News, Culture & Society

£1m Faberge flower sets Antiques Roadshow expert’s pulse racing

Every once in a blue moon, there is a perfect Antiques Roadshow moment.

The expert’s hands will start to shake as they pore over a neglected painting, an apparently ugly vase or a set of musty old books that have doubled as a doorstop for the past 20 years.

The owner will try — and fail — to look nonchalant. The crowd will crane a little closer, then closer still, until finally the expert reveals the fascinating provenance of the item and announces its astonishingly high value.

It happened again, during filming of the enduringly popular BBC One show in Dudley, in the West Midlands. What looked like a sprig of apple blossom in a vase turned out to be a £1 million Faberge flower, an intricate piece of jewellery and, according to the show’s expert Geoffrey Munn, one of the most significant finds in the programme’s 40-year history.

The programme’s experts were left reeling, the crowd were astonished — but the rest of us will have to wait until autumn, when the episode is aired.

But how does this compare with other ‘eureka’ moments in the show’s history? We take a look back to find out. 


The FA cup appeared on the antiques roadshow in 2016

 Former Leeds United player Eddie Gray bought in the trophy which was previously described by producers as ‘a world famous piece owned by a sporting institution’.

Presenter Fiona Bruce said that the trophy had a ‘very special place in the hearts of English football fans’ and silver expert Alastair Dickenson said it was ‘the most famous cup in the country’, alongside the Wimbledon trophy.

But some BBC One viewers were left feeling ‘cheated’ after the item – worth more than £1million – turned out to be the FA Cup.

Furious Roadshow fanatics said they felt ‘conned’ and ‘disappointed’ that the mystery item was not ‘something found in the attic’ as per the show’s tradition.


Pictured: Centuries-old dolls valued at £150,000 

Pictured: Centuries-old dolls valued at £150,000 

Shown a box of immaculate 300-year-old dolls in Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire, last year, the Roadshow experts were amazed. But when the anonymous owner let slip she had the whole doll’s house at home, expert Fergus Gambon jumped in his car and raced off to see it.

Only a handful of dolls’ houses from the early 1700s had ever survived and this one was utterly exquisite.

Gambon, who valued it at £150,000, described it as ‘one of the most important English baby houses in existence’.


Pictured: A genuine painting by Sir William Orpen that was valued at £250,000

Pictured: A genuine painting by Sir William Orpen that was valued at £250,000

Sometimes it pays to have a second look, even on the Antiques Roadshow. For when this painting first turned up to be valued in Greenwich, it was assumed to be a copy of a painting by the World War I artist Sir William Orpen.

But further research by the show’s experts revealed it was the real deal. In fact, at £250,000, it was then the most valuable painting ever on the show.

No one was more surprised than its owner, a man of modest means who had been left it by his uncle.

‘I’m completely gobsmacked,’ he said. ‘It’s worth more than my house!’

The picture is of Yvonne Aubicque, daughter of the Mayor of Lille — she also happened to be Sir William’s comely young mistress — whom he somehow found time to paint while in France as an official war artist supposedly recording the horrors of the trenches.


Pictured: The Lalique vase, bought at a car boot sale for £1 and later sold for £32,450

Pictured: The Lalique vase, bought at a car boot sale for £1 and later sold for £32,450

A glass vase bought for £1 at a car boot sale by a lady in Ayrshire — and only because she liked the plant inside it — turned out to be a very canny investment.

When the plant withered and died, she put the vase in the attic and in 2008 was in the middle of a clearout — the vase was already in a box of junk to be dumped — when she heard the Antiques Roadshow team were in town.

Stunned experts explained that her flowerpot was actually a 1929 vase by the renowned French designer Rene Lalique and valued it at £30,000. It was sold later that year for £32,450 at a London auction.


Pictured: The last surviving gold Leica camera, which was valued at £1.7m before selling for £380,000 

Pictured: The last surviving gold Leica camera, which was valued at £1.7m before selling for £380,000 

When this gold-plated Leica Luxus II camera, encased in lizard skin and complete with its original crocodile case, popped up on the show in 2001, it was thought to be the rarest camera in the world and duly valued at £5,000.

Although naturally thrilled at this news, its owner decided to hang on to it for sentimental reasons — after all, he was a keen amateur photographer who had been given it after World War II and used it throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

It was definitely a wise decision. Over the next 12 years, the value of the camera — the only surviving example of four special-edition versions made in 1932 — skyrocketed to an estimated £1.7 million. Finally, the potential rewards outweighed sentimentality. Alas, when it finally came up for auction in 2013, the camera actually fetched a comparatively modest £380,000. Still, not a sum to be sniffed at.


Pictured: A piece of the silver brought in by Margaret Hobbs  

Pictured: A piece of the silver brought in by Margaret Hobbs  

In 1994, Margaret Hobbs and her son turned up at the Antiques Roadshow in Sussex lugging a battered holdall full of silver she described as so ‘dreadful’ she hadn’t dared give it away.

In fact it was early English pieces, including a James I parcel-gilt bowl and a silver-mounted ostrich eggcup, that fetched £78,717 at auction. Pensioner Mrs Hobbs had found it in shoeboxes under a bed. Her late husband Harold, knowing that she hated ornate silver, had collected it in secret and squirreled it out of sight.


Back in 1942, £575 was a lot to pay for an 18in bronze rhino. But Thomas Bodkin, a former director of Birmingham’s Barber Institute of Fine Arts, knew his stuff. The sculpture was one of only three made in 1750 to depict ‘Miss Clara’, a rhino that toured the world in the 18th century. In a 2011 Roadshow episode, it was valued at £200,000 by Clive Stewart-Lockhart.


Pictured: The Barbara Hepworth sculpture valued at between £60,000 and £80,000

Pictured: The Barbara Hepworth sculpture valued at between £60,000 and £80,000

 For years, a paperweight sitting on the corner of the head teacher’s desk at St Ives School in Cornwall had caught the eye of the school librarian.

So in 2012, when the Roadshow came to Falmouth, the librarian asked if she could take it along — and was told it was an original scuplture by the leading 20th-century British artist Barbara Hepworth, worth between £60,000 and £80,000.

Even better, after it was donated to the Cornwall Arts Collection for display, the ‘paperweight’ was revalued earlier this year and has shot up to a staggering £750,000.


Pictured: A coin dating to the reign of Charles II

Pictured: A coin dating to the reign of Charles II

Brought in by the local mayor to the Arundel Roadshow in 2006, this council-owned collection of silver, including maces, a chalice and coins dating back to the reign of Charles II, was valued by expert Alastair Dickenson at £300,000, a record for the Roadshow at the time. 


It had been dropped, propped up on a sideboard and ignored for years. Then in 2010, when her husband was taking some books to be valued by the Roadshow in Aberglasney, Carmarthenshire, Wendy Jones grabbed the dusty oval plate, wrapped it in a Tesco carrier bag and slung it on the back seat of the car.

Expert John Axford instantly recognised it as part of an 18th-century royal dinner service specially commissioned for Frederick the Great of Prussia and valued it at £100,000.

Mrs Jones, 68, was staggered. ‘We had no idea it was worth anything,’ she said. ‘I’m speechless. Tesco bags can split!’

Good thing it didn’t. Not least because the 22in plate, made from hard paste porcelain and decorated with the arms of the Hohenzollern family, the Order of the Black Eagle and the Maltese Cross, actually belonged to her son, Michael.


When Canon Jamie MacLeod happened upon what looked like an Anthony van Dyck (one of the most famous Flemish painters of the 17th century) in a Cheshire antique shop in 1992, he assumed it was a fake.

But he liked it so much that he bought it anyway — for £400 — and hung it on his sitting-room wall.

Which is where it stayed, until 2014, when he took it along to the Roadshow at Newstead Abbey near Nottingham and presenter Fiona Bruce, who just happened to have made a documentary about Van Dyck, spotted something in the brushstrokes that made her think it was the real thing.

She was right. Art expert Philip Mould declared it a masterpiece and valued it at £400,000, the most valuable painting identified in the show’s history.

A delighted Canon MacLeod told the programme he’d sell it to pay for new church bells for his Derbyshire church.

Sadly, though, his congregation are still waiting, because when it came up for auction following restoration later that year, it failed to meet its reserve.


Pictured: The FA Cup trophy replica that was valued at more than £1m

Pictured: The FA Cup trophy replica that was valued at more than £1m

IN 2015, an FA Cup replica trophy brought in by BBC Sport’s Gabby Logan and Leeds United’s 1972 FA Cup winner Eddie Gray became the show’s most valuable item ever when expert Alastair Dickenson valued it at being worth more than £1 million.

Their trophy — the third version used in the history of the competition — was the longest-serving and was presented to Gray and his teammates in 1972.

The original was awarded at the first FA Cup final in 1872, but was stolen soon after. The second was replaced by the Football Association and is now is on display at the National Football Museum.

This trophy was used from 1911 until 1991, when it was decided it was too fragile to continue being used.

Alastair Dickenson said: ‘This is, with the Wimbledon trophy, the most famous cup in the country. It has got to be worth well over £1million — the highest value I’ve ever given on Antiques Roadshow.’


For years, the vase had stood on a stand in Terry Nurrish’s dining room in Grimbsy, doubling as an indoor goal post when his children played football.

It was given to him by his mother, who bought it at a house clearance sale in 1946 in a £100 ‘job lot’ of antiques. When the Antiques Roadshow was filmed locally in 1991, he took it along.

There, expert Eric Knowles declared it a French ‘Japonisme’ (Japanese-influenced) ornament made by renowned jewellers and silversmiths Christofle for the Paris Exhibition in 1874 and valued it at £10,000.

Terry kept it for 23 years, finally selling it at Christie’s in 2014 — for £668,000.


This 1805 portrait of Admiral Lord Nelson hung in a school common room for years, surviving endless near-misses with table tennis balls and was generally ignored. 

Until, in 2012, the Royal Hospital School in Suffolk, took it to be valued at a Roadshow event in Wimbledon. 

Expert Philip Mould valued it at £100,000. It is now in the school Heritage Centre.