There's a fine and often mysterious line that separates antiques from simple old junk. And while there are experts whose eyes for detail are trained to tell the difference, those experts don't always agree.
For that reason, it's entirely possible for someone to go their whole life thinking they own a priceless relic only to learn that it's a forgery. And as one heartwarming story makes clear, the opposite phenomenon isn't impossible either.
One woman's story
On an episode of PBS's Antiques Roadshow, a young woman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, sat down to explain how she came by the painting she wanted to be examined.
She started by explaining that it was bequeathed to her when her grandmother passed away.
It was always there
The woman recalled that the painting always hung above her grandmother's bed, as it was a gift from her own father.
And while the woman didn't know for sure when her grandma received it, she had a fair guess.
An appropriate gift
The woman believed her great-grandfather gave her grandma this painting during the 1940s when she was 19 years old.
Since she had spent that summer at a dude ranch, the quiet wilderness scene seemed appropriate for her experiences.
Shrouded in mystery
The woman was never really sure whether this was a print or an original painting.
And while she had spent many years assuming it was a print, a simple situation cast some serious doubt on that assumption.
One little nuisance could've had a big impact
When the woman first inherited the painting, she saw that there was a mosquito under its protective glass.
This led her to take the painting out into her front yard and open the frame.
A skittish instinct
Although she had intended to take the painting with her to college when she got the mosquito out, she quickly decided against that.
In fact, she soon became worried enough to close the painting back up quickly.
Enter the appraiser
She explained that the closer look convinced her of the possibility that the painting could be original.
That's what brought her to Antiques Roadshow, where she met Meredith Hilferty, an appraiser from the Rago Arts & Auction Center in Lambertville, New Jersey.
A history of doubt
Hilferty asked if either the woman or her grandma had the painting appraised, and she replied that it was examined twice in what she described as "general house appraisals."
The first of them took place in 1998 when she was told she had a print worth $200.
Not much better
When the woman took the painting to another appraisal in 2004, that person largely agreed but set the painting's value at $250.
Hilferty didn't discus this valuation but instead asked what the woman knew about the artist.
Some diligent research
Based on her answer, the woman had done some creditable research. She knew the artist was born in France and found his way to northern Pennsylvania.
For that reason, she figured there was a possibility that he had painted it in the area and may have still even lived there when her grandma received it.
A connection dear to the artist's heart
The woman also knew that the artist ended up moving to Ohio but, more importantly, that at some point in his time in the United States, he developed close associations with the Sioux nation.
Apparently, their friendship had deepened so much that the Sioux eventually adopted him.
A small but meaningful detail
The Sioux gave the artist the name "Longboots," which meant enough to him that he started adding it to his signature.
As the woman explained, that's why his signature featured this small circle under his birth name.
The rest of the story
As it turned out, Henri Francois Farny was an artist Hilferty was also familiar with and filled in the blanks of the woman's research.
As she told it, Farny moved to Pennsylvania when he was six. He had also developed a relationship with the Seneca tribe before he had any contact with the Sioux.
The painting fits his profile
Hilferty described the painting as featuring the kind of dense grouping in its subjects that Farny was known for.
She also said that since it was dated 1892, it came from Farny's most prolific and highly regarded period as an artist.
He stood out from his time
Given his close relationship with them, Hilferty described Farny as representing Native Americans in a peaceful, tranquil way in his art.
As she described it, that set him apart from other artists at the time, like Charles Marion Russell here.
He wasn't interested in conflict
As both Russell's sample work and this painting by Frederic Sackrider Remington demonstrate, it was more common for artists at the time to focus on the conflicts between Native Americans and settlers in the old west.
Whereas Farny was never one to highlight this fighting, instead preferring to depict Native Americans in their natural environments.
The real deal
The presence of those traits showed Hilferty that the woman had indeed brought in an H.F. Farny painting rather than a forgery.
And based on other unspoken details of the piece, she also concluded that this was genuinely original and not a print.
The woman had been misled
With this conclusion in mind, Hilferty told the woman what she believed would happen if the painting were put up for auction right at that moment.
And in no uncertain terms, the woman would walk away with a lot more than $250.
The real value: between $200,000 and $300,000
From Hilferty's perspective, an estimate between $200,000 and $300,000 would be more appropriate for this painting.
Needless to say, the woman was absolutely floored by this stunning valuation. Her instincts were right.
An emotional outpour.
Upon hearing that number, the woman put her face in her hand and sat stunned for a moment.
It did not take long for the tears to start flowing from her eyes.
Indeed, the news was so shocking for the woman that she couldn't say a single word at first.
For about 15 seconds, the two sat in silence as she processed what Hilferty had just told her.
A big risk all along
Smiling through her tears, the woman eventually composed herself enough to speak.
And while she had planned to hang the painting in a similar fashion to her grandma before, all she could say was, "So I can't hang it up?"
While the shock of the painting's true valuation was clearly still with her, the woman looked around nervously.
"Oh my God," she said when her eyes were on Hilferty again, "That's so much."
A consummate professional
All the while, Hilferty sat in patient silence. She understood what an overwhelming moment this was for the woman and let her experience it on her own terms.
It was as if the cameras weren't there.
At a loss for words
As more tears rolled down her cheeks, the woman shuddered with intense emotion.
Finally, she had to admit that she didn't know what to say at this sudden, joyful revelation.
A fair question
After the shock of the situation lessened some more, the woman thought of something with a sheepish smile.
She said, "Should I have left the mosquito in the back?"
Her instincts served her well
However, Hilferty assured the woman that taking the insect out of the frame was a smart idea.
That said, she added that it's generally preferred for a conservator to do that job rather than the owner taking it upon themselves.
Preventing something unfortunate
Hilferty went on to say that if the woman hadn't done what she did, there was a strong likelihood that the mosquito would have decayed further.
And that would have risked staining or blemishing the painting.
Not quite the worst-case scenario
Hilferty further explained that there may have been some options a conservator could take if she had left the mosquito to fester.
Still, it was ultimately better that she took it out.
A humorous and wholesome send-off
Although she was still reeling from what Hilferty told her, the woman nonetheless felt her sense of humor return as her time on Antiques Roadshow drew to a close.
As she said, "So I'll keep it away from my dog."