Woman Told Grandma's Painting Worth $250, Then Appraiser Tells Her The Truth

Rollercoaster Of Emotions

Rose had experienced a series of unexpected events that led her to the present situation, where she was sitting across from an expert appraiser from Antiques Roadshow.

She had been trying to keep her cool and maintain her composure, but when the appraiser started talking about her grandmother's old painting, she couldn't control her emotions and became upset.

As the expert spoke, Rose was shocked, and her face showed it. She could feel her heart racing and her emotions fluctuating wildly. She was caught off guard, but the expert waited patiently for her to calm down before continuing. This was a day that Rose would never forget.

Patiently Waiting

The "Antiques Roadshow" event was held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center.

It attracted a large crowd of over 5,000 people who brought along their old or potentially valuable items to be evaluated by the master appraiser.

Many of these individuals hoped to find out if their possessions were worth a significant amount of money or if they were holding onto clutter.

One person, in particular, waited patiently among the others to see the appraiser.

Worthy Potential

The person in question had a painting that had been passed down within their family for many generations, and it was extremely emotionally valuable to them.

However, they were curious to find out if the artwork had any financial worth or if it was simply a decorative piece that would be displayed in their home and eventually passed on to another family member.

They were unsure if they wanted to know more about the painting's value beyond this.

Mysterious Artwork

The artwork had always been displayed above her grandmother's bed, and she had always loved it because of its peaceful and picturesque nature.

She wanted to keep it safe and close to her, but no one knew if it was an original painting or a reproduction, or even how much it was worth.

Rose had not previously suspected that the painting might be an original, but something strange occurred which caused her to reconsider this possibility.

Passed From Generation To Generation

Rose received a beautiful painting as an inheritance from her grandmother after she passed away.

Rose felt very honored to receive this painting, which her grandmother had loved very much.

When she looks at the painting, it makes her feel like her grandmother is near, even though they are now physically far apart.

She was admiring the frame one day when she discovered something interesting inside.

Getting A Closer Look

Rose noticed a small imperfection on the beautiful artwork and took it outside to get a better look.

Upon closer inspection, she saw that there was a small black insect trapped between the canvas and the glass plate in the frame.

Rose carefully removed the glass from the back of the frame to expose the artwork to air and sunlight.

Removing It

Upon closer examination, Rose determined that the insect was a mosquito.

She held it gently between her thumb and forefinger, and lightly touched the canvas with her knuckle. Her heart began to race as she placed the mosquito in the flowers and quickly put the glass back over the painting.

Rose later explained that she had taken the artwork outside and opened it up to remove the mosquito, which she intended to take to college with her.

However, the mosquito startled her, and she closed the artwork back up quickly because it looked like it might be a real insect. She didn't find out the truth until later.

The Painting's Truth

Many people consider mosquitoes to be the most annoying insects on Earth.

These bugs can be very annoying, making a high-pitched sound at night that keeps people awake. At their worst, they have been known to spread infections.

However, the mosquito ended up being the key for Rose to uncover the truth about the painting.

She just had to figure out what that truth was.

Day Of Appraisal

Rose had been waiting for a long time to see the appraiser and finally, it was her turn.

She was asked to sit down and place her painting on the evaluation table.

She was very careful as she sat down next to the painting, holding her breath with anticipation.

Meredith Hilferty, the expert appraiser, sat across from Rose, causing her nervousness to increase. It was a critical moment.

Knowledge Of The Artwork

Meredith starts the interview by asking Rose if she has any knowledge about the artwork.

Unlike many other people on the show, Rose appears to have some knowledge about the artist.

Rose starts to share what she knows about the artist with Meredith.

"I think he was born in France and then he moved to northern Pennsylvania," she says.

Artist Of The Frontier

Henry Francois Farny was a famous artist whose relationship with Native American tribes was the stuff of legend.

He learned the lore of the forest when he was a child from the Seneca tribe when they hunted in the area where he lived, near their reservation in New York state.

But how had Rose’s grandma come to have the painting if it was authentic?

Speculations

“So he could have been in the area when he was painting it when it was given to my grandmother. And then he moved out to Ohio. But he had associations with the Sioux tribe, and they actually adopted him in, and they gave him a cipher, ‘LongBoots.’”

Rose continued, “And that’s what that little circle under his signature is.”

The Last Question

Meredith nodded her head and said that Rose was indeed correct about some of the artist’s history, and then she agreed that it may be possible that the painting was authentic, based on Rose’s grandmother’s whereabouts at the time.

But she still had one more question to ask Rose, and the answer left the audience reeling.

“Have you had it appraised before? Do you know if she had it appraised?” she asked gently.

Rose thought carefully before replying, but what she said was scandalous.

Previous Evaluations

“It was appraised as part of a general house appraisal twice. In 1998 it was appraised as a print at $200 and 2004 at $250,” Rose explained.

