Posted on: May 5, 2020 at 6:51 pm

“Everybody loves a rags to riches story,” says Loren Krytzer, a man who went from surviving on disability checks to become a millionaire in a matter of minutes. 

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Krytzer worked as a freelance carpenter until a car accident and a leg amputation took his livelihood from him. He was barely scraping by until he realized an old family heirloom was actually a Navajo blanket from the 1800s was worth $1.5 million. 

Selling the blanket “gave me a new lease on life,” Krytzer told CNBC. “It truly did.” [1] 

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Down on His Luck 

He inherited the blanket from his grandmother, who didn’t know its value either. When she passed away, he went to her house to get the books she had promised him. “Everything was already pillaged through by my sister and my mother,” he describes. 

There was a bag with two blankets in it. One was a soft Hudson’s Bay blanket and the other was the Navajo blanket that his grandmother had once spread over the porch when her cat was giving birth. Krytzer’s sister took the Hudson’s Bay blanket but the other fell out.  

“I said, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ 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,” he says. 

Those seven years included the downward spiral of Kryzer’s luck, the end of his carpentry career, and the loss of his leg. 

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“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 recalls.  

He struggled to get disability payments, which forced him to send his kids to their grandparents in Louisiana. 

“I mean, what do you do? I had kids to take care of, no money, you know? Nothing saved up or nothing like that,” Krytzer says. 

When he was able to get disability, it provided enough money to move into a friend’s shack in Leona Valley, which he managed to negotiate rent to $700, leaving $200 to live on, not including whatever income came from Lisa, his then-girlfriend, now-wife. 

Read: Dentistry Student Shares Touching Story of Being Raised by Father with Down Syndrome

The Auction That Changed His Life 

In 2011, Krytzer watched an episode of “Antiques Roadshow” where an elderly man was surprised to learn that his First Phase Navajo blanket was worth about $500,000. Not a strange episode for anyone besides for Krytzer who recognized the blanket on TV as being similar to the one in his closet. 

“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,” Krytzer says. “This guy is on TV, the appraiser says $300,000 to $500,000. So I’m thinking maybe this one is worth $5 to $10 grand.” [2] 

Krytzer seemed to be the only one who thought the blanket was worth anything. His grandmother thought no one would give him 10 bucks for it, and several antique dealers turned him away or dismissed it as an average Mexican blanket. One directed him to John Moran Auctioneers, a local family-run auction company that specializes in Native American artifacts. 

“I looked them up online and they had an ad for bringing in items, like an open [appraisal] day,” he says. 

He drove half an hour to the auction and brought the blanket that became the most expensive item Moran’s company has ever sold. It helped that Krytzer knew the history of the blanket, which began with his great-great-grandfather John Chantland, a Dakota tradesman from the 1800s. The textile was found to be one of the rarest and finest of the Navajo chief’s blankets, according to the appraiser and specialist Joshua Baer. 

“This has only happened maybe three or four times with an unknown blanket where you see something and you know right away,” Bauer says. “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.” 

On Tuesday, June 12, 2012, the auction happened. Krytzer was praying he’d be able to fix his car a bit or buy a house afterward.  

What resulted was an intense bidding war for 77 seconds and the final payment of $1.5 million. 

“They had to bring over water and stuff to me and wipe sweat off my head,” Krytzer says. “I started hyperventilating because I couldn’t believe it. Everything just went limp and I couldn’t catch my breath.” [3] 

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New Life, New Problems 

Although Jeff Moran took Krytzer aside to warn him about the reality of a sudden windfall, Krytzer was still surprised at how fast money can dwindle. 

Krytzer used much of his fortune to buy two homes in Central California but began losing $10,000 a year in insurance and property taxes. He has no income since he is no longer on disability.  

“We’re getting taxed to death here, I can’t afford it,” he says. “I’m from California, I grew up here, but without working it’s just hard to survive.” 

He and his wife are now researching homes in Idaho where life and taxes are less expensive. 

Another issue has occurred when people heard about his new fortune. Distant family members call him asking for cut, to the point that Krytzer began suffering from frequent anxiety attacks. His sister even threatened to sue him for some of the blanket’s profit. 

“I had people calling me and bugging me and stuff,” Krytzer says. “People you haven’t seen in years, family members that don’t talk to you… You get some money and they’re like, ‘Where’s mine?’” 

It’s been especially difficult explaining this to his children. 

“When I first got the money, I helped them out,” Krytzer says. “But now it’s like I can’t do it, I don’t have it, and they are like, ‘You have millions of dollars, you’re being selfish.’” 

A Good Life  

Despite these hardships, Krytzer declares that they are worth it. He has mostly spent the money wisely on stocks and bonds, real estate, and the occasional splurges that were impossible when he had only $200 to spend a month. 

He took Lisa and his three daughters on a cruise to Mexico and bought a 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8. 

“I never had nothing like that, so I wanted a nice car and I did, I bought one,” he says. 

He doesn’t believe that the money has changed him; actually, he thinks it saved 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.” [4] 

Keep Reading: After Overcoming 11 Years of Addiction to Heroin, This Man Is Touching Millions of Lives

References: 

[1] Christina Colizza. After Antiques Roadshow epiphany, man living on disability sells old family blanket for $1.5 million. The Week. https://theweek.com/speedreads/740489/after-antiques-roadshow-epiphany-man-living-disability-sells-old-family-blanket-15-million November 30, 2017 

[2] Jason Duaine Hahn. Man Living on Disability Becomes an Overnight Millionaire After Selling an Old Blanket For $1.5M. People. https://people.com/human-interest/man-living-on-disability-becomes-an-overnight-millionaire-after-selling-an-old-blanket-for-1-5m/ November 23, 2017 

[3] Zack Guzman. This man was living on $200 a month when he sold a ‘worthless’ blanket for $1.5 million. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/20/krytzer-sold-navajo-blanket-thought-to-be-worthless-for-1-point-5-million.html November 21, 2017 

[4] Zack Guzman. Man who became a millionaire after living on $200 a month says these are the downsides of a windfall. Make It. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/29/man-who-went-from-broke-to-millionaire-reveals-pains-of-big-windfalls.html December 29, 2017 

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Sarah Schafer
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.

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