10 Underestimated Items that Turned Out to Be Worth a Fortune
1The Painting Bought as Part of a $46 Job Lot that Turned Out to be a Constable Worth $390,000
Robin Darvell bought a cardboard box full of items, including the small artwork -- which depicts a rural scene of trees, a bright blue sky, and a meadow -- at a sale in Canterbury, southern England more than 10 years ago. Only a faint signature on the back of its gold frame hinted at its origin. But when Darvell passed the painting on to his son Robert, Darvell junior decided to look into the painting's story and find out who painted it.
Robert Darvell, 45, the director of a film marketing company, contacted fakes and forgeries expert Curtis Dowling from the British TV show Treasure Detectives, who embarked on a year-long journey, analyzing the paint, canvas, and signature to help solve the mystery.
Darvell and Dowling believe that Constable painted the work as a gift for his father-in-law. It is thought that it has never been on public display before.
In 2012, the Constable painting "The Lock" became one of the most expensive British paintings ever sold, fetching £22.4m ($34.8 million) at an auction at Christie's in London.
2The $1.6 Million Cabinet that was Found in a Pizza Parlor
The Roman baroque furniture was snapped up by a European private collector at a Sotheby's sale after the carved wooden base was reunited with its intricately decorated top half. The cabinet, which features a picture of the Pope blessing the crowd in Rome, was sold for £1,084,500, including the buyer's premium.
It had been feared that the giltwood stand had been lost forever, but it was recently discovered in the York branch of Ask by the head of furniture at Sotheby's, Mario Tavella. She had been looking for the console for 20 years, and realized that the table was almost identical to two other pieces housed in Denmark thought to have been given as gifts by Pope Clement IX.
The stand was sold by the York Conservation Trust, which owns the Assembly Rooms where Ask pizzeria has rented since 2002.
3The Box Used as a TV Stand that Turned Out to Be an Antique Worth $10 Million
For several years, the largest of the two Mazarin's golden chests was considered lost. The Victoria & Albert Museum looked far and wide for it, anxious to bring the two rare beauties together again.
It turns out that in 1970, the chest was sold for $160 to a French engineer who worked for Shell Petroleum. The engineer used it as a TV stand in his South Kensington apartment for 16 years, then brought it with him when he retired to the Loire Valley in 1986, where he used it as a bar.
Oblivious to all this, in 2013 the engineer's family called in the auction specialists of Rouillac to appraise and sell his estate. Philippe Rouillac found Mazarin's lost golden chest in a house in Touraine propping up spirituous beverages. It sold at auction for 7.3 million euros ($9,5 million).
4The Man Who Discovered that the Old Cup He's Been Using as a Plinking Target is Worth $99,000
5The Man Who Bought $200 Million Ansel Adams Photos at a Garage Sale
Those boxes contained 65 glass negatives created by famed nature photographer Ansel Adams in the early period of his career. Experts believed that the negatives were destroyed in a 1937 darkroom fire which destroyed 5,000 plates.
The photographs apparently were taken between 1919 and the early 1930s, well before Adams, who is known as the father of American photography, became nationally recognized in the 1940s.
6The $3 Bowl Found in a Garage Sale that Turned to Be a 1,000-Year-Old Treasure Worth $2.2 Million
The bowl — ceramic, 5 inches in diameter with a saw-tooth pattern etched around the outside — was eventually sold to a London dealer, Giuseppe Eskenazi, at Sotheby's auction house in New York in March 2013.
Sotheby's said that the bowl was from the Northern Song Dynasty, which ruled China from 960 to 1127 and is known for its cultural and artistic advances. The only other known bowl of similar size and design has been in the collection of the British Museum for more than 60 years.
7The Alleged Jackson Pollock Painting that was Bought for Five Dollars and is Being Sold for $50 Million
Horton purchased the painting from a California thrift shop as a gift for a friend who was feeling depressed. Horton thought that the bright colors were cheery, but when the dinner-table-sized painting proved to be too large to fit into her friend's trailer, Horton set it out among other items at a yard sale, where a local art teacher spotted it and suggested that the work could have been painted by Pollock due to the similarity to his action painting technique.
The film depicts Horton's attempts to authenticate and sell the painting as an original work by Pollock. Its authenticity was doubtful because the painting was purchased at a thrift store, is unsigned, and is without provenance. The main problem with the painting is that it "does not have the soul of a Pollock," according to collectors. In addition, Pollock had many imitators during his lifetime. However, a forensic specialist matched a fingerprint on the painting with those on two authenticated Pollocks and a can of paint in his studio, along with finding other evidence.
Horton once turned down an offer of US $9 million from a Saudi Arabian buyer, and says that she will take no less than $50 million for the painting.
8The Old Vase Left Behind in a House that sold for $85 million
They took it to the local auctioneer Bainbridges in nearby Ruislip, who were in turn excited by the find and valued it at between £800,000 and £1.2m.
However, no one expected the reaction from Chinese buyers, who pushed the bidding up over 30 frenzied minutes to a world record £43m. By the end of the auction, the price was increasing in £1m chunks as the final few bidders - understood to be mainland Chinese businessmen - vied for the vase.
At one point, the sister selling it almost passed out from the rising value and had to leave the room for some fresh air.
The 18th century Qianlong-dynasty porcelain piece is believed to have fetched the highest price for any Chinese artwork ever sold at auction. The total price, including commission and VAT on the commission, was £53,105,000, or about $85 million.
9 The Man Who Bought a $5 Box of Junk at a Garage Sale that Contained a Coca-Cola Stock Certificate that Could Be Worth $130 Million
10The Man Who Paid $10 at a Las Vegas Garage Sale for What Turned Out to Be a $2 Million Andy Warhol Original Sketch
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