Anyone who loves antiques can't help but feel a thrill when an especially valuable item is discovered on the PBS show Antiques Roadshow or its BBC counterpart. I mean, come on. This is the whole reason we watch, right?
It's even better when the person who brought the item in has no idea of its real value. A few items stand out as some of the most valuable antique finds ever produced for TV viewers.
Seven of the Most Valuable Antiques Roadshow Finds Ever
Antiques Roadshow has seen a lot of really valuable things come and go over the years, but these seven items are the most valuable for each category. You can see them at a glance with this chart.
|Year on the Show
|Patek Philippe Pocket Watch
|Angel of the North Maquette
|Rhinoceros Horn Ceremonial Cups
|$1,000,000 or more
|Boston Redstockings Baseball Items
|Leica Luxus II Camera
|Diego Rivera Painting
Highest Value Antiques Roadshow Items: US and UK
Out of the many valuable items appraised on the Antiques Roadshow program, two stand out as record breakers. An antique pocket watch is the highest value item from the PBS version of the show, and a Fabergé flower has the highest value from the BBC version.
PBS - Patek Philippe Pocket Watch
In 2004, a St. Paul, MN viewer brought a family heirloom on the show, a gold pocket watch that had originally belonged to his grandfather in 1914. We all have things a little like this, but this was extra special. The watch, made by the Swiss company Patek Philippe. It had many complicated features and included the original box and warranty, as well as several extra parts.
The watch had been appraised in the past for about $6,000, so the owner was shocked to hear it was valued at $250,000. Two years later, the watch sold at Sotheby's for even more: $1,541,212. The show updated its valuation to match that sale. According to Entertainment Weekly, almost two decades later, it's the most valuable item ever on the show.
BBC - Fabergé Flower
The most valuable item ever on the BBC version of the popular show is also probably one of the prettiest. It's an exquisite Fabergé flower with gold, silver, rock crystal, enamel, and a diamond center. The six-inch-tall flower is one of only 80 surviving "botanical studies" of different flower species created by Fabergé in the early 1900s.
Brought in by two soldiers for the show's 40th anniversary in 2017, the flower came with its original presentation box. The treasure had been passed down in the soldiers' regiment. Below, you can watch their reaction to its appraised value of more than one million British pounds.
More Valuable Treasures From Antiques Roadshow
Many other extremely valuable antiques have shown up on both versions of the show over the years. The following stand out in their categories for being worth a pretty penny (and some of the most exciting viewing in the history of the show).
Sculpture - Maquette of the Angel of the North
According to the BBC, the maquette, or preliminary model, for the famous Angel of the North, a sculpture by Anthony Gormley in Gateshead, England, is the second most valuable item ever on the British version of the show. The six-foot-high piece of contemporary art was made by the sculptor as a model of the 66-foot-high outdoor piece. It appraised at over £1 million (around $1.2 million in USD) in 2008. At the time, it was the highest valuation ever on the show.
Asian Art - Rhinoceros Horn Ceremonial Cups
In 2011, a man in Tulsa, Oklahoma brought in a collection of rhinoceros horn cups that he had been gathering for decades. Most dated to the 18th century and were Chinese in origin. The collection appraised for $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. You can read a transcript of the appraisal from Lark Mason, the appraiser who handled it.
In the years after the rhinoceros horn cups were on the show, they've actually gone way down in value. That's because the trade in rhinoceros horn was suspended to try to stop the poaching of these endangered animals and the smuggling of the horns. This affected the value of the cups, with two selling at auction for the lower end of their estimates, and the other three not selling at all.
Sports Memorabilia - Boston Red Stockings Baseball Items
Sports memorabilia appears on the show quite frequently, but a notable Boston Red Stockings archive of old postcards, photographs, cards, and letters from the 1870s tops the list of the most valuable sports items to ever appear on the show. The collection was appraised in New York City in 2011 for about $1,000,000.
Cameras - Gold-Plated Leica Luxus II
If you're into vintage cameras, this is a story you're going to love (and not find all that surprising at the same time). A Leica Luxus II plated in gold and covered in lizard skin was appraised on the BBC version of the show for £320,000 (around $400,000 USD) in 2001. It is one of only four made, and experts now estimate its value at $1,000,000 or more. Vintage camera values are on the rise, and this is likely the most valuable antique camera in the world.
Painting - Diego Rivera's "El Albañil"
A 2013 episode of the PBS version of the show featured a previously undiscovered painting by Diego Rivera. Rivera made this painting as a student, and it had been considered lost until it appeared on the show. The man who brought the 1904 portrait in was shocked to discover it was worth up to $1,000,000. This made it the highest appraisal of the season and the most expensive painting ever appraised on the show.
A Thrill for Antiques Lovers
Antiques Roadshow is amazing for the vicarious thrill it provides antique lovers. Who doesn't love that moment when a family heirloom turns out to be worth an actual fortune? While it's hard to predict what will be worth a ton, the most expensive items on Antiques Roadshow all have something really special going on. So take another look at your grandma's collection of figurines or your great uncle's fishing lures and maybe bring them in the next time the show is in your area.