Broke Man Sells ‘Worthless’ Family Heirloom Blanket for US$1.5 Million

Loren Krytzer could never have imagined that a ‘worthless’ old blanket inherited from his great-grandmother would save his life. Having lost a leg after a near-fatal car accident in 2007, Krytzer had been living in a friend’s shack in California and relying on just US$200 left over from his disability checks. He had to send his children to live with their grandparents in Louisiana.

Loren Krytzer and his wife

Krytzer’s Navajo Blanket

Until one day in 2011, he saw an episode of Antiques Roadshow in which an elderly man sold a First Phase Navajo blanket for US$500,000. The appraiser, Native American gallery owner and art collector Don Ellis, explained that the textiles were expensive even in their own era. They could cost as much as a high-status person back then made in four years. The blanket on the screen reminded Krytzer of the similar-looking blanket sitting in his closet for seven years. The blanket was passed down from his great-grandmother and once used by his grandmother as a catch-cloth for a litter of kittens.

The blanket that Krytzer saw on Antiques Roadshow

While Krytzer was hoping that his blanket could fetch US$5 to 10 grand, his mother thought he'd be lucky to get $10 for it. Krytzer later took the blanket to John Moran Auctioneers and sent it out for testing. It was proven to be one of the finest and rarest Navajo chief's blankets in the world.

The blanket was offered at an auction in June 2012 and sparked an intense bidding battle between a phone buyer and Don Ellis. In only 77 seconds, the bids climbed from its opening price of US$150,000 to US$500,000 to US$1 million before selling for US$1.5 million to Don Ellis.

Krytzer became a millionaire overnight thanks to the life-changing family blanket. Krytzer used his fortune to buy two homes, a customized Dodge Challenger SRT8 and a Harley Davidson. His wife and three daughters were also treated to a cruise holiday to Mexico. However, the windfall also came along with downsides. He got calls from distant relatives asking for a share and suffered from frequent anxiety attacks. His sister threatened to sue him before backing down.