Two decades after his grandparents passing, one Reddit user, who we shall call “Eric,” found out that he had inherited a farmhouse once owned by his late family members. Little did he know at the time that the property would lead him to an astounding discovery.
They Left Behind a Huge Secret
A Reddit user who we shall call “Eric” was sad to have lost his beloved grandparents and was eventually asked to clean out their farmhouse in Tennessee. As far as he was concerned, it was simply the right thing to do. However, a handful of clues led the young man to make a huge discovery, the likes of which he never saw coming. And it showed up in the most unexpected of places – under an old, tattered carpet…
Years of Neglect
It’s so easy for our homes to collect dust and appear to have been neglected after just a couple of days. So you can imagine how old and dusty Eric’s grandparents’ farmhouse appeared to be after having been abandoned for literally decades. The old home hadn’t been lived in since 1997, meaning that it had been over 20 years since anyone had touched it. As far as Eric was concerned, there was only one thing to do with the house…
Illness Made Them Leave Everything Behind
There is a very sad reason as to why Eric’s grandparents were forced to leave their Tennessee farmhouse in 1997. Apparently, his grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer and as a result, they decided to pack their bags so that they could have easier access to medical care, as well as their family. After his grandfather passed away, neither his grandmother nor his father ever returned to the house. And that was just the start of it…
More Family Tragedy
As the years passed, Eric’s family experienced even more tragedy. Not only did his grandmother pass away, but so did his father. According to Eric, he “passed in 2009” and with hardly any relatives with an emotional connection to the farmhouse, it was becoming something that Eric kept putting off. He knew he had to do something about this place. As far as Eric was concerned, there was only one thing to do with the house…
He Wanted to Sell the Place
Seeing that it probably would have proven to be too expensive to keep the farmhouse and maintain it, Eric felt like he was left with no other choice but to sell the property. However, as he was walking through the dusty carcass that was once a home for the first time, Eric still knew he had a lot of work cut out for himself. He couldn’t even think about selling the place until it was up to a certain standard…
Time to Clean
Eric knew deep down that no one was going to purchase his grandparents’ farmhouse if it was ridden with dust, cobwebs and mildew. The property looked like it was about to collapse and this meant only one thing: Eric needed to make some serious changes in order to make the home liveable once again. After just a couple of days, Eric was already doing a fine job with the place. Halfway through cleaning the home though, Eric remembered something about his grandparents…
His Grandparents Loved Treasure…
While he was in the middle of cleaning the farmhouse, there was something about his grandparents that Eric had fond memories of. According to him, his grandfather was a sailor who at one point, was chased by pirates! His grandparents often read Treasure Island to him in that very house. It seemed like he always associated these two important people in his life with treasure. By that logic, Eric was convinced that they must’ve hidden some things around the farmhouse…
First Stop? The Closet
Without haste, Eric started to search the half-clean house for anything that his grandparents might have left behind for someone like him to discover. The first place that Eric looked for any potential “treasure” was one of the closets. At first, when he opened the door to look inside, there didn’t seem to be anything of noteworthy importance. However, as he took a step back and looked down, things started to change very quickly for Eric…
Next Stop? The Carpet
After looking down and feeling slightly disappointed, Eric noticed that he was standing on a carpet. In order to restore the farmhouse to its former glory, Eric knew that he’d need to remove the carpet, especially since it didn’t smell so good. Lo and behold, as he began to tear it away from the surface, Eric noticed something strange lying beneath it. Naturally, the young man scratched his head and wondered what it could be. Then, it hit him…
There’s Something Underneath
Eric was sure that there was something hiding underneath the carpet and began to remove it from the surface of the floor. What had started as a pretty ordinary day of cleaning was beginning to turn into something very different indeed. Lo and behold, as he began to tear it away from the surface, Eric noticed something strange lying beneath it. Naturally, the young man scratched his head and wondered what it could be. Then, it hit him…
A Concrete Safe?
This is the moment in the story when things really started to take an unexpected turn for Eric. As he gazed at the strange-looking structure for a couple of minutes, he came to the conclusion that it was some sort of safe that had been positioned underneath the carpet so that no one would find it. However, it was covered in concrete and seemingly impossible to open. Eric knew that something covered in concrete must be hiding something secret…
Is it a Safe?
At first, Eric had no idea what this strange slab of concrete was hiding under his grandparents’ carpet. Moreover, it was inside an inconspicuous cupboard. Initially, he thought it was just a throwaway addition to the farmhouse. Then, he began to wonder. What if this strange-looking square-shaped slab of concrete was actually a safe that his grandparents were keeping a secret? After all, there was a circular shape in the middle of its face. He simply needed to know the truth…
What Were They Hiding from Him?
One thing was for sure, Eric was convinced that his grandparents were keeping something hidden from the world. As previously mentioned, he knew that they were the kind of people who had an affinity for “treasure.” Also, his grandmother was apparently a collector of artifacts. While his grandfather loved nothing more than collecting antique “arms.” But what exactly was hidden away in this concrete safe? And how exactly would Eric possibly open this thing?
Mom Confirmed His Theory
Desperate to know for sure if this strange slab of concrete was a safe or not, he contacted his closest family members to see if they had any intel on the subject. Surely enough, his mother had the answers to all of his questions. “I spoke with my Mom, and she said that my grandparents had a safe in Florida,” he said. However, his mother also had some more useful information, specifically of how to open this mysterious safe…
Dad’s Birthday Is the Combination!
Not only was Eric’s mother able to confirm that his grandparents had hidden a safe, but she also had an idea of how to open it. According to her, the combination of the safe was her husband’s date of birth. And in case that did not work, she recommended that Eric tried out his father’s social security number. Now that Eric’s theory was finally confirmed, all he had to do was open this mysterious safe…
He Tried Opening It
As he tried out the combinations his mother had suggested, Eric was disappointed to find that none of them worked. At the very least, the safe wasn’t opening, regardless of whether or not they did. While trying to tug the handle, nothing would budge, no matter how hard he tried. It was just a matter of time before Eric realized that he would require some professional assistance if he was going to find out what was inside this safe…
Time to Get a Locksmith
How exactly would Eric manage to crack this safe open? It didn’t appear to have a working lock or a way to crack the code. This required professional expertise, so Eric decided to contact a locksmith who might literally hold the keys to his problems. However, seeing that he had found the safe on Sunday, there was no one available that day. He was going to have to wait. Was this going to be an impossible task?
Despite having to wait, Eric was determined to get that concrete safe open. When Monday came around, he contacted a locksmith who made his way to the farmhouse. According to Eric though, it took the locksmith half an hour before he exclaimed that this was some sort of impossible task. Apparently, the locksmith would have “referred the job to someone else” if he knew what he was getting himself into. Despite this though, their strenuous efforts eventually paid off…
It Was Almost Ready
Despite struggling for hours, both Eric and the locksmith were extremely determined to crack it open and discover its contents. As the locksmith chipped away at the concrete, the opening of the safe started to look more and more like a lock. Specifically, it was looking increasingly likely that Eric would eventually manage to open it. However, it would take another few hours of hard work and patience before they finally found the opening they were looking for…
He Cracked the Code!
After many hours of chipping away and patience, Eric and the locksmith managed to find the lock that they were looking for. It’s unclear whether or not the locksmith stayed to see what was inside. At any rate, though, Eric managed to insert the correct code to the lock and voila, it opened. Now, the moment of truth had finally arrived. Was Eric on the verge of something truly special? Or was he on the verge of a whole lot of nothing?
Are Those Books or Boxes?
Upon first glance, Eric was sure that what he could see was a big pile of books. Or maybe they were boxes. Or, maybe they were neither! It was unclear, to begin with, and Eric wasn’t ruling out any possibility. Were they the antique “arms” that Eric grandfather had been raving about? Or were they the artifacts his grandmother held so close to her heart? As he dug deep into the safe, everything became a whole lot clearer…
He Was Unimpressed…At First
As he tried to unearth what was inside that old, concrete safe, Eric’s expectations started to dip and what was once excitement soon became a hollow sense of disappointment. He was sure that the contents were nothing more than some mundane books, empty boxes and a handful of coins. However, as he took a closer look at each object, Eric soon had plenty of reasons to get excited once again and this wasn’t the only place in the house where he’d find something special…
This Book Survived a Flood
The very first item that Eric cleaned up and had a good look at was this book. As you can see based on the photo, the book in question was pretty damp after years of neglect. This is due to the fact that just a couple of years prior, the farmhouse had fallen victim to a terrible flood. Thankfully though, the contents of the safe weren’t completely damaged. Make no mistake about it though – Eric was about to get excited again…
Extremely Rare Coins
Although Eric was upset to find some wet dollar bills that had been damaged by the floor there was still plenty of reason for excitement. As he opened up the book, Eric found tons of coins that had been well-preserved. Moreover, it turns out that they are extremely rare and his grandparents did the right thing by locking them up in a safe. However, that was only scratching the surface of Eric’s discoveries that day. There was so much more…
More Money, Less Problems
It turns out that there were plenty more dollar bills stacked away inside that safe and while they too were pretty damp, Eric believed that they stood more chance of being salvaged than the other bills he previously found. All he would have to do was separate them and dry them out with some professional assistance. Then, as he dug deeper into the safe, Eric made his biggest discovery yet. Things seemed to be getting better and better…
Thousands of Dollars!
Towards the bottom of the safe, Eric was excited to find what he believed was a few hundred dollars worth of coins. As he looked closer though, he started to realize that there were in fact, more like thousands of dollars worth of rare coins! Eric started to believe that he was sitting on some sort of goldmine. However, he couldn’t figure this out all by himself and knew that he needed some second opinions from as many people as possible…
What Are These Silver Bars?
Another fascinating set of items that Eric discovered were these rare silver bars. Unsure what they were at first, Eric learned that they were rare and special because they had been inscribed with the dates that Connecticut and two other American states were founded on. Seeing that their historical significance was unquestionable, it was clear that they would manage to sell for a high price. It seemed like every time Eric dipped his hand into the safe, he found another stunning piece of treasure…
This Pristine Coin
While some of the more fragile objects in his grandparents’ safe had been damaged over time, other sturdier objects had stood the test of time. Take this large coin, for example, which had remained in remarkably top condition over the years. Of course, the fact that it was in a protective case had a huge part to play in its longevity. Sure, some weathering has occurred, but that’s understandable. Despite this though, the discoveries kept on coming for Eric…
At the very bottom of the safe, there was a box that for one reason or another, Eric struggled to open up and see what was inside. We speculated that maybe it was just a toolbox that he didn’t feel was noteworthy enough. At any rate, he had finally reached the bottom of the safe. Then, after a lot of hard work and persistence, Eric managed to open up the box and found some items that truly pulled at the heartstrings…
His Grandma’s Jewlery
While many of the valuables that Eric discovered had a lot of historical significance and value, there is no denying that the following discovery had plenty of sentimental value. As he opened up one of those mysterious boxes, it was clear to Eric that he had found some of his grandmother’s jewelry. Naturally, he got very emotional holding the very same jewelry that his late grandmother had worn many decades ago. While this would have been enough, there was still one more thing…
Mysterious Coffee Table
After finally retrieving all of the valuables out of the hidden safe, Eric knew that he needed to search the entire house to ensure that he left no stone unturned. Surely enough, after looking at every nook and carry in the farmhouse, he noticed an unsuspecting-looking coffee table. At first, he was certain that it was nothing more than an old piece of furniture that was rotting away. Then, as he opened one of the drawers, he found something else…
Eric couldn’t believe that inside this perfectly normal-looking coffee table, there was yet another safe waiting to be opened. It was proving to be one of the most serendipitous weeks of his life! Not only did his grandparents keep some incredible treasures locked away, but they also had some hiding in plain sight! While they were kicking back, watching TV, there was another safe just inches away. This begs the question though: what exactly had they kept inside this second safe?
It turns out that the second safe contained a couple of things that had been hinted at earlier on in the article. While we won’t spell it out for you, put it this way: you wouldn’t want to pull the trigger on these if they were loaded. As previously mentioned, Eric’s grandfather was a fan of these, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that he found a couple of these. And that wasn’t even the most exciting discovery from this list…
Barr Notes = Jackpot!
