9 Garage Sale Finds That Turned Out To Be Worth A Fortune

Anyone who’s ever watched “Antiques Road Show” has seen at least one ordinary-looking item uncovered during a yard sale become the season’s most valuable find. Does this happen as often as television would have us think? No… but it happens often enough, like with these finds.

A (literally) super bowl

In 2007, a New York garage sale buyer came home with a small white bowl that was priced at $3. At 5 ½” in height, it didn’t look very fancy but it seemed like a nice acquisition. To the buyer’s surprise, six years after its purchase, someone had the idea of having it appraised, and to their shock they discovered that the white bowl was from China, and over a thousand years old. It was auctioned off in 2013 by Sotheby’s and netted a record-breaking $2.2 million.

The frame was nice, too

In 1989, a Pennsylvania man found an old painting at a flea market, and while he didn’t care for the painting, he really liked the frame so he bought it for $4. But when he took the painting out of the frame he discovered what looked like one of those souvenir copies of the Declaration of Independence… only it wasn’t a souvenir. It was one of only a couple dozen original printed copies, extremely rare and sought after, and he sold it for $2.4 million.

Independence Day 2

It doesn’t even have to be original to be valuable. Back in 1820, Congress authorized a commemorative reproduction of the Declaration of Independence, and printer William Stone made 200. Of that number, only 35 were known to exist until a Tennessee man bought what he thought was a “cheap reprint” for $2.50. When he noticed the quality of the paper and the printing was too good, he started to research the piece, and discovered his was one of the 1820 engravings. The auction for this piece netted the man nearly $500,000.

Avengers Assemble

In 2007, a Dallas, Texas a couple bought some large blank pages at a yard sale at the behest of their daughter, who wanted them for her drawings. They paid $2 for the set. But the pages weren’t blank. They were part of a large collection of stolen comic book art, including original pages for the first appearance of the Avengers. Its value was estimated anywhere between $48,000 and $60,000. However, the pieces had been reported stolen from DFW airport. The purchasers were offered a reward for their return, but refused. The original owner sued them, and the court found in his favor.

Taking stock

In California, a man bought an old stock certificate to hang up in his office. The certificate was for shares in a company called Palmer Oil Co. While that company no longer exists, it was the forerunner of a little company called Coca-Cola. If valid, the value of that certificate would be nearly $130 million! But Coca-Cola wasn’t about to legitimize the certificate and tied up the matter in court for years. After his death in 2010, his family pursued the claim, but ultimately lost.

The cat came back

A rummage sale in Cornwall, England, ended as they usually do, with not everything selling. Among the items that were not purchased was a small bronze decorative cat bust. Unable to even give it away, the sellers threw it in the trash, but a dumpster diver rescued the figure and took it to a friend at the British Museum to get it looked at. It turns out that the statue was Egyptian, and over 2,500 years old. In 2015 the cat statue went to auction and brought in over £61000 ($80,000 US).

Leaving Las Vegas

They say you can buy anything in Las Vegas, and this story is no exception. In 2010, a British man wandering through a yard sale found a cute drawing, one that looked like a child had done it, and bought it on a whim. The drawing is doubly valuable, in that it’s a picture of famed singer Rudy Vallee, done by a 10 year old fan… a young boy named Andy Warhol. The picture was drawn by one of the 20th century’s most influential artists while he was bedridden as a child. The owner has not decided to sell it, but the picture has been appraised, and would fetch at least $2 million if it went to auction. So the story goes, but there is some debate as to whether the drawing is authentic.

But is it art?

A woman in Texas saw a picture at a thrift store so ugly she had to buy it. She paid $5 and took it home, intending to use it as a dartboard… but she never got around to it. But someone told her it looked like a Jackson Pollock painting, and so she spent years trying to get it authenticated, to no avail — the art community is divided as to its origin. There’s even a 2006 documentary about the story, called “Who The (Bleep) Is Jackson Pollock?” A collector offered her $2 million for it, but she turned it down, since other Pollocks have sold for over $100 million. Time will tell if she made the right decision.

King size bed

During a hotel renovation in Chester, England, an ornate four-poster bed was put out in the parking lot for removal. It was picked up and sold off, garnering £2,200 (around $2,800 US) at online auction. But the buyer knew the bed was something special and contacted a historian. DNA analysis and dating revealed that the bed was of great historical value indeed — it was the long lost nuptial bed of Henry VII and Elizabeth, circa 1486; their marriage joined the houses of York and Lancaster, ending the War of the Roses… and produced Henry VIII.

If sold, it would earn upwards of £20 million, but as the last surviving piece of Tudor furniture — the rest having been destroyed during the English Civil War — it is truly priceless.