A few popular shows on television deal with the search for or discovery of an item and its sale at the end of an episode. We become glued to the program, thinking “something of great value is lurking somewhere in this house.”  

Television reality series such as Cash in the Attic, Antiques Road Show, Auction Kings, Pawn Stars, and others catapult viewers to local auction houses, estate sales and storage rooms. 

In reality, most of the series focuses on everyday folks who live ordinary lives and are clueless about their surroundings or possessions. 

That is the theme for the show Cash in the Attic, where the homeowner needs money to help solve a problem and hopes they own a treasure worth enough to fix everything. The television host and well-meaning appraiser arrive, and the search begins. The appraiser’s job is to locate some “lost artifact of worth” and provide an estimate of a possible fortune to be had.

This theme is about the same within each of the different reality series. An item is either brought by the owner, at auction or found by the appraiser, and the suspense builds. We at home furtively glance around the room and search the reservoir of our memories for something that would benefit our coffers. 

Once you hear that the bedraggled teddy bear or pottery vase with the house painted on it could be worth thousands, you remember a similar object stored in the back of the closet. Assumed riches now cloud your reality. In most cases, it’s like having a lottery ticket with only four of the drawn numbers. 

The sad reality is that 98 percent of homes do not have cash in their attics or lost Rembrandts hanging on their walls. The amounts mentioned in most of the series are often hypothetical and don’t reflect the net proceeds to the seller. There are auction fees, finder fees, appraisal fees, and other unknown variables that affect the bottom line that is not discussed or disclosed. Most importantly, not all auctions are equal, nor are appraisers.

Clients bring their carefully wrapped “object of wealth” to our office to be appraised. Like most folks with a commonplace, everyday item, we have not seen anything that would bring a Brink’s armored truck to carefully sequester the item to safety. 

For example, a client had recently seen a show that spotlighted a face jug from the Abner and John Landrum potteries in the Edgefield, South Carolina region attributed to “Dave the Potter” that was valued at $30,000. 

The series did not mention that the glaze and clay had to be tested or that the artist’s initials had to be researched and authenticated. Our client’s face jug was just a jug, not from South Carolina, and worth under $500.

Keep the fantasies going, watch the programs, enjoy the joy of others, and keep the search alive. You might be one of the two percent out there who have a lost treasure hiding in the attic or closet.

— Contact Tom Helms at or A-Z Appraisal & Estate Consultants; 5525 N. 12th St., Phoenix, AZ. 85014; email