Antiques Roadshow: The show's most valuable items, memorable moments and biggest gaffes

We take a look at the gems and blunders the BBC show has had down the years.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 22 September 2017 - 10.44am
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Fiona Bruce

Antiques Roadshow

The Antiques Roadshow has been dusting off the country’s antiques for over 40 years and has a rich history of finding unusual gems and surprising trinkets in the nation’s attics.

Watched by a peak of 15 million viewers in the 1990s, the Sunday night mainstay has seen a diamond bracelet owned by Rita Hayworth, Marc Bolan’s guitar and a toilet roll rejected for use by The Beatles.

Between 15 and 20,000 items are scanned at each show by the team of experts and from that tally, 50 are filmed for the two shows to be made at each location.

Among the items are those rare finds that surprise even the experts – things like TE Lawrence's watch which went on to sell for £34,000 in the Nineties. But for every surprising discovery, there’s plenty more which are higher in the ‘sentimental worth’ category than in monetary value.

So to celebrate the longevity of the BBC series – which has famous fans in Ken Loach, Ed Balls and Hollywood actor Paul Rudd – we look back on the most valuable finds, as well as the most memorable gaffes. 

1.     Don't put it in the shed

Antiques Roadshow discovery of a Richard Dadd painting

In 1986, a couple were just about to stick an old watercolour in their garden shed when the Antiques Roadshow came to town.

This wasn’t any old painting – it was a missing piece by 19th century artist Richard Dadd. The British Museum saved it from the shed for the tidy sum of £100,000.

2. Ozzie the Owl

Poor Ozzie was being used as flower vase until expert Henry Sandon alerted a family that the owl was in fact a rare piece of slipware pottery from 1680. The family had the most expensive vase we’ve ever known – getting a valuation of £20,000.

3. Needle in a haystack

Next time you’re cutting the lawn, keep your eyes open before throwing out the grass cuttings. In 2001, one gardener appeared on the show with a ring he had found in hedge clippings.

Jewellery expert Geoffrey Munn said that the ring was the show’s most exciting discovery ever, revealing that the find was actually an Anglo-Saxon treasure worth £10,000.

4. Tesco's Finest

It never actually made it to air to save the man’s embarrassment, but it still ranks as one of the show’s funniest ever moments for its sheer ridiculousness.

One collector delivered to the show what he believed was a valuable piece of glassware, revealing that he had spent £1,000 on the item.

We can only imagine how his face dropped when it was revealed to him by the Roadshow experts that he had just spent a sizeable wodge of cash on an old bottle of Tesco olive oil “circa 2008”.

“I suppose we could have broadcast it - but it was just too cruel,” said host Fiona Bruce.

5. That's not a fruit bowl

Antiques Roadshow experts John Sandon and Henry Sandon

Everyone likes to dream that an old item in the family home is worth a little bit more than what they paid for it. That dream became a reality for one Dorset family who were using a bowl in their kitchen that really should have been in a museum.

The bowl was actually a 14th century Ming dish worth over £200,000. Let’s hope they hadn’t been keeping mouldy bananas in it.

6. Beware the cleaning lady

One couple were left to regret their dedicated cleaning regime when they were informed that their impressive bronze had lost its protective coating because of their aggressive polishing.

If they had left it alone, it would have been worth a hefty bit of cash, said the experts. Instead, they were left with a very clean, very shiny item, which was essentially worthless.

7. Peter Rabbit

A heart-warming Roadshow story came when Vivien Alexander brought in a signed Beatrix Potter first edition, which her late mother had kept in an old tin trunk.

When Vivien took it to the Roadshow in 1997, it was valued at £25,000. Its original price? Half a crown.