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The Most Valuable Finds in Antiques Roadshow History

From a haunted painting and sapphire head snake bracelet to record-breaking memorabilia, Liberty Mutual Insurance and Antiques Roadshow present the most valuable appraisals—and the fascinating stories behind them—from coast-to-coast.

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Haunted Portrait

This American folk art portrait of a young sea captain (circa 1790) is thought to be Aaron Delano, the owner’s fifth great-uncle who was lost at sea in 1794. It’s been hanging in the home and haunting her family for years—but not in a scary way. The owner says she’ll hear footsteps originating from the painting in an otherwise empty house. Then, the day they were taking the painting down for Antiques Roadshow, the ladder slipped from under the owner’s husband. No one was hurt and the couple laughed and chalked it up to Captain Delano being mischievous. According to appraiser Ken Farmer, the high value lies in the details in the painting, including the illustration of Captain Delano’s work, his tool, and the fine details of his clothing. For Americana and folk art collectors, its auction value of $8,000 to $10,000 is nothing to boo at. Don’t miss the secret messages in these 10 famous paintings.

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catCourtesy Antiques Roadshow and Liberty Mutual Insurance

Musical Kittens

At the last minute, the owner decided to take this painting to Antiques Roadshow to get some more info about it. It’s a good thing she did because these adorable kittens are something to sing about! As it turns out, the painting titled “Kitten Symphony” was painted by Julius Adam II, a German painter well-known for painting cats and kittens, a skill he learned under his father, also an artist, Julius Adam Senior. Cats and dogs are extremely popular subjects with auction houses solely featuring cat or dog themes to collectors. David Weiss, the appraiser gave this circa 1885 painting an auction value of $8,000 to $12,000! Plus: Check out these 14 fortunes found in attics.

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deskCourtesy Antiques Roadshow and Liberty Mutual Insurance

Ornate Spanish Desk

Before landing on American soil, this beautifully gilded detailed desk once stood proudly in the home of one of the vice presidents of Liberty London, a fabric design house. It was later passed on to the daughter, who brought it to America and eventually at an auction in Norfolk, Virginia where the current owner bought it. The desk contains several ornate cubbies which are ideal for storing other small treasures or important documents. Appraiser Karen Keane calls this Spanish Moorish design desk (circa 1760) a Hispano-Moresque Vargueña Taquillón. It has had some repair work done, so it’s difficult to put a retail price on it, but Keane gave it an insurance value of $10,000 to $15,000! Not too shabby for a piece that has been “gussied up” and restored. If you own one of these books, you’re sitting on some serious cash.

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dollCourtesy Antiques Roadshow and Liberty Mutual Insurance

French Baby Doll

This pristine and precious doll was purchased by the owner’s parents while antiquing one Sunday back when she was a young girl. Because of her tender age at the time, the owner wasn’t allowed to play with it. In fact, the doll was placed behind a glass case where it stood basically untouched for 50 years. Flash forward many years to when the owner, now an adult, took it to a “doll hospital.” The doll experts there evaluated her, and so did another antique expert—and the appraisals were vastly different. The doll hospital valued the Schmitt et Fils, “000” Bébé Doll, circa 1884 at $16,000, while the other expert said $3,000. Much to the owner’s delight, appraiser Billye Harris agreed with the doll hospital and gave it an auction value of $16,000 to $18,000. Check your basement for these childhood toys that are worth big bucks today.

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ringCourtesy Antiques Roadshow and Liberty Mutual Insurance

A Snake with Serious Bling

You can almost imagine the scene. It’s World War II and a handful of soldiers are sitting outside battered tents, passing the time playing a game of poker. When the bets were called, pocket treasures scatter the makeshift table. Included in the pot is this English woven gold snake bracelet (circa 1875). The serpent’s head is where all the money is; appraiser Peter Schaffer surmises the large sapphire on the serpent’s head is of the Kashmir variety, which is a high grade of sapphire. Schaffer estimates the bracelet will retail from $25,000 to $27,000. Find out 25 of best-kept secrets of jewelers. If you have expensive jewelry at home, stash it in one of these secret hiding places that thieves will never look.

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sandCourtesy Antiques Roadshow and Liberty Mutual Insurance

Sands of Time

It’s hard to fathom, but the designs in this bottle are comprised of single grains of sand! The owner received the sand art from his father but knew little about it, except that it had been made by Andrew Clemens, an artist from Iowa who couldn’t hear or speak. Clemens gathered the sand to make these stunning and colorful masterpieces from Pikes Peak National Park. The mineral runoff from the rocks gives the sand its pigmented color and a wax seal has kept the design intact. Appraiser Allan Katz estimates the retail value to be $30,000 to $50,000.

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earringCourtesy Antiques Roadshow and Liberty Mutual Insurance

A Home Run of Pins and Cufflinks

The owner of these pieces is the great-grandson of “Foxy” Ned Hanlon, Baseball Hall of Famer and legendary manager of the Baltimore Orioles. In the 1890s, he lead the team to three straight National League pennants in 1894, 1895, and 1896 and in 1996 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Along the way, Hanlon was given these lapels, pins, and cufflinks. Appraiser Simeon Lipman says these are highly valuable because Baltimore Orioles’ collectibles from the 1890s are so rare and sought-after by collectors, especially when the collectible involves a player or person directly associated with the team. The family hit a home run with this collection, with an insurance value of $200,000! If you love baseball, you have to check out these vintage baseball photos.

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horseCourtesy Antiques Roadshow and Liberty Mutual Insurance

A Pesky Mosquito Leads to a Small Fortune

A college-bound student was ready to pack up her recently inherited framed picture from her grandmother to bring to school, but the beloved picture that hung over her grandma’s bed had a pesky mosquito under the glass. She took the picture outside to open it and realized the picture could be an actual painting, not a print. This led to two appraisals valued at $200 and $250. However, Antiques Roadshow appraiser, Meredith Hilferty, said it was worth much more. The painting (circa 1892) was done by Henry Francois Farny, a French-born American painter well-known for painting Native Americans. What’s especially interesting about this painting is the dense grouping, which is highly desirable in his work. The granddaughter was stunned to find the auction value is $200,000 to $300,000. Do you have nice artwork to hang in your home? Check out these hacks for picture perfect walls.

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imageCourtesy Antiques Roadshow and Liberty Mutual Insurance

A Grand Slam Baseball Archive

This highest-valued memorabilia appraisal in Antiques Roadshow history came from a boardinghouse in Boston. The owner’s great-great-grandmother housed the Boston Red Stockings team back in 1871. Items in the archive include some of the first ever photographic baseball cards and a lovely letter to the boarding house grandmother, signed by the players. One of the baseball cards featured Albert Spalding, the first well-known players to use a fielding glove and the founder of the Spalding® sporting goods empire. Appraiser Leila Dunbar advised the owner to insure the archive for at least $1,000,000! Next, if any of these items are in your attic, you could be sitting on a gold mine.