NEW YORK (Reuters) - Five rhinoceros horn cups that had been appraised on the popular television show "Antiques Roadshow" could fetch $1 million when they will be sold at auction next week, Sotheby's said.
Douglas Huber, a Vietnam veteran from Oklahoma, had brought his set of Qing Dynasty carved rhinoceros cups, which he started collecting in 1969, to a filming of the show in Tulsa, Oklahoma last year.
Appraiser Lark Mason valued the set of five intricately carved horns at $1 million to $1.5 million -- the highest value in the show's long history.
"They are in superb condition and represent a fine and comprehensive group that showcases the different styles of these extraordinary objects," Sotheby's said in a statement.
The auction house will sell the cups on March 20 in New York at its sale of fine Chinese ceramics and works of art. It has estimated the group will fetch between $700,000 and $1 million, with individual ones estimated as $120,000 to $250,000.
Huber collected the cups over 40 years, including one purchased at Sotheby's in 1977.
Once he heard the television show was coming to his home state he rallied his co-workers to apply for tickets, and scored one of the 3,000 sets issued from among 19,000 applications.
"I have kind of been following prices of rhinoceros horn cups and they kind of skyrocketed," Huber told the Tulsa World newspaper.
"They are being bought up by the Chinese," he added. "I didn't buy them for investment but for the rarity of them and the beauty."
Huber paid about $5,000 total for the cups.
The highlight of the group is an "Eight Immortals" rhinoceros horn cup from the Qing Dynasty, 17th-18th century, which Sotheby's expects to sell for $180,000 to $250,000.
The piece depicts a lively interpretation of the eight immortals welcoming Shoulao, the god of longevity -- a popular birthday motif that is used to wish the recipient a long life filled with blessings, Sotheby's explained.
The cup is similar to many that are in major museum collections.
All five cups will go on public exhibition at the auction house's New York headquarters on Friday.
Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney