It is fair to say that things had not been going too well in the life of California man Loren Krytzer back in 2011. A serious auto smash had changed his life forever, and subsequently money was short to say the least. So much so that Krytzer had been forced to lodge his three children with their grandparents. Then one day he watched an episode of popular TV program Antiques Roadshow. What he saw would result in the most dramatic change in fortunes and alter his life completely once again.
Up until 2007, Krytzer had enjoyed a successful career, working as a self-employed carpenter, and he was well able to support his family. But he was caught up in a car crash that year which resulted in a complicated injury to his foot. Krytzer’s wound just refused to heal, despite a year-long stay in hospital. His injury developed an infection and eventually doctors gave the woodworker some terrible news.
Krytzer recollected the devastating conversation he had with his doctors in an interview with cable broadcaster CNBC in November 2017. He recalled, “I kept trying to do the best I could, and finally it got so bad they said, ‘We have to cut your foot off.’” Now disabled, Krytzer found himself unable to continue his freelance career and was left unemployed with no income stream.
Although he had gone through the trauma of losing a foot, Krytzer’s initial application for disability benefits was turned down. Furthermore, the California native had nothing in the bank and was now facing ruin. At this point, Krytzer had to send his three children to live with their grandparents on the other side of the country in Louisiana. This, of course, was a heartbreaking decision for any father to have to make.
“I mean, what do you do?” Krytzer asked the cameras of CNBC. “I had kids to take care of, no money, you know? Nothing saved up or nothing like that,” he remembered of his dire financial situation. After many delays, at last disability welfare payments started to come on stream. But it proved to be little more than a trickle, Krytzer was awarded just $839 a month.
Luckily, a friend agreed to rent him a shack on land the good Samaritan owned just outside the city of Palmdale, near Los Angeles, CA. A grateful Krytzer moved in with his then girlfriend and future wife, Lisa. But even that basic accommodation cost $700 a month, leaving Krytzer with less than a couple of hundred to live on. Lisa was able to contribute a little, but it was not enough to make much of a difference. “It was rough,” Krytzer lamented. “I mean, we would literally go to Costco… and get a Costco [brand] hot dog and a Coke ’cause they were $1.50.”
Thankfully the couple were able to afford a television, because along came the day in late 2011 when Krytzer was tuned into PBS. His interest was piqued by an item on the channel’s Antiques Roadshow. In one particular segment, the show’s expert appraiser of antiques was a man called Don Ellis. He owned a Native American art gallery and was a collector of First Nation artifacts. A participant in the episode, Ted Kuntz from Tucson, Arizona, had brought along an antique blanket for Ellis to look over.
Kuntz knew little about the blanket apart from the fact that he believed it to be Navajo in origin. He claimed the bed cover had been given to a relative of his by Kit Carson, the legendary frontiersman who died in 1868. Ellis, however, immediately recognized the object for what it was. He was delighted to inform Kuntz that he was the owner of a superb and rare example of a First Phase Navajo blanket.
In the time-honored tradition of the Antiques Roadshow, Kuntz was astonished at the news, and then overjoyed when he learned of the piece’s value. Ellis unhesitatingly put a price on the modest-looking blanket of up to $500,000. Now, the thing that made Krytzer sit up and pay attention was that this was all very close to home. The blanket on TV looked amazingly similar to one that the former carpenter had in his closet. He had inherited the item, only to store it away and then think little more about it.
Krytzer told CNBC about what happened next. “I paused [the program] and I went and got the blanket and I’m sitting there holding it…” he remembered. “I’m lining up the lines on the TV with the blanket, seeing if they match. This guy is on TV, the appraiser says $300,000 to $500,000. So I’m thinking maybe this one is worth 5 to ten grand.”
Krytzer had come by the bed linen seven years previously, after the death of his grandmother. He had arrived at his deceased relatives home to pick up some books that she had promised him. Apart from that, he claimed there were very slim pickings. He recalled, “Everything was already pillaged through by my sister and my mother.” But there was one last overlooked bag to be investigated.
Folded inside the bag were two blankets which had been passed down by his grandmother’s mother. Krytzer’s sister immediately took one blanket, leaving the other of what she thought was inferior quality lying like a rag on the floor. According to Krytzer, “I said, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ She said, ‘I don’t want that, that dirty old thing.’ I picked it up… put it in my closet and there it sat for seven years.”
After seeing the expensive find on Antiques Roadshow, Krytzer was spurred into action and took his bed cover to various local antique stores. But none of the shop owners were impressed, telling him that it was an every-day Mexican blanket with no value. But after a few months, finally one antique dealer advised him to try John Moran Auctioneers in Monrovia, CA, which was known for dealing in Native American items.
So Krytzer took his grandmother’s heirloom along to an open appraisal day at John Moran Auctioneers. The founder’s son, Jeff Moran, was on hand to take a look at the item. Krytzer filled in Moran on the blanket’s long history in the family. Apparently, Krytzer’s great-great-grandfather John Chantland, a Dakota trader back in the 19th-century, had been the first owner of the bed linen.
As a result of the consultation, Moran told Krytzer that his blanket was likely to attract offers of about $200,000 at auction. The antique dealer arranged for the item to be listed as a lot at the next event held at the auctioneers. But, as we have seen, Krytzer was in dire financial straits and truly desperate for money, and he wasn’t sure that he could wait. As the date of the auction loomed, Krytzer was being increasingly tempted by speculative cash offers from other dealers.
Then came an act of kindness and compassion, qualities not usually associated with the antiques trade. Speaking to CNBC, Moran remembered, “I immediately went into crisis mode with [Krytzer]. I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, I’m gonna give you an advance.’” Subsequently, in a scene perhaps more reminiscent of a dodgy drug deal, Moran met his client in a Pizza Hut parking lot and handed over an envelope stuffed with $9,000 cash. With two weeks to go, that was enough to keep Krytzer on board until the day of the auction.
The John Moran Auctioneers event finally came around in early June, 2012. Bidding for the blanket began under its value at $150,000. Perhaps this was the reason the offers climbed briskly in increments of $50,000 until it reached a remarkable $1 million. After this, the bids advanced swiftly by $100,000 each time. Krytzer was in the room with Lisa and the emotion on their faces as the price increased to dizzying heights at such a rapid rate was a sight to see.
The bidding was indeed fast and furious. In fact, the entire process lasted just 77 seconds until the final bid was accepted with a bang of the auctioneer’s hammer. The winning telephone bid was an astonishing $1.5 million. And extraordinarily, the buyer was none other than Don Ellis – the very man that Krytzer had watched on the Antiques Roadshow valuing another Navajo blanket.
A thoroughly stunned Krytzer’s next move was to try and get his head together. After the auction, he took himself off to a hotel and spent five days alone in order to let the good news sink in. After fees, the former disability claimant would have $1.3 million coming his way. Sadly, he also started to hear from relatives looking for a pay-out. Sadly, his own sister threatened to sue him, but thankfully she later thought better of it.
Despite that unpleasantness, Krytzer was now able to enjoy his money. He said goodbye to the shack and bought two houses – one for Lisa and himself to live in and the other to provide rental income. He also splashed out on a 2012 Dodge Challenger, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and took a family cruise down to Mexico. But the canny ex-carpenter also wanted to build a comfortable future, and so Krytzer put some of his new-found wealth into stocks and bonds. And all thanks to his grandmother’s blanket, which ended up covering him for life.