Geeky treasures that have popped up on The Antiques Roadshow

Every so often, a geek gem is brought in for appraisal on the long-running BBC antiques show. Here are a few recent favourites…

Just some of the more interesting things welcomed onto The Antiques Roadshow over the decades: a collection of 400 lawnmowers. Oliver Cromwell’s nightcap. A pincushion made out of human hair*

Even more exciting to the average geek than an authentic gilded Louis XIV chair with intact ebony inlay and pristine marquetry though, is when something from the world of film and TV turns up on the show. Dotted among the sideboards, paintings of horses, old milk bottles and jewelled brooches that would outprice the average student loan, here are a few recent instances…

*So many things made of human hair turn up on The Antiques Roadshow. There’s clearly something wrong with us.

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William Hartnell’s original Doctor Who script for An Unearthly Child

Valuation: £5,000 – £7,000 (sold in May 2018 for £6,200)

“This is the DNA of Doctor Who.”

In the 1970s, one of a group of builders tasked with renovating a cottage in Mayfield, Sussex stumbled upon a rarity among the rubbish earmarked for removal: a script from his eight-year-old grandson’s favourite TV programme. Entitled Doctor Who and the Tribe of Gum, this wasn’t just any Who script, but from the very first story An Unearthly Child. It came complete with blue pencil marks next to Hartnell’s lines, and its provenance was proven. Valued in 2017 on The Antiques Roadshow, it was sold in for over £6k in May 2018, not bad for something destined for the bonfire.


Darth Vader’s mask from Star Wars: A New Hope

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Valuation: £150k to 200k

“It could have all gone in a skip.”

Ron Punter, a scenic painter working in the 1970s London film industry, brought in a collection of items he’d kept over the course of his career to the show’s December 2017 Entertainment Special. The first was a mask worn by David Prowse as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars film A New Hope. In January 1976, Punter was given the mask to refurbish but was waiting for the matching helmet, which never arrived. He put the mask to one side and forgot about it until the film was wrapped and its props were being thrown into a skip, whereupon he rescued it. His grandson is going to inherit it, and more such gems (see below).


Original TIE fighter helmet from Star Wars: A New Hope

Valuation: £40k to £50k

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“For this bit of plastic!”

Fiona Bruce caused some minor upset among film fans when she scoffed at the valuation of collector Stephen Lane’s original TIE fighter helmet in a 2014 episode filmed at Chenies Manor Buckinghamshire, calling it “a bit of plastic.” To show there were no hard feelings, Lane filmed a special three-minute segment for The Antiques Roadshow (watch it here) in which he gave Bruce a personal tour of his “Aladdin’s Cave” of movie memorabilia, including John Hurt’s original spacesuit from Alien, Jack Nicholson’s costume as The Joker, and much much more. Delightful.


Ronnie Barker’s original Four Candles sketch script

Valuation: £2k in 2006 (sold for £48k in 2007, then for £28k in 2018)

“They could have ended up in the bin?”

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A handwritten script in the name of Gerald Wiley was found by the son of a former charity worker who’d filed it among her paperwork decades earlier. Written in red pen, with original annotations, it was the script for The Two Ronnies’ famous “Four Candles” sketch, set in a hardware shop, donated by Ronnie Barker (who wrote under the name Gerald Wiley). Ronnie Corbett later confirmed it was the real deal, and it sold for hugely more than its initial valuation in 2006. The sketch was so beloved that not only are there several pubs named after it, the vergers at Ronnie Barker’s 2005 memorial service paid tribute by each holding four candles instead of the usual two.


10 signed first editions of Ian Fleming books

Valuation: £60k for the collection

“Just a way of saying thank you.”

In 2006, Una Trueblood, former secretary to author Ian Fleming during his time as Foreign Manager at the Sunday Times, brought to The Antiques Roadshow a collection of 10 books she’d received as a gift from Fleming over the years. All first editions, they were inscribed with messages such as “To Una, who worked like a slave, from Ian Fleming 1957” in The Diamond Smugglers to “To Una with apologies for her sudden death” in Dr No – in reference to the character of Mary Trueblood, named in her honour – and “To Una, who again wrote the whole thing from Ian Fleming” in Goldfinger. One of a kind.

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Indiana Jones And Raiders Of the Lost Ark staff of Ra jewel

Valuation: £60k to 100k

“I painted the actual Ark itself, the big gold Ark.”

Back with the 2017 Entertainment Special’s scenic painter, this is the second of Ron Punter’s treasures. It’s the medallion jewel from the end of the staff of Ra as featured in Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The prop was one of five painted by Punter, using the same process as he used to paint the Ark itself (apparently now kept in George Lucas’ garden shed). With just one valued at over £60k, it makes you wonder what happened to the other four…


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The axe Jack Nicholson used in The Shining

Valuation: £40k to £60k

“It went right through the door and caught on the other side.”

The last of the Entertainment Special’s gems from former scenic painter Ron Punter is the actual axe used by Jack Nicholson (as Jack Torrance) to break down the door in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It was damaged during the scene, we learn, cracked along one edge and unable to be used again. Ron was tasked with making a fibreglass replacement that could be carried more safely by Nicholson. It’s all going to his grandson, apparently, the lucky fellow.


Doctor Who script from 1977

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Valuation: £300 – £500 (without scribbling on the back, £500 – £700)

In my view the best Doctor Who.”

Imagine a woman happily making notes about dried flowers and the Women’s Institute, using a piece of scrap paper picked up from home. Turning it over, she realises she’s writing on the back of a script page for something called Horror Of Fang Rock Part Three, brought home by her son or daughter who worked on the BBC’s Doctor Who in 1977, starring Tom Baker. 30 years later, that piece of paper is valued at over £300 (but would have been £500 without her handiwork).


Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien about The Lord Of The Rings (1954)

Valuation: £2k to £3k

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“It was not possible to avoid a certain pleasure in your distress”

This authenticated Tolkien letter (not pictured) was brought in to a Gloucester Cathedral filming in 2006. It had been written to the owner when a boy in reply to his complaint to the author that, after enjoying The Hobbit and buying the first The Lord Of The Rings book, he was madly frustrated to discover it only told part of the story. Luckily, all three books in the trilogy were published over the course of a single year, so he didn’t have too long to wait.


Lady Penelope and a set of Gerry Anderson puppets

Valuation: £80k

Brought in by puppeteer and puppet-maker Mary Turner, this collection of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet puppets featured in a 2019 edition of The Antiques Roadshow filmed at Eltham Palace. Turner brought in fighter pilot Rhapsody Angel (£10k-£12k), Captain Scarlet (£20k-£25k), Colonel White (£8k-£10k) and the woman herself, Lady Penelope, valued at over £38k. Here’s the clip, with added nerdy background info about the design process. 5-4-3-2-1, Thunderbirds are going, going, gone.

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