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Rare Statue Left An Art Expert In Tears On ‘Antiques Roadshow’

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Antiques Roadshow has always been one of my favorite TV shows.

It combines so many interesting things: bargain hunting, history, and valuable antiques.

But even if a rare piece turns out to be worth thousands, the show's appraisers always keep their cool.

So when an art expert was moved to tears by a rare statue, viewers could already guess it was worth a small fortune.

A Master's "Priceless" Statue

This clip from the show's 2002 trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico has been spreading online for years.

Once you watch it, you'll understand why.

It features an antique owner who brought in her family's Chinese lion statue to be appraised by the show's experts.

The woman explains that her grandparents picked up the statue during a trip to China in the early 1900s, and that it has since become a family heirloom.

As a child, she remembers nicknaming the statue "Leo," dressing it up, and even putting marbles in its mouth.

The few details she knew about it, from a family friend, were that the statue dated back to the Ming dynasty and that it was "priceless."

But that was only half right.

The show's Asian Arts expert, Lark Mason, knew right away he was looking at something special.

"When this came up I could barely…" he began, before getting choked up.

"This is among the finest examples of Chinese art that we’ve seen on the Roadshow," he explained.

He called the guardian lion statue the work of a "master" carver, built from "the finest quality marble you can get."

But it wasn't from the Ming dynasty, or China's medieval period. Instead, Mason dated it to the Tang dynasty, which he called the "golden age" of Chinese art, from between 618 and 907 A.D.

“Your grandparents bought something on their trip that you can’t get now,” he said simply.

Of course, we all watch Roadshow for the big reveal of the value, and Mason did not disappoint.

He guessed the family heirloom would fetch between $120-180,000 at auction.

But in an update from Antiques Roadshow Insider, Mason revealed the statue's owner still had it in her possession years later.

Chinese guardian lions, or "foo dogs," are ancient symbols of wealth, and this masterpiece certainly fits that description.

Antiques Roadshow's Most Valuable Find

Mason was also featured in another viral Roadshow clip, when he handed down the series' most valuable appraisal ever.

In the 1970s, antique owner Douglas began collecting rhinoceros horn cups, and said at the time they were "affordable."

He guesses that his entire collection of five antique cups cost around $5,000. He spent as little as $500 on one piece and as much as $3,000 on the most expensive cup.

Douglas had no special reason for collecting the cups, other than his love for their intricate designs.

"It's just something you have to feel rather than describe," he explained.

Mason revealed the cups were Chinese, and made between the 17th and 18th century.

He pointed out a number of beautiful sculpted details on the individual pieces, including swirling dragons and lotus blossoms. One even featured sculpted characters so detailed you could read the expressions on their faces.

Even though the pieces were missing their original stands,  Mason was obviously excited by these antiques.

While shipping them could be tricky (because even antique ivory goods are closely protected) Mason handed down a huge evaluation for the collection.

He gave a "conservative" estimate that they were worth $1-1.5 million altogether.

"Serious?" Douglas asked when he heard the good news. "Well, I won’t have to depend on just Social Security I guess."

"You were pursuing something you loved,” Mason told him, “you weren’t worried about price."

Sadly, the cups underperformed at auction. Just two pieces sold, and they brought in $146,500 and $182,5000 respectively.

Do you have any family heirlooms that might be worth a bundle?

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com