Meet The California Man Who Was Broke And Destitute, Before Selling A Navajo Blanket Worth $1.5 Million.
Loren Krytzer was struggling financially when he walked into a California auction house to find out the value of an old Navajo blanket that had been sitting in a closet in his house for seven years. When he walked out less than two minutes later, he was $1.5 million richer.
Krytzer told CNBC the blanket he sold, which was from the 1800s, “gave me a new lease on life.”
The blanket was given to Krytzer because nobody else in his family knew what it was worth. After his grandmother passed away, he went to her house to collect books that she promised him he could take. When he arrived at the house, he said that “everything was already pillaged through by my sister and my mother.”
The last bag still sitting in the house contained two old blankets passed down from his great-grandmother. One was a Hudson’s Bay blanket and the other was a Navajo blanket, which he remembered his grandmother using one time on their back porch when her cat had kittens.
Krytzer’s sister grabbed the Hudson’s Bay blanket, while the Navajo blanket fell to the ground.
“I said, ‘What are you going to do with that?'” Krytzer recalled. “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.”
In the seven years following, Krytzer had a difficult time. A car accident in 2007 brought his career as a freelance carpenter to an end.
After the accident, Krytzer spent nearly a year in the hospital on dialysis. He had nerve damage and micro fractures in his left foot, which eventually caused an infection. Things were beginning to look worse.
“I kept trying to do the best I could, and finally it got so bad they said, ‘Now we have to cut your foot off,'” he recalled.
Despite having his foot amputated, he was denied disability several times. He had to to send his children to live with their grandparents in Louisiana.
“I mean, what do you do?” he said. “I had kids to take care of, no money, you know? Nothing saved up or nothing like that.”
Krytzer was eventually able to get disability, but things were still difficult. According to Little Things, his disability check is only $839.
In 2011, Kryzter had a glimmer of hope as he saw on an episode of “Antiques Roadshow” that a First Phase Navajo blanket sold for about $500,000. The appraiser said that the textiles were expensive even at the time they were made.
“I paused it and I went and got the blanket and I’m sitting there holding it … I’m lining up the lines on the TV with the blanket, seeing if they match,” he said. The lines matched up almost perfectly. “This guy is on TV, the appraiser says $300,000 to $500,000.”
Krytzer said that in that moment he thought, “maybe this one is worth $5 to $10 grand.” However, when he showed the episode to his mother, she thought he was crazy.
Several antique dealers turned him away or dismissed the blanket as run-of-the-mill. Then, he found John Moran Auctioneers, which specializes in Native American artifacts. He saw the company was having an open appraisal day and decided to head there.
Moran was shocked when he saw what Kryzter had. He sent the blanket for testing and the results were stunning — the textile was one of the finest and rarest in the world.
“This has only happened maybe three or four times with an unknown blanket where you see something and you know right away,” Moran said. “You walk into the room [and] you can tell that you’re looking at something that is not just uncommonly beautiful, but that is still very much part of the time in which it was made.”
Moran told Krytzer the blanket could sell for about $200,000, so he briefly considered bringing it to competing companies to see if he could get more money up front. Moran told him not to, and gave him an advance of $9,000.
On June 12, 2012, the auction took place. Krtyzer was stunned as bids came in, ending with a final bid of $1.5 million.
“They had to bring over water and stuff to me and wipe sweat off my head,” Krytzer said. “I started hyperventilating because I couldn’t believe it … Everything just went limp and I couldn’t catch my breath.”
After the auction, distant relatives began calling to ask for a cut of his money and his sister even threatened to sue him before deciding not to.
Finally, things worked out. Krytzer invested in stocks and municipal bonds and was able to buy two homes — one he lives in with his wife and another that he rents out.
After getting everything straightened out, he decided to treat himself to a nice car and a cruise to Mexico with his wife and her daughters.
Krytzer said that the money hasn’t changed him much.
“I mean, I have a home, a beautiful home, and several cars, but I’d give anything to still be working,” he says. “Sitting around even if you’re in a nice home or you’re living in a shack, you’re sitting around bored doing nothing.”
Krytzer credits the auction with saving his life.
“I firmly believe I’m here because years ago I turned my life around,” he says. “The things I’ve been through, I tell people it’s a strong faith and a strong mind. Without those things you’re not going to make it.”