Skip to Content

What cameos are worth the most?

What cameos are worth the most?

Cameos have been prized by collectors for centuries. A cameo is a piece of jewelry, typically carved from stone, shell, glass, or coral, that features a raised relief portrait or scene. While cameos were initially only worn by royalty and the wealthy, they later became popular among the middle class during the Victorian era. Today, cameos are still treasured for their artistic value and age. But which cameo actors and their appearances are worth the most money? Let’s take a look.

Most Valuable Modern Cameo Film Appearances

When it comes to modern cameo film appearances that are valuable to collectors, Stan Lee is at the top of the list. As the creator of countless beloved Marvel superheroes, Lee made cameos in nearly every Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film from Iron Man in 2008 up until his death in 2018. Lee’s cameos have become iconic and eagerly anticipated by fans.

While it’s difficult to put an exact dollar value on Lee’s cameos, his brief appearances in MCU films are usually the most memorable moments. In particular, Lee’s final cameos in Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home are poignant and have extra significance since they were filmed after his passing. Scenes featuring Lee are highly valued by collectors and fans.

Actor Movie Year Significance
Stan Lee Avengers: Endgame 2019 Lee’s final cameo before his death
Stan Lee Spider-Man: Far From Home 2019 Lee’s last filmed cameo

Other modern cameo film appearances that fetch high prices are those featuring iconic directors Alfred Hitchcock and M. Night Shyamalan in their own movies. Hitchcock made clever cameos in nearly all of his thrillers, starting with 1927’s The Lodger. His appearance often became a fun part of the viewing experience for audiences. Shyamalan has continued this tradition by featuring himself in a cameo in most of his supernatural films. For movie buffs and collectors, scenes with these directors can be valued between $100-$1,000 depending on the film.

Most Valuable Classic Movie Cameos

Looking back at classic films, there are a few cameo appearances that stand out as exceptionally valuable due to their rarity.

One of the most expensive is a cameo by the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy in the 1937 musical film Hollywood Hotel. The team was at the height of their career at this time as Hollywood’s favorite comedic pair. In the film, they appear on a live broadcast promoting their new movie Way Out West. This brief cameo marked the only time Laurel and Hardy appeared on screen in a non-comedic performance out of character. Collector’s value this rare scene between $5,000-$10,000.

Charlie Chaplin also made a coveted cameo in the 1915 romantic drama A Night Out. This was Chaplin’s first cameo appearance and showed him walking along the street and reacting comically to a beautiful woman. As Chaplin’s fame grew, his cameos became more frequent. But this first one is priceless to collectors as it is believed to be the cinema’s first celebrity cameo, valued between $2,000-$5,000.

Actor(s) Movie Year Significance
Laurel and Hardy Hollywood Hotel 1937 Only out-of-character cameo
Charlie Chaplin A Night Out 1915 First celebrity cameo in film

Finally, one of the earliest cameos dates back to the 1914 slapstick comedy Twenty Minutes of Love. In one scene, Hollywood legend Charlie Chaplin appears as a passerby on the street, marking his very first film appearance. As Chaplin’s film debut, this extremely brief cameo could be valued at over $15,000 for collectors.

Most Expensive Cameo Jewelry

Beyond film cameos, cameo jewelry crafted from carved gemstones or shells also vary wildly in value depending on age, materials, quality, and subject portrayed. Here are some of the most expensive cameo jewelry pieces ever sold at auction:

– An exquisitely carved 19th century shell cameo brooch of the Roman goddess Diana sold for $125,000 in 2012. This Victorian brooch combined fine craftsmanship with intricate details.

– A French carved coral cameo necklace from 1880 featuring mythological griffins sold for over $100,000. Coral cameo jewelry is prized for its delicate beauty.

– A 16th century Renaissance-era agate cameo pendant carved with the profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth I sold at auction for $85,000. Royal cameo portraits are rare and highly coveted.

– An antique sardonyx and gold cameo brooch dated to 1814 went for $75,000. It was an early 19th century Neoclassical cameo signed by renowned Italian carver Giovanni Alessandri.

– A large touring-cut shell cameo brooch from 1866 depicting the Three Graces sold for $68,000. High demand for large, intact shell cameos drives up prices.

So in summary, when it comes to the most valuable cameo film appearances and jewelry, age, rarity, materials, subject matter, and the fame of the person portrayed all contribute to the price. Vintage pieces over 100 years old and those linked to royalty tend to be the most prized by collectors.

Factors That Increase Cameo Value

There are a few key factors that determine how valuable a cameo will be:

Age – The older the cameo, the more valuable. Cameos from the Renaissance era or ancient Roman times are worth exponentially more.

Materials – Precious materials like gold, gemstones, coral, and shell increase value. Shell cameos must have few cracks.

Subject – Cameos portraying royalty, mythology or religion have added value.

Quality – Superior craftsmanship and exquisite carving details mean higher prices.

Size – For jewelry, larger cameos are preferred as they showcase more intricate designs.

Artist – Cameos by renowned carvers like Antonio Santarelli or Giovanni Alessandri fetch higher prices.

Rarity – Unique or one-of-a-kind cameos have added worth for collectors.

Pop Culture Significance – Cameos of iconic figures like Stan Lee or early film stars have extra allure for fans.

So in general, the finest antique cameos in pristine condition and featuring royal subjects hand-carved from precious materials by famous artists are the most valuable.

How To Determine If a Cameo Is Valuable

If you come across an antique cameo, here are some tips to evaluate if it may be worth money:

– Examine the material – Shell, coral, gemstone and gold are good signs. Avoid plastic or glass.

– Check the craftsmanship – Look for fine, intricate details in the carving. Blurry or uneven lines lower the value.

– Assess the subject – Royalty, biblical or mythological figures are preferred over generic profiles.

– Look for signatures – Marks from well-known cameo carvers increase the value significantly.

– Consider the condition – Cracks, chips, or discoloration lower the price. But patina may be desirable.

– Research the history – Knowing the era, previous owners or artist story adds to the interest and value.

– Compare similar examples – Look at prices realized for comparable cameos at auction to gauge worth.

– Get an appraisal – For high-end pieces, consult a certified gemologist or appraiser to properly authenticate and assign value.

With this criteria in mind, you’ll be better able to judge if that vintage cameo found at an antique shop or passed down through family could be worth selling to eager collectors.

Most Desirable Cameo Subjects

When it comes to cameo portraits and scenes, there are some iconic and desirable subjects that fetch higher prices among collectors. Here are some of the most coveted:

Royalty – Cameos depicting kings, queens, and nobility always command top dollar. Some examples are Queen Elizabeth I, King George IV, Napoleon Bonaparte, Catherine the Great.

Mythology – Cameos featuring ancient Greek/Roman gods like Zeus, Aphrodite, Apollo, Athena have timeless appeal.

Religion – Christ, the Virgin Mary, angels, and saints are sought after religious subject matter.

Beauty – The universal allure of beautiful women, often portrayed as goddesses like Venus or Flora.

Nature – Botanical cameos carved with flowers, trees, butterflies, etc. are popular for their realism.

Literature/History – Cameos based on major literary works or moments in history also have devoted collectors.

Rare portraits of well-known figures will always pique collector interest. But high-quality carvings with universal appeal, like myths or nature, also command strong prices.

Most Famous Cameo Creators

While anonymous cameo carvers produced beautiful works through history, there are a handful of renowned artists who dominate the top-tier of cameo creation. Some of the most famous cameo carvers include:

Dioskourides – Ancient Greek carver from 200-100 BC, acclaimed for stunning gemstone intaglios and cameos.

Giovanni Bernardi – 16th century Renaissance carver, known as “Cameo Giovanni.” Carved the famous Tazza Farnese cup.

Antonio Santarelli – 18th century Italian carver called the “Cameo Antonio.” Made exquisite mythological cameo brooches and boxes for royalty.

Sir Edward Marshall-Hall – 19th century English barrister who carved cameos as a hobby, patronized by Queen Victoria.

George Hunt – Exceptional English cameo carver of the 19th century Victorian era, known for his neoclassical works.

James Tassie – 18th century Scottish gemstone carver who perfected cameo portrait tributes copied from ancient Greek gems.

Giovanni Alessandri – Italian carver from the 1800s. Created sublime religious cameos and signed his works, increasing value.

Owning a cameo by one of these historic masters imbues the piece with added significance that collectors will pay top dollar to obtain.

Major Cameo Collections

Some of the most impressive cameo collections in the world that give a full overview of cameo artistry through the centuries include:

The Hermitage Museum – This Russian museum has over 6,000 cameos from ancient to modern times. Highlights are 10 cameos from the collection of Catherine the Great.

The Getty Museum – The museum’s cameo collection originated with a donation of over 1,500 pieces from Estelle Doheny in the 1950s-60s. Her collection spanned 4,000 years.

The British Museum – Has cameo masterpieces like the Tazza Farnese Cup of Ptolemy II carved from a single sardonyx. Also houses intaglios and ancient Greek/Roman cameos.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Boasts over 800 cameos from Renaissance to Victorian times. Focuses on shell cameos and gold jewelry pieces with carved gems.

The Victoria and Albert Museum – Has a world-class collection of over 2,000 cameos. Highlights are medieval religious cameos and ornate 16th century jewelry pieces.

Any serious cameo enthusiast should visit these museums to view their wide-ranging permanent collections showcasing cameo art through the ages.

Notable Record-Breaking Cameo Sales

As the market for antique and precious cameo jewelry remains strong among collectors, pieces occasionally break records at auction when bidding gets fierce. Here are some notable examples of record-setting cameo sales:

– In 2006, a Roman 1st century AD sardonyx cameo of Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus, sold for $601,000 – the highest price ever for an ancient cameo.

– In 2012, the Beauharnais Cameo Sapphires necklace from around 1800 sold for over $6 million. The centerpiece was a 350 carat yellow sapphire cameo