Man Brings Rare Item On ‘Antiques Roadshow,’ Then The Police Get Involved

Man Brings Rare Item On

Antiques Roadshow is a show full of surprises, but one particular episode crossed the line. The man who brought the piece in seemed relatively normal at first, and his item didn’t raise any red flags. However, when the hosts probed the seller about its history, the chilling truth slowly began to dawn on them. The fishy backstory was only the beginning of a bizarre and harrowing saga that left the Antiques Roadshow producers in an impossible situation.

To the Brink

Across over 800 episodes and counting, Antiques Roadshow has invited normal people to bring in junk from their homes to be appraised and sold. Normally the process goes smoothly, but then a certain contestant came along. The October 2020 episode pushed the well-meaning show to the brink.

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Previously Unseen

Apparently, producers were waffling about what to do with this segment for some time. It’s rumored that their indecision had something to do with legal issues, and the show-runners had to tread lightly. Originally shot as part of a ‘Best Of The Summer’ compilation show, it wasn’t broadcast until that fall. 

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Old Writings

When this unidentified man came on the United Kingdom version of Antiques Roadshow, he brought with him a piece of art that came his way years before. It didn’t look too valuable — just a stencil portrait of a rat with a power tool. But something about the work wasn’t right…

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Casual Confession

During the broadcast, the man casually admitted that he had stolen the art. He didn’t use the word itself, just said that he’d taken it without permission. But that detail was enough to turn things sour. Still, the seller tried to explain himself.

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Pulled It Off

“I used to live in Brighton [England] in the late 90s, early 2000s, and I was walking along the Brighton seafront when I saw it on the Lido,” he explained to art expert Rupert Maas. “It looked loose, I went over, pulled it off basically.” How convenient.

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Already Knew

It was visibly awkward for the man to move forward after the confession, but Maas asked if the contestant knew the story behind the creator. Was some unknown street artist responsible? Well, the man replied that he already knew what it was!

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Gimme A Price

He hinted that it resembled the work of a world-famous designer. With that truth divulged, it seemed that this seller knew exactly what he was doing on that fateful day. “I know what it is, I know what year it was, it was around 2004,” said the contestant. “I’m basically just trying to get a valuation of it.” 

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No Deal

Even so, the experts wouldn’t jump right to the price tag conversation. Maas asserted that the proof had to be in the pudding: “I’m not lecturing you, I’m just saying, but without that certificate, it’s just very difficult to sell.” Clearly, he had doubts about the artist whom this treasure seeker had just name-dropped.

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Banksy Piece

That’s because the owner claimed it was the product of the most famous street artist in history: Banksy. The anonymous creator has left his evocative work all over the world. His pieces go for millions, so it seemed suspicious that this guy just pried an original right off a building

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From 2004

Assuming it was a genuine illustration, Banksy had already been running exhibitions and selling pieces for a fortune at that point. The seller said it dated back to 2004, a crazy year for Banksy’s career. Though he never revealed his true identity, the artist did have ways to weed out frauds trying to latch on to his fame.

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Pest Control

That was why the Antiques Roadshow judges couldn’t yet provide an appraisal. While a Banksy piece could be worth millions, the street artist’s team would first have to confirm its authenticity. “He calls it pest control,” Maas said.

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Banksy’s Approval

Of course, that entire process is easier said than done. Not even experts on the show could confirm whether or not the painting was real. But the contestant learned that Banksy himself issues certificates of authenticity online.

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Devalued

Either way, the seller was in a tight spot. If it was a real Banksy, then there was a good chance the work would have to re-enter the public domain — that is, he would have to put it back. If it was some no-name, well, then he was free to keep or sell his not so expensive illustration.

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Banksy In Brighton

But that reality didn’t daunt him. When questioned about the matter of authenticity, the man responded that he didn’t need it! “I know it’s real because Brighton was hit quite a bit by Banksy when he was down there around that time,” he said. It was a contentious moment, though not one that Antiques Roadshow was totally unprepared for.

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Not The First Time

At a later moment in the episode, host Fiona Bruce revealed that this wasn’t the first time Banksy’s art had appeared on the show. A genuine piece crossed their paths back in 2014, and it was among the most memorable segments in the show’s history.

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400,000 Pounds

That time around, the piece ended up selling for £400,000 (or around $533,660)! But of course, that only happened through Banksy’s official verification. It certainly helped that lucky fellow that he didn’t pry the item off the wall.

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Chuffed

In fact, it came with more than just a verification — Banksy himself chimed in! Upon verifying the 2014 work’s authenticity, he left a note saying he was “chuffed to help out.” Even if Banksy took pity on this ambitious art dealer, there was a good chance the artist’s fans would go rabid.

