Pickers and scavengers swarm flea markets, swap meets, and estate sales every weekend in search of the next big find. There are usually a few undervalued goods worth a lot for every old stack of comics sold in the scorching sun if you know what to look for.
1. A $100,000 Renoir Is Said To Have Been Discovered In A $7 Box Of Junk.
In a $7 crate of random garbage at a flea market in West Virginia, a woman claims to have discovered a masterpiece by Renoir. She initially stated that she purchased the artwork for the frame, but after having it appraised, she learned that it was worth $100,000.
At least, that’s the tale; later evidence suggests the picture was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art in the 1950s. It was restored to the owner in 2014. [Source]
2. A rare 15th century porcelain bowl which was discovered at a yard sale, turned out to be a Chinese dish worth more than $700,000.
A $35 blue-and-white floral porcelain bowl purchased at a Connecticut yard sale in 2020 attracted an antiques buyer’s interest. The buyer discovered it was a unique Chinese dish from the 1400s manufactured for the Yongle Emperor’s court after contacting Sotheby’s.
Only seven such bowls are known to survive, each measuring 6.25 inches in diameter.
“Delicately potted in the shape of a lotus bud (lianzi) or chicken heart (jixin),” the Sotheby’s listing stated. “The Yongle court (1403-1424) brought a very distinctive new style to the porcelain kilns of Jingdezhen in Jiangxi, a style immediately recognizable, never surpassed, and defining the craft still in the 18th century,” said the listing.
The bowl was assessed to be worth $300,000 to $500,000 by Sotheby’s, and it was auctioned off for $580,000 (final price was $721,800 with fees) in March 2021. The other six bowls are mostly in museums outside of the United States; no one knows how the seventh turned up at a yard sale in Connecticut. [Source: 1, 2]
3. Over $4 Million was spent on a painting that hung above a hot plate.
When an old woman in Compiègne, France, wanted to sell her home, her family followed the help of an expert to determine the value of her items. Before the majority of the furnishings were removed to the garbage, auctioneer Philomène Wolf had a week to see whether anything was worth keeping.
Wolf told The Guardian that the most precious item she observed as soon as she walked in the door: a rare 13th-century masterpiece hanging over the kitchen hot plate. “You rarely see something of such quality,” she said. “I immediately thought it was a work of Italian primitivism. But I didn’t imagine it was a Cimabue.”
What the homeowner and her family mistook for a “ancient holy icon from Russia” turned out to be one of only 11 wood paintings by Cimabue, or Cenni di Pepo, a Florentine artist. The painting’s owner said she didn’t know when or where it came into her possession because she’d kept it for so long.
“Christ Mocked,” a 20cm by 24cm painting, may be valued between $330,000 and $440,000, Wolf told the woman. It was worth between $4 million and $6.6 million when it was appraised.
The painting is thought to be part of a triad depicting Jesus Christ’s passion and crucifixion, which was made around 1280. Two of these pieces are currently on display at the Frick Collection in New York and the National Gallery in London. The tableau featured at the National Gallery (“The Virgin and Child with Two Angels”) was likewise discovered in a private residence, where it had hung for years without anybody realizing its importance, as was the case with “Christ Mocked.” [Sources: 1, 2]
4. Billy The Kid’s photograph might be worth $5 million.
Only the second confirmed image of the renowned bandit Billy the Kid has been certified and is being sold by a California corporation as one of the “holy grails of Western Americana.”
It was the greatest story in the world of discovered photos since, well, ever. In October 2015, it was reported that a photograph taken in 1878 might be valued up to $5 million.
The photo was purchased for $2 at an antique shop in Freemont, California, by a man who had no idea that it portrayed Billy the Kid and members of the Lincoln County Regulators playing croquet. It’s only the second photo of the legendary 19th-century thief that has been confirmed. [Source]
5. Baseball cards inherited by a woman were worth $1 million.
Her great-great-grandmother, who managed a Boston boarding house where the Boston Red Stockings resided in 1871-1872, left a woman $1 million worth of baseball cards.
The “crown treasure” of the collection, according to the appraiser, is a May 1871 letter to the Boston landlady that contains notes from three future Hall of Fame members: Albert Spalding, the future sporting goods entrepreneur, and brothers Harry and George Wright.