The disbelief in Meredith’s eyes is briefly evident before she smiles, and her tone changes as she tries to conceal what she already knows.

Professional Opinion

Meredith looks at the painting and back at Rose, holding back her smile.

Then, without changing her tone or missing a beat, she levels her professional appraisal of the beautiful family heirloom.

It’s her delivery that is what makes the value of the artwork that much more shocking.

Rose’s face starts to flush bright red in utter disbelief, and then a tear slowly rolls down her cheek.

The Value

Meredith turns to Rose and calmly says, “So, if we were going to put this in an auction today, I would suggest an estimate of $200,000 – $300,000.”

Rose tries to comprehend what she’s just been told but is too stunned to speak.

She finally regains her composure, and her reaction is priceless.

Emotions

Meredith remains silent as the camera zooms in on Rose’s reaction.

Every emotion plays out on her face, from disbelief to elation.

Then, she lets out a little giggle, and tears start forming in her eyes.

Through her sobs, she asks an innocent question that reveals just what her grandma’s painting means to her.

Overwhelmed

Rose speaks again, and her throat is choked up with emotion, ‘So I can’t hang it then?” she squeaks as the value of her grandma’s painting finally hits home, and she realizes she probably shouldn’t hang it above her bed as a decoration.

Meredith is startled by the young woman’s display of emotion at first, but then she starts to fill her in on more fascinating details about the artwork.

The Sioux Tribe

The mesmerizing artwork depicts a group of Sioux around the bend of a rocky mountain trail on horseback.

It was created during the artist’s most prolific time.

Meredith explains, “1890 is when we start to see some of his best paintings.

He represented the Native Americans in a very peaceful, tranquil way.”

From A Different Perspective

“You can see that in this painting, he didn’t really ever bring conflict into his work as some of the other artists of that time did,” she continued. Rose was listening intently.

“He really just wanted to show the Native Americans in their natural environment – without too many other things happening besides the landscape around them.”

Worth A Fortune

“Her dad, I’m guessing, would’ve given it to her after she spent the summer at a dude ranch when she was 19, in …like …the ’40s,” Rose confirmed, still crying.

And people all over the world can’t get enough of the young woman’s tearful reaction when she finds out that her grandma’s cherished and sentimental painting is worth a fortune.

Rose’s Dilemma

“What a horrible dilemma. Something so cherished, beautiful, and important to the memory of your family. A historical relic from an American master. But on the other hand, a MASSIVE pile of cash could change your world. A new home, college, or relief from grinding debt,” one woman commented.

“Such a heavy choice and no wrong answer, but really no right one either.”

Internet Sensation

Over four million netizens watched Rose discover the true worth of her grandma’s painting and treasured heirloom on Youtube.

They mostly have nice things to say, commenting on her depth of character and honesty.

“It was interesting that her first reaction was an expression of loss despite the value she learned the painting has.

She said, “So, I can’t put it up?” and shed tears.”

Surprising Insights

The insightful commenter continued, “Meaning, the painting reminds her of her grandmother, and because of the high value of the object, she can’t risk it being stolen. She must place it where it will be safe from thieves but away from her eyes. She can’t see it every day and think of her dear grandma. Very sweet reaction.”

But not all the comments on the video were so positive.

Disappointed

Some viewers expressed disappointment and outright anger that the first two evaluations of the heirloom had been so far off the mark.

“What kind of appraiser just assumes it’s a print?” someone wrote, annoyed.

Others wondered if it was a scam or an honest mistake. Some said that perhaps it had been evaluated by a Jack-of-all-trades appraiser while he conducted a broad house evaluation, but we will never know the truth.

On the other hand, Rose was only worried about one thing when she learned the true value of the artwork.

Unintentional Damage

“Should I have left the mosquito in the back?”

Rose asked with a stammer, anxious that she had done the wrong thing by exposing the artwork to the elements.

Meredith consoles her gently with her reply, “It’s actually not a bad idea that you took the bug out,” she said. And then she explained why.

Art Preservation

“Ultimately, we would like for a conservator to do that, but the bug could have continued to cause a stain, but no. It’s good that the bug wasn’t there anymore,” she explained.

The relief that washes over Rose is apparent when she understands that she did the right thing when she trusted her instincts.

The Right Choice

So, in the end, removing the bug from the painting was a good idea.

As Meredith explains, it could have resulted in a stain that a conservator could have worked on, but the fact remains that the removal of the mosquito had a two-fold effect.

For one, it saved the painting from any more possible damage, but there was also another important role that the hapless mosquito played.

Pure Luck

This tiny and insignificant mosquito played a much larger role in Rose’s story — it pointed her in the direction and gave her a glimmer of hope that there was more than met the eye about the piece.

Without the mosquito, she probably would never have been prompted to inspect the painting or even take it to Meredith for evaluation.

But now, as some commenters pointed out, Rose has a very big decision to make.

A Daunting Decision

What would you do if you were in Rose’s position?

Would you choose to keep the sentimental heirloom left to you by your beloved grandma, or would you give it up for financial stability? Maybe you’d square your college debt or pay off a house.

Or would you keep it and hang it up behind your bed in your college dorm, like Rose intended to do?

Rose never knew that she was sitting on a fortune, which makes her reaction priceless. But some people know what their paintings are worth and will do anything to hide them from the world…

Familiar Strangers

When the call came, it shattered his world.

As the FBI carefully explained what his favorite aunt and uncle had done, he felt like a deer in headlights. But he refused to believe it.

The family members he knew and loved couldn’t possibly have committed one of the biggest crimes of the 1980s.

But then, a seed of doubt started to sprout in his mind. Do we really know the people around us? Do we really know our friends, neighbors, and relatives?

A Secret Life

To Houston resident Ron Roseman, Rita and Jerome Alter were model citizens.

They were well-educated and well-loved in their community by friends and neighbors alike.

They were both school teachers who had saved enough money to travel all seven continents. Ron was particularly mesmerized by his uncle’s stories.

But there was another story about Jerome and Rita’s secret life that he would only learn much later.

Perfectly Normal

The Alters seemed like normal, middle-class citizens who had taken up residence in Cliff, New Mexico, in the 1970s. Jerry loved traveling, art, and adventure, while Rita seemed to be a shining example of kindness to all who met her.

She worked as a speech pathologist and was more than supportive when Jerry decided to retire from his job as a music teacher at forty-eight to pursue the finer things in life.

The Truth Comes Out

Although their neighbors knew the Alters, they said later that they tended to keep to themselves.

What nobody ever suspected was that the couple was hiding a momentous secret. When Jerry died of natural causes in 2011, Rita followed just five years later.

They left behind two children, Barbara and Joseph, who were now adults. 

If Ron Roseman hadn’t been left as the executor of their estate purely because he lived the closest to Cliff, New Mexico, The Alters’ crime may never have seen the light of day.

Selling It All Off

Ron decided to put the Alters’ Cliff home up for sale and invited a hoard of dealers to assess their possessions.

Most items were snapped up in a frenzy and carted off in just a few days. 

African artifacts, furniture, and paintings were sold to the highest bidder, and for just $2000, David Van Auker from Silver City claimed all the spoils.

Scene Of The Crime

$2000 wasn’t nearly as much as Ron had hoped, but he was glad to wind down his late aunt and uncle’s estate.

Little did he know, there was something priceless among the items that the antique dealer hauled into his car that day.

Ron never suspected that this particular item had been under investigation for the last 33 years, and the case was about to be wide open.

One Item

David Van Auker was filled with glee at the bargain he had found when he began to sort and price the assets he had purchased for a pittance.

But as he inspected the items individually, his eyes kept moving back to one particular item. 

He felt that he just couldn’t explain it when he looked at it, but he would only know what it was after he began digging deeper into the mystery.

Getting Attention

David put the day’s work in the back of his mind as he returned to his home in Pinos Altos that evening.

The next day, however, one of his newly-acquired pieces quickly became the town's talk. 

An artist with a sharp eye walked into his antique dealership, Manzanita Ridge Antiques, and said the five words that prompted David to call the FBI, who then called Ron Roseman.

Incredulous

“It’s my favorite aunt and uncle,” Ron recalled. “You know, I couldn’t imagine…you know scenarios running through my head…I felt like a deer in the headlights.”

At first, Ron refuses to believe what the FBI accuses Jerry and Rita of.

Then, the reality of it all slowly sinks in.

Could his own beloved aunt and uncle have pulled off one of the most brazen heists in American history?

Fateful Day

It is the morning of November 29, 1985.

A lone security guard is opening up the door of the largest and most popular museum in Tucson, Arizona, to let a staff member pass.

It is early, and the museum isn’t officially open for the day yet.

But that doesn’t deter the then-unknown couple as they approach to start a conversation.

Distraction

The woman, who looks to be in her 60s, chats idly to the security guard about anything she can think of.

They talk about art and the weather while a man slips into the building unnoticed and heads straight to the third floor.

A few minutes pass, and the man reappears by the woman’s side, and they retreat into a rust-red two-door sports car.

Missing

The security guard is suspicious that the couple didn’t stay to go inside the museum, so he goes to investigate with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

As it was 1985, the museum had no security cameras to catch the man in the act. 

The security guard quickly realizes what has happened as he stares at the empty frame on the third floor.

“Woman-Ochre”

The priceless painting ‘Woman-Ochre’ by renowned Dutch artist Willem De Kooning is missing.

All that remains is a rectangular piece of the canvas where the painting has been cut out of its frame with a blade.

