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Indiana Jones Ark of the Covenant could be worth a face-melting $250K

Antiques Roadshow sheds light on the pyrotechnic prototype, which was made from picture frames and trophies.

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This Ark of the Covenant movie prop was made with hot glue, picture frames, trophies and spray paint.

Antiques Roadshow/PBS

You don't have to be Indiana Jones to track down the Ark of the Covenant. On Monday's episode of Antiques Roadshow, a lucky owner of the first special-effects prototype of the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark brought the prop in to be appraised. 

"My father worked on the film, and we've had it in our apartment in San Francisco when I was growing up, and now it's been passed on to me," the unnamed owner said in the video. "I got to tell my friends that I had the Ark of the Covenant at home. It was a lot of fun."

The owner revealed that his father worked at Industrial Light & Magic  (ILM) during the '80s as a pyrotechnician and stage tech on such films as Raiders, Star Wars and Star Trek. Founded by George Lucas, ILM created special effects and visual effects for Star Wars movies, the Indiana Jones films, Star Trek films, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and many more.

While the collector's name isn't revealed during the appraisal (Antiques Roadshow doesn't usually doesn't name the guests ), the owner's father could be ILM pyrotechnician Thaine Morris or stage tech William Beck, Dick Dova, Bob Finley III, Pat Fitzsimmons, Edward Hirsh, John McLeod, Peter Stolz or Ted Moehnke.

Released in 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first film collaboration between filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Actor Harrison Ford plays archaeologist Indiana Jones, who's in search of the powerful religious relic, the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark of the Covenant prop was designed by concept artist Ralph McQuarrie. The design was also inspired by the artist James Tissot. The final film version of Ark of the Covenant is archived at Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch

Antiques Roadshow appraiser James Supp noted that this particular Ark of the Covenant prop looked somewhat different than the final version seen on screen.


The final design of the Ark of the Covenant as seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark looks very different than the pyrotechnic prototype.


"This has every indication that it's just a thrown-together movie prop," Supp said in the video. "You've got a hot-melt glue gun doing all the fancy designs. All this trim here is made from picture frames. And my favorite part is, these tops here are made from trophies."

This prop was made specifically for the pyrotechnics that would go inside and light on fire during the final climactic scene when the Nazis open the ark and end up dying, or more like melting, in a blaze of fire.

"This is the closest anybody in the private market can get to owning the Ark of the Covenant from the Raiders of the Lost Ark," Supp said. "We estimate at auction a very conservative value of $80,000 to $120,000. Realistically, I can see it getting into quarter-million-dollar range."

"Not bad for hot glue and spray paint," the owner responded. 

Originally published Feb. 25, 2:31 p.m. PT.