After finding those valuable coins in the first safe, Eric was taken aback once again when he came across these dollar bills that had Joseph Barr’s signature on them. Barr was the Secretary of the Treasury for just a month in 1968, which meant that not many of these notes were ever produced. As a result of this incredible find, this means that whatever Eric’s discoveries were originally worth, this was about to increase considerably. All he needed to do now was get some answers…
Sharing His Story With the World
Eric was now at a point where he felt like he was on to something huge. At this stage in the story, he was ready to share his findings with the outside world. Proud of his discoveries, he took photos of everything and posted them on popular online forum Reddit. Not only did he proudly show off his grandparents’ valuables, but he also asked if anyone knew what they were and more importantly, what they were worth…
Reddit to the Rescue
Ultimately, Eric wasn’t able to get too much information from the online community about his recently found valuables. Although people weren’t able to identify what the book and the coins were exactly, one person did mention that in some cases, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing would be able to replace damaged bills. He would simply have to go there in order to find out what he could get replaced.
How Much Was it All Worth?
It made perfect sense that Eric would be curious to find out how much the contents of his grandparents’ safe would be worth. He knew that he was standing over some sort of goldmine. At the end of the day though, he needed an exact figure. Although it took a while to find out its exact value, Eric suspected that it was tens of thousands of bucks. “Anything from 1964 or older is 90% silver worth about 20 times face value of the coin,” he said.
One commenter on Reddit was determined to help Eric work out exactly how much his coins were worth. According to the person in question, who also happens to collect coins, there is something important that distinguishes coins found in safes from those that are not. Safe coins apparently have collector value, which is just as important as face value, when it comes to numismatics. “Notes are often collectible as well, check everything, even if damaged they can still have great value,” they wrote.
Antiques Roadshow Expert Calls Lion Statue “Greatest Surprise” of His Career
Anyone who has a passion for antiques and the rich history behind them is bound to be intrigued by the story of Lark E. Mason and his lion statue. When the antiques expert was first presented with the statue, he was at a loss for words. He couldn’t believe the treasure he’d come upon and spent a great deal of time examining it. Soon enough, he came up with a surprising price-tag.
It All Led to This Moment
Someone as experienced as Lark E. Mason, who has worked with antiques for decades, isn’t so easily impressed these days. The researcher is best known for his experience with Chinese antiques – but that’s just a sliver of his expertise.
Mason is also a renowned teacher, having taught design at the New York School of Interior Design. What brought him the most recognition was his many years of work at Sotheby’s.
Years in the Making
For the good part of a century, Mason was a proud staff member at the Chinese Works of Art Department of Sotheby’s in New York. After being promoted to Senior Vice President, he eventually moved on to pursue other dreams. He managed to achieve many great things along the way, founding the company iGavelauctions.com while also working as an adjunct professor at New York University.
However, he is best known to the general public for his two decades spent appraising various items on the popular TV show Antiques Roadshow.
Is it a Ming Statue?
One day, Mason had the chance to take a look at a mysterious statue of a lion. The lady who inherited it didn’t believe that it had any value. But just to be sure, she asked a family friend to inspect it – and his assessment changed her mind.
Her friend had some basic knowledge of Chinese art, and was convinced that this lion statue may have been created during the Ming Dynasty and now has significant value.
An Episode Like No Other
Lark E. Mason’s face could be seen regularly on TV, so when he had something to say about an antique, people took notice.
When the mysterious lion statue was shown in the latest episode, most viewers thought it was a run-of-the-mill piece of art. However, Mason couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
Lost for Words
To be fair, the last few episodes of Antiques Roadshow didn’t really feature anything noteworthy, and Mason didn’t expect things to be any different this time around.
He went on set that day hoping to simply entertain his viewers. However, when that lion statue showed up, he knew it was going to be a very unique episode.
Shrouded in Mystery
During that game-changing episode of Antiques Roadshow when the lion statue was first unveiled, it didn’t take long for Mason to realize he had come upon something special. The lady who had brought the statue to the studio gave a simple explanation of how it came into her hands.
It turns out that her grandparents had been in China at some point in the family’s history. She ended up inheriting the marble statue years after they brought it back home, but couldn’t recall any more details about it.
Trying to Remember
It should come as no surprise that the woman’s memories of the statue are quite foggy, since she has held onto it for such a long time. All she has are accounts from other family members of how her grandparents acquired it.
“My grandparents picked it up. They traveled a lot in China,” she said. Mason asked her when they had been to China, and she replied, “probably in the early part of the century.”
Connecting the Generations
Interestingly, it is this lion statue which has bound together the different generations of the woman’s family. “Where have you had this since then?” Mason asked her. “My mother’s had it in her house, and since then, I inherited it and brought it west,” she replied.
After everything the family has been through over the years, the statue has remained in perfect condition. Now it was time for it to take center stage.
My Little Leo
Naturally, Mason and the woman had different reactions to the mysterious statue. While Mason was enamored with the statue and its potential significance, the woman looked at it as a simple object she had grown up with.
Back in the day when she was a child, she and her brother would refer to it as “Leo the Lion.” In fact, they would play with the statue as if it were a toy – dressing it up and even putting marbles in its mouth.
It’s Not What it Looks Like
If there’s anything people can learn from Antiques Roadshow, it’s this: Sometimes ordinary-looking objects are not actually so ordinary. There have been many times when people thought they had retrieved something normal from their attic, only to find out on the show that it was indeed worth a lot.
A fine example of this is the following teapot. Mason worked out that it was actually a rare porcelain piece from the 18th century.
He Was Trembling
Mason thought he had seen everything there is to see in the world of antiques. And yet, when he came across the lion statue, he found it difficult to contain himself. It was clear that the discovery had made him quite emotional. “Okay. Well, I’ll start out by saying when this came up, I could barely…” he said.
Normally such a cool cucumber, Mason was trembling at the sight of the lion statue. The woman who brought it to him couldn’t help but wonder why he was acting this way.
Stay Cool, Mason
Even though the statue had clearly brought out his emotional side, Mason did everything in his power to stay cool and professional. And yet, as he dived deeper into the appraisal, Mason couldn’t help but exclaim, “It’s fantastic! This is truly… Sorry, I’m a little worked up.
This is among the finest examples of Chinese art that we have seen on the Roadshow. The carving is beautiful. The workmanship is stunning.” He was surprised by its design and impeccable condition.
One thing was for sure – Mason was in absolute awe of the statue and knew that credit was due to the person who carved this stunning piece of marble. “The carver who did this was truly a master,” he said. “You can see the muscles rippling under the surface. It’s the finest quality marble you can get. It’s truly magnificent.”
However, there was one fundamental detail that completely flipped this antique on its head – and Mason could tell what it was in an instant.
Untouched for Years
Unlike many other antiques that have found their way onto Antiques Roadshow, the lion statue is unique in that it has virtually no blemishes. It’s as if it remained untouched ever since it was first made. Mason knew it was a significant piece of art, inspecting it from every angle.
“And as you look at this…any way you look at it…it’s fantastic, breathtaking,” he said. But what is it that really made this statue stand out from all the rest?
Statues like this one are often replicated. Experts would expect there to be other similar lion statues around the world. However, Mason confirmed that in his many years of work with antiques, he had never seen this kind of statue.
“I see little tiny versions of these that come in for sale…but never does one see something like this,” he said.
What Happened to the Others?
If there are any replicas of this statue that are of a similar size, they simply haven’t been found yet. So far, it looks like this lion is the only one of its kind. The woman and her family had no idea they were sitting on an absolute goldmine for so long.
“Your grandparents bought something when they were on their trip that you can’t get now,” Mason told her.
One thing that was bound to excite the owner of the statue was the fact that similar treasures have been sold at some of the most famous auctions in the world for hefty prices. Take this fellow marble lion statue, for example, which was from the Tang Dynasty.
It looks fairly similar, at least in terms of the lion’s posture. Amazingly, it was valued between $100,000 and $150,000 before finally being sold at a staggering $317,000.
Hiding in Museums
While these statues are hard to find, Mason did confess that there may be a handful being kept by museums around the world. This lion statue could have easily ended up in a museum, but ultimately, its fate was to fall into the hands of the woman’s family.
“You can see examples like this in museums. Occasionally they come up at auction…it’s wonderful,” Mason said. But his words of praise didn’t end there.
A True Survivor
One thing that Mason couldn’t believe was how this statue had managed to survive in perfect condition after so many years of sitting in the family’s home and even being used as a children’s toy on occasion.
“Something that has been handled and has been around for a while…it’s a great thing,” Mason said. The reality is that most antique statues as old as this one would have sustained at least some slight damage, or even been destroyed completely.
Another thing that Mason was quick to point out about the statue was that its artist left no personal mark. “The artist didn’t sign it,” the lady said, and Mason confirmed, “no, these were never signed.”
Mason is used to finding antiques which at least have some initials engraved, or the date of creation.
It’s Not from the Ming Dynasty!
For a long time, the woman had been under the impression that her statue had come from the Ming Dynasty. However, Mason surprised her when he explained that her family friend had guessed incorrectly. It turns out that the statue was actually from the Tang Dynasty.
“This dates from the golden period of Chinese art,” he said. “[It] is called the Tang Dynasty, between the sixth century and the ninth century.”
Chinese Art’s Golden Age
The Tang Dynasty, a Chinese empire that was in power between 618 and 907 AD, was the era in which the statue originated. Many experts refer to the era as the golden age of ancient Chinese art.
The painting, dancing, music and literature from this era is regarded as some of the most important in Chinese history. Not to mention the fact that the Tang people were highly skilled sculptors, as can be seen in the lion statue.
Tang’s Impact on the World
While it might seem a stretch that a statue from the Tang Dynasty was able to find its way to a woman’s home in New Mexico, it’s actually not that surprising. After all, the work of the Tang Dynasty traveled far from its place of origin even back before airplanes, reaching countries in Europe and the Middle East.
The art became a huge Chinese export, and many visitors even traveled to China just to get a glimpse of it.
So Many Sculptures
To this very day, traces of the Tang Dynasty can be found throughout China. The most practiced faith during this majestic period was Buddhism – and as a result, statues of the Buddha were widely produced and distributed throughout the country.
They all varied in size, color and material, but were always revered nonetheless. Buddhist monasteries were widespread throughout the country and often housed Buddha statues from the Tang Dynasty.
World Heritage Site
Ancient sculptures are highly coveted in the world today. Famous sites such as the Longmen Grottoes in China are globally recognized for their cultural significance. This site is laden with sculptures that were once carved into the faces of the limestone cliffs.
The Longmen Grottoes have been given World Heritage status by UNESCO. They were described as “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity.”
While sculpting was certainly one of the most respected art forms at the peak of the Tang Dynasty, there was a close competitor. Pottery was practiced by highly skilled individuals who would mold earthenware into exquisite pieces before glazing them with a touch of color.
These beautiful works of art were then placed next to the tombs of prominent people of the era, including the empire’s rulers.
News Just In
Now we come back around to our lion statue. After the jaw-dropping episode where it was revealed, it was natural for the story of the lion statue to find its way into the headlines of the Antiques Roadshow Insider.
Editor-in-chief Larry Canale claims that the statue is arguably the most important antique to have been brought onto the show. Fans were bracing themselves to find out how much the lion statue was actually worth. Would it end up breaking all previous records?
Another antique that stole the headlines before being given a stunning price tag was this blanket. A guest showed up and claimed that Kit Carson himself once gave the blanket to the foster father of his grandmother.
After giving the blanket a close look, the appraiser was shocked to see that it was of Navajo origin. “This is Navajo weaving in its purest form,” he said. “On a really bad day, this textile would be worth $350,000. On a good day, it’s about a half a million dollars.”
Even after the cast and crew had wrapped on this epic episode of Antiques Roadshow, Larry Canale was surprised by Mason’s reaction to what he had just appraised. “Mason was visibly moved, both before taping the segment and immediately afterwards,” he said.
“It was such an important piece – one he never expected to encounter in New Mexico – that he got a little choked up. It totally caught him by surprise…”
Greatest Surprise of His Career
Mason shared his feelings about the entire experience on Antiques Roadshow Insider. “Surprise, astonishment, and disbelief washed over me the moment the owner of a white marble lion walked up to the Asian Arts table in Albuquerque last summer,” he said.
“Discovering a Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) lion in such an unexpected venue, however, ranks as one of the greatest surprises of my career. It’s exceptional not only for its size (around 18 inches tall) but because of its quality and condition.”
Mason’s words in Antiques Roadshow Insider certainly made his feelings crystal clear. Mason was in awe of the perfect condition that the statue was in.
He claims that it was “smooth and unmarred by damage” and that it seemed like someone had put the finishing touches on it just a few days ago. And that wasn’t all he had to say about the statue…
Pump Up the Base
Mason claims that one of the most important features of the statue is its base. “One of the ways that I can tell you that it’s what it’s supposed to be…not only from the artistic aspects of it…”
“But when you look at it underneath, you can see that there is every indication of great age from the chisel-work that has taken place to the sort-of sandy surface, which is fantastic – that gives you the kind of patina that you want to see,” he explained.
Close Attention to Detail
The craftsmanship and close attention to detail were aspects of the statue that took Mason by surprise. “The craftsman treated this large sculpture in a manner more typical of carvings of much smaller size,” Mason said.
“The surface is smooth and unmarred from damage. The details are as crisply rendered as the day it left the carver’s workshop. I told the lion’s owner that its value might be a bit more than expected…” So what was the final price tag?
Mason’s first estimate was as follows: “I would feel pretty confident that one could get between $120,000 and $180,000 for it.” However, there was a catch to this value. “Now, the value I gave you is an auction estimate value,” Mason said.
“But an insurance figure on this would be somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000, probably toward the high end. I would probably say around $250,000 for insurance purposes.” Now that was completely unexpected!
Ultimately, Mason knew that the statue would have to be valued at nearly $250,000. However, when the owner heard this figure, she barely batted an eyelash. “I told the lion’s owner that its value might be a bit more than expected: around $250,000,” Canale said.
“But the lion’s owner took it in stride. She was as cool as a cucumber, even if she was as astonished by the value as Mason was by the lion itself.”
While we will share with you what happened to the statue, we must take a moment to acknowledge the present day, when Lark E. Mason looks back on this incredible experience. “To come across an object of that magnitude wrapped in a towel sitting on the floor of a convention center in Albuquerque was an overwhelming experience,” he said.
Mason doesn’t get paid for his work on Antiques Roadshow, he simply does it for the thrill of finding objects like this one.
He Loves the Mystery
The thing that keeps bringing Mason back to Antiques Roadshow is his love of mysteries. “That’s what I love about the show, the opportunity to encounter objects I’d never come across otherwise and share my passion and experience with the owners,” he said.
“Most people bring in a mystery, and I enjoy the opportunity to unravel that mystery, as far as the history of the object and its value.” And it’s not just Mason who recalls this thrilling chapter in his career…
That’s So Lark
One person who believes that Lark E. Mason is a unique character on Antiques Roadshow is the show’s producer, Marsha Bemko. She fondly recalls the lion episode. “Lark has the distinction of being the only expert in our history to be brought to tears on the show,” she said.
“That’s Lark. It’s all about discovery for him. He is genuinely that guy.” Amazingly though, the lion statue wasn’t even the most expensive antique that Mason appraised.
An Even Bigger Discovery
Nearly a decade after appraising the lion statue, Mason came across an even more fascinating antique at a show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He appraised a stunning collection of Chinese cups that had been carved out of the horns of a rhinoceros.
From what he could see, Mason concluded that they could be dated back to the 17th century. In the end, he valued them at between $1 million and $1.5 million.
Where Is It Now?
So where is our lion statue now, after that unforgettable appraisal? Apparently, Larry Canale saw Mason while they were both working on another project, and inquired about the statue’s whereabouts. Mason surprised us all when he proclaimed that the statue didn’t go very far. In fact, the owner decided to hold on to it!
Although she had received a mind-boggling estimate of its value, the woman ultimately decided that she wanted to keep it in her family forever. Some antiques are truly priceless.