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Online Uproar

Well, following the segment’s debut, the internet went crazy. It seemed like this grifter was trying to make a quick buck off of art that was supposed to belong to everybody. Was it possible that he had committed a crime? Maybe multiple crimes?

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Maybe Not

At least one fan claimed to have contacted the Sussex Police force, who responded that they weren’t aware of any public art thefts at all — especially not a Banksy. That seemed good enough to save the seller from having to hire a lawyer, but he still wanted an answer as to his ultimate question: what was the thing worth?

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The Price Tag

Maas pointed out that the cost was entirely dependent on an official Pest Control certificate. “With it, it might be worth £20,000. Without it, you’re nowhere. I’m sorry.” Banksy has yet to publicly comment on its legitimacy, leaving the Antiques Roadshow guest in limbo. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be silent. The artist is known for announcing his opinions in unconventional ways.

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Bold Statements

He’s even attacked the art establishment, so the Antiques Roadshow crew was reluctant to push Banksy. On October 5th, 2018, Sotheby’s in London was busy preparing for an auction. This itself was nothing remarkable. After all, that was their business. But the auction that day was special…

Big Day at Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s are the experts when it comes to selling priceless works of art. They have been doing it for hundreds of years, but this day was going to be particularly special and the beginning of a new chapter.

An Unusual Sale

They were auctioning off a rare piece by Banksy. It was unlike any other sale. This is one artist who probably never expected to find his work being sold off to a wealthy bidder at a private auction house.

Fierce Satire

Since the 1990s, he has made a name for himself with works that subvert artistic conventions and skewer various aspects of society. Chances are you’ve seen his work already even if you don’t know it.

Guarded Identity

Almost nobody knows who Banksy is. His real identity is a carefully guarded secret that likely will never come to light. You would think that would be something that would hamper his rising celebrity, but that’s not the case.

World Famous

And even though his anonymity prevents him from doing interviews or having a social media presence, it certainly adds to his allure. Countless articles have been written about him, and even a documentary was about his work.

Potential Alter-Ego

Many theorists name Bristol artist Robin Cunningham as the likeliest candidate for Banksy, but all the dots still don’t connect. It’s quite possible, in fact, that ‘Banksy’ may be multiple people collaborating under a single name.

Great Graffiti

Banksy is most famous for his graffiti — a copy of which was going on sale at Sotheby’s. His clever pieces go far beyond tagging his name on a brick wall. Instead, they have a biting visual message.

Blending In

His minimalist works often blend in seamlessly with the urban landscape. In fact, that’s what makes them so darn compelling. They stop you in your tracks and make you look twice.

Political Messages

Banksy has the unique ability to transform any ordinary object into politically charged art. Sometimes he accomplishes this feat with just a few words…

Eager Buyers

So it’s no surprise that so many collectors were chomping at the bit to buy their very own Banksy. They hungrily eyed the prize as the bids climbed up to one million dollars and beyond.

Balloon Girl Mural

These high rollers were competing to get their hands on one of Banksy’s most famous murals, Balloon Girl. Many critics consider it to be among the greatest works of art in the United Kingdom.

Secret Feature

But this version of Balloon Girl had one feature that the original lacked. Inside the frame, Banksy secretly lined the bottom of the painting with motorized blades. What was he planning?

Instantly Shredded

Well, the exact instant the painting sold — with a final price tag of $1.4 million — the booby-trapped frame shredded the painting to piecesNobody in attendance could wrap their minds around what had just occurred. What kind of artist would destroy his own work?

Not Worthless

Just because the painting is in tatters, however, doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Like so many other famous works of art, a little bit of damage might not be as damaging to the value as you might think!

Possible Windfall

Art seller Steve Lazarides, one of the few individuals in Banksy’s inner circle, suggested that the shredded version of Balloon Girl may even be worth more than the original.

Prank or Masterpiece?

Though some members of the art community criticized the move as a cruel prank, others are now calling it one of Banksy’s greatest demonstrations ever. Perhaps only one other stunt could rival its originality and shock value…

Dismaland

Banksy made headlines around the world in 2015 by curating the Dismaland installation. The site utilized dozens of pieces to construct a ‘sinister twist’ on the Disney franchise and theme parks in general.

Darkly Hilarious

Dismaland welcomed over 150,000 in its temporary run. Guests could enjoy — or at least tolerate — attractions such as a rundown princess castle, a museum of dangerous objects, and purposely unfair games like ‘topple the anvil with a ping pong ball.’

Full Immersion

It’s clear that when it comes to art Banksy isn’t content to let the status quo stand. From bizarre theme parks staffed by strange characters like the ones below to destroying his own art, he’s always looking to up the ante.