What are some of the most valuable items ever bought at yard sale?

Surely there are records out there that state that John Q. Public bought a set of ancient candlestick holders from Rose Public in 1983 for 2 bucks, in turn, they turned out to be worth two hundred million dollars.

That is obviously an exaggeration, but are there records on file of things like this happening? If so, what are some of these items bought and what were they really worth?

Just to start things off, I bought a 20 quart pressure cooker for five bucks at a yard sale.

There is a case in Adamstown, PA where someone bought an old torn countryside picture for $4 at a flea market and found a nice crisp Declaration of Independence. One of the original 500 in fact!


I was bored, once, in an old furniture shop with a friend once, and no, not the kind of old furniture shop that has classy antiques, and I took to looking at the old grotty books on a shelf. I was very happy to buy a copy of a book called “Shirley” by one “Currer Bell” for the grand sum of 5p/fivepence. Yes, it had the first few pages missing so I doubt it would have been worth much resale money anyway, but I just liked to have it (even if I would have to go and read my other copy by that dreadful plagiarist Bronte woman just to read the first few pages again). :smiley:

Oh well, no surprise riches, but some happy amusement.

Who The Fuck Is Jackson Pollock tells such a tale but it is still under dispute I think.

Was watching Antiques Roadshow tonight and one woman’s story was she bought a piece of furniture at a garage sale for $20, because it looked French. She had owned the piece for about 30 years and the appraiser said it was worth about $30,000, being a famous French furniture maker’s work from 1835.

Here is another:

Ontario art lover Paul Martin bought an oil painting for $200 at a yard sale. The painting turned out to be a noteworthy work by the late Canadian artist E.J. Hughes. It’s likely to nab $100,000 at auction next week in Vancouver

My favorite was one seen on The Antique Road Show, a few years back.

A woman had her prized collection of “collectible” silver spoons from around the U.S.; most of them bought for five bucks and worth three but there was one old, beat-up spoon with an oddly shaped handle.

The appraiser asked where she had gotten that and she couldn’t remember except that it was at some flea market somewhere and it has cost her a couple dollars.

The appraiser, who had obviously checked his resources, went on to explain that this spoon, which had once had an emerald affixed to the handle, was one of the spoons used at the coronation feast of King Richard II of England in 1377. Only two others were known to still exist and both were with the Crown Jewels collection in the Tower of London.

He went on to say that, while it would be polite to first offer it to the British government, it would be extremely difficult to put a price on it but that he expected that any of several museums would be willing to pay several hundred thousand dollars and, in competitive bidding, it could go much higher.

I’ve always thought one could write one hell of a fun novel about that spoon got from then to now.

Another Antiques Roadshow case: a woman bought a very old three-legged corner table at a yard sale. She paid perhaps $25 for it. (That and other dollar figures are approximate remembrances.) Knowing something about old furniture, she wiped it down with a damp cloth but otherwise made no attempt to restore it herself. On the road show, it is revealed by two experts (who can barely contain their excitement) that the table was actually made by a famous Revolution-era cabinet maker, that it’s in excellent condition under all the grime and that it could easily fetch $150,000 at auction. On a later episode, they actually showed the table, nicely cleaned up, at auction, where it went for somewhere in the region of a quarter million dollars.

One of my favourite Antiques Roadshow items was the one where a woman brought in a grotty looking old helmet, the kind from a suit of armour. Turned out it was excessively rare from medieval Italy and worth $250,000. My most favourite on the American version of Roadshow was the old guy with a Navajo blanket he’d got from his grandad. The appraiser called it a “national treasure” and said it was worth at least $500,000.

Then there was the dreadlocked English guy who kept pulling silver out of a sack and the appraiser’s eyebrows kept going higher and higher and in the end he had about a half million pounds worth of silver in there. Great stuff.

I have nothing like that. I wish I did.

Although not procured at a “yard sale”, the paintings bought by the father of Jean Preston should count as a modest find later deemed to be quite valuable.

Full Wiki article here.

Moderator, can we move this to Cafe Society? That way we can keep this interesting thread going?

That bit was brilliant. The reason the blanket was so valuable was that it represented the dawn of Navajo weaving. It was a simple striped blanket (alternating white and indigo) with no fancy geometrics or colors (what the Navajo would later become famous for) and, of course, it was in perfect condition. “National treasure” were exactly the words the appraiser used.

The Declaration of Independence


Motion granted. Thread moved from General Questions to Cafe Society.

General Questions Moderator

I bought a Jewel aquarium that tends to start at around $500 on ebay for $10.

Maybe this was a different one, but I remeber one Native American blanket that was a chief’s blanket and was supposedly given to (IIRC) Kit Carson on his wedding day to the chief’s daughter.

This gave me chills.

Link to the video of the Navajo blanket segment. Someone decided it was the #1 Antiques Roadshow find, in terms of value.

Since the OP sounds as if he’s looking for factual answers on a large scale (money-wise, that is), I’ll move this over to GQ.

ETA: Oops, I didn’t see that it had already been moved from GQ. It doesn’t belong in Cafe Society, though, so I’ll move it over to MPSIMS.