When I was a child growing up with my parents in Rhode Island, we were avid fans of the PBS show Antiques Roadshow. We loved to watch as seemingly arbitrary belongings were appraised to be worth thousands. It was like watching someone win the lottery. It was always a surprise. And when things brought in tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, the owner of the antique was overjoyed. And so were we from our couches at home.
But one woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico was in for a shock. She had been in possession of a marble lion statue that her grandparents had received during a visit to China years before.
The owner said that the statue was created during the Ming Dynasty. And as she told her story about how she had inherited the marvelous piece from her grandparents, appraiser Lark E. Mason listened intently.
And when she had finished telling her story, the appraiser did something that no one saw coming. He started to cry.
Mason was overwhelmed. His heart was in his throat. Throughout his career dealing with such statues, he had never seen one quite like this.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. As he talked about the statue, he could not hold back the emotion that was overtaking him.
“This is among the finest examples of Chinese art that we have seen on the Roadshow. The carving is beautiful. The workmanship is stunning, the carver who did this was truly a master.”
Mason was tearing up. This moment marked the climax of his career in antiques.
As he regained some composure, he started to tell the owner about her antique’s unique features. It still had its patina, which is the textured, sandy surface. The lion also had all its rippling muscle still visible. The artist who carved this marble lion statue left no detail untended.
While the woman knew a lot about the magnificent statue, she was wrong about when it was made. She thought it came from the Ming Dynasty, but it was really crafted during the Golden Age of Chinese Art, which was the Tang Dynasty.
Mason revealed that the only examples of art in this type of condition would be seen in museums. Only rarely did a piece like this come to auction.
Because it was in such great condition and so rare, Mason predicted that the marble lion statue would fetch a smooth $150,000 to $250,000 in an auction today.
The owner was stunned that her grandparents had unwittingly left her such a massive fortune.
Viewers on YouTube were overjoyed to share in the woman’s exuberance. The following are some comments that we would like to highlight:
“I think the appraiser is very passionate about what he does for a living and was moved by something he was able to see in person which before he only saw in books and in museums. Seeing a 1,500-year-old sculpture in person and being able to appraise it, when that’s your livelihood, must be a really incredible experience.”
What would you do if your grandparents left you such a valuable piece of art?