Somewhere in the bowels of Skywalker ranch, the original Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark may rest — perhaps even boxed away to slumber for another eon in a dark, musty recess not unlike its final storage place in the landmark 1981 movie. But if you want the next best thing to the sacred relic that melted faces on the big screen, the prop version of the Ark that showed up recently on Antiques Roadshow is your surest bet.
To the delight of staffers on the long-running PBS series, the unnamed owner of the treasured artifact wheeled in a version of the Ark he said his father — a former Industrial Light and Magic employee — helped create while working as a pyro technician on the Steven Spielberg-directed, George Lucas-created first film. By the time appraiser/host James Supp arrived at the prop’s estimated value, the money felt like almost an afterthought, as you can see below...
So where has the Ark been hanging out all this time? In the owner’s apartment, where he confessed it served as blanket (maybe holy shroud?) storage during his formative years. And even though this version isn’t the one we see on screen, Supp said its backstory actually makes that “the best part about it.”
“That original prop is somewhere in the Lucasfilm archives at Skywalker ranch,” said Supp, adding that “this is the closest anybody in the private market can get to owning the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The owner’s father actually cobbled the relic together in crude, made-for-abuse fashion, with hot glue serving as a fixative and the tops of real trophies standing in as makeshift adornments on the Ark’s look-but-don’t-touch lid.
“This has every indication that it was thrown together as a movie prop,” said Supp, noting that the Ark’s stand-in decorations differ from those designed for the screen version by late, great ILM illustrator and concept artist Ralph McQuarrie. McQuarrie’s creation, he added, was “what inspired me to get into antiques, because he made antiques sexy and cool. And the Ark of the Covenant was the main object of desire — the McGuffin — of one of the most successful movie franchises of all time.”
Not that we’d be in a hurry to profit from a vessel that specifically targets the greedy for destruction, but we know you’re dying to know what one of movie history’s most potent artifacts is worth. Supp said a conservative estimate would place its value between $80,000 and $120,000, but added that he “can even see it getting into the quarter of a million dollar range” with the right mix of treasure-obsessed bidders.
“Not bad for hot glue and spray paint,” the owner responded — though we have to wonder if you can really put a price on a holy artifact that, as Indy knows firsthand, you should never try to behold at full power.