler and the guys used to tour with the van long before they had the luxury of tour buses. After reaching out to the Black Keys to help confirm the van’s authenticity, the Pickers put down $25,000 for the vintage vehicle.
Zundapp RS 7450 Motorcycle And Sidecar – $10,500
While the American Pickers were visiting Europe, they came across this vehicle from the World War II era. The German-made Zundapp RS 750 was rusty, beaten up, and old. The motorcycle and sidecar combination certainly didn’t look like it was worth a whole lot, but Mike and Frank saw potential, so they put down $10,500 for it. After paying another $1,000 for shipping to America, they managed to turn a hefty profit, selling the bike and sidecar for $18,000.
Von Dutch XAVW Motorcycle – $21,000
While the American Pickers typically buy old-school cars and motorcycles with the intention of fixing them up and turning a profit, every now and then they find something so special that they simply can’t pass up the opportunity to own it themselves. In one episode, Mike found this custom-made Von Dutch XAVW made with a combination of Harley-Davidson and Volkswagen parts and decided to make it a part of his own collection. $21,000 later, the bike was his.
1948 Airstream Trailer – $8,000
While the brand “Airstream” might be just a bit outdated today, a few decades ago, they ruled the industry of recreation vehicles and trailers. The company first came to be back in the 1930s. Utilizing their distinguished round shape and aluminum exterior, Airstream trailers set the precedent and quickly became the most recognizable brand of the era. When the American Pickers came across one of these, they knew they had to have it, so they shelled out $8,000.
Motorcycle Collection – $62,000
In the midst of a New England road trip, Mike and Frank paid a visit to Paper City Brewing in Springfield, Massachusetts, where they met Jay Hebert, the brewery’s co-owner, who also happened to own a massive collection of old-school bikes. After sifting through the bunch, the Pickers came across a few Harley-Davidsons, as well as some Indian Bikes made in Springfield. For the entire vintage collection, they forked over $62,000, which the Heberts used to renovate the brewery.
Boston Red Stockings Baseball Archive – $1 Million
Does this woman look happy? Well, you would too if you just discovered that your sports memorabilia was worth $1 million! It turns out that her baseball archive from one of the earliest identified professional teams included rare cards, photographs, written notes, and autographs from players and founding Hall of Famers like Harry Wright, George Wright, and Albert Spalding. All three of these Boston Red Stockings legends would go on to win the league at some point over the next decade.
Original Jell-O Wagon – $6,500
It might not look like much, but this wagon is actually a piece of history. As the original Jell-O wagon, this antique used to spread happiness and joy with the classic sweet treat of Jell-O. Before the American Pickers sold off this vintage Jell-O wagon to the Jell-O Museum in Le Roy, New York, they paid a whopping $6,500 for the old rickety piece of vintage advertising. The wagon was actually discovered lying around in a barn in Louisiana.
Two 1954 Nash-Healys – $46,000
Between 1951 and 1954, only eight of these elegant two-seat convertible sports cars were produced by Nash Motors. When Mike and Frank heard that they could get their hands on a pair of these bad boys, they jumped at the opportunity. They headed down to an old AMC dealership in North Carolina, where they were able to purchase a red model for $21,000, and a grey model for $25,000. Not a bad deal when you consider they’re valued to be around $36,800 a piece!
Barbara Hepworth Paperweight – $982,000
In 2012, a school librarian from the St Ives school brought a paperweight to Antiques Roadshow‘s visit to Falmouth. She was surprised to discover that the paperweight, which had been sitting on the desk of the head teacher, was an original Barbara Hepworth Sculpture worth over $104,000. She then donated the sculpture to the Cornwall Arts Collection so it could be put on display. Recently, the piece was examined once again. This time it was valued at a whopping $982,000!