The police found no fingerprints, and the only clue was the guard’s description of the mysterious couple and their getaway car, but they had no license plate number.

Willem De Kooning

Willem De Kooning was a prominent painter of abstracts in the mid-century expressionist movement, and his paintings are exceptionally valuable.

One painting has been sold for a staggering $137.5 million.

The famous art heist of ‘Woman-Ochre’ had remained unsolved for three decades until an unassuming dealer realized what he had sitting in his Silver City antique store.

Disbelief

David Van Auker had thought nothing of the abstract painting he had acquired at the Alters’ estate until an artist had walked into his store and seen it, exclaiming, “That’s a Willem De Kooning!”

But the chances of him stumbling upon such a momentous piece of history only dawned on him once he had conducted some research.

He read the article about the painting stolen from the Arizona Museum of Art, and his eyes grew wide in their sockets.

Keeping It Safe

David’s astonishment quickly became fear as he realized what he had in his possession.

He had to hide it away from prying eyes. Ironically, the only door locked in the store was the bathroom, so he moved the 40-by-30-inch painting there and locked it inside.

“We were afraid someone would bash it or flick paint off it, so that’s when we decided we would pick it up and stick it somewhere safe,” Van Auker explained later.

Then, he called the Tucson museum.

After All These Years

“I had daydreams of getting that phone call, of someone calling up or someone mysteriously sending a package and the painting being inside of it,” said Olivia Miller, curator for UAMA.

“I don’t think I honestly thought it would actually happen.”

But Olivia was naturally skeptical about David’s find – at first.

Then David related a crucial detail that changed everything.

Details

“The thing he said that really stood out, that made me – I was taking it seriously but really made me stop – was he said there are lines across it as if it’s cracked like it’s been rolled up,” Olivia Miller recounted.

“Ok, that’s just a detail that – nobody could say that.”

That’s when Chief Brian Seastone got a call.

Finally

Chief Brian Seastone had investigated the theft of the De Kooning painting for over 30 years, and he always had a feeling in his heart that he would one day crack the case.

“I just had this feeling,” Seastone added.

“So, 32 years later, I got to see the tears of joy and happiness as it really did come home.”

Authentication

Soon afterward, the painting was examined carefully, and the signature was found authentic.

The painting was the real deal. And the most surprising detail?

The Alters had hung it behind their bedroom door, away from prying eyes for over three decades.

And new evidence points to the seemingly ordinary couple as the ones who had stolen the painting.

On Private Display

“My personal thought, and it may be totally wrong, but when I first saw where the painting was hanging in the house, it was for their private display,” Buck Burns, co-owner of an antique shop, said. “Not for anybody else. It was hung behind that door, and nobody could see it when that door was open.”

But the most incriminating evidence had been under everyone’s noses all along.

Coincidence?

Jerome “Jerry” Alter wrote a book of short stories in 2011 entitled ‘The Cup and the Lip’. One of the stories inside is a fictitious account of a woman and her daughter who steal a 120-carat jewel from a museum by distracting the guard, stealing the jewel, and fleeing in a getaway vehicle.

When they arrive home, they hang the jewel in a secret panel in their home – where it will stay for their exclusive viewing pleasure.

More Evidence Surfaces

But Ron Roseman cannot, or will not, believe that his aunt and uncle were involved in the theft.

“I just can’t imagine they would,” he said sadly.

“That wasn’t the aunt and uncle that I knew.”

Unfortunately for him, new incriminating evidence against Jerry and Rita Alter was found in 2018, which is certainly food for thought.

Smoking Gun

In 2018, a photograph of Jerry and Rita was found.

It was dated 1985 and was taken in Tucson on Thanksgiving – just a day before the De Kooning piece was stolen.

But recently, there was another investigation in which the FBI found the smoking gun, as it were.

In a photo in the Altars’ personal collection, it surfaced that Jerry drove a red sports car – just like the one described by the security guard on the day the painting was stolen.

Resemblance

Many people also believe that the police sketch of the couple, rendered in 1985, bears a striking resemblance to Jerry and Rita Alter.

And suppose that’s not enough evidence against them. In that case, nobody can explain how the two teachers, with their modest salaries, could afford to travel so extensively and own a 20-hectare property in Cliff, New Mexico.

Returned Safely

The investigation continues, and no arrests have been made thus far.

We’ll never know if the couple did pull off one of the greatest art thefts of the 20th Century, but all evidence suggests they did – and got away with it.

The De Kooning painting, ‘Woman-Ochre’, has been returned to the Arizona Museum, where hopefully it will remain safe.

It has been given an evaluation of over $160 million.

In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead are entirely coincidental

The De Kooning painting, ‘Woman-Ochre’, has been returned to the Arizona Museum, where hopefully it will remain safe. It has been given an evaluation of over $160 million.

In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead are entirely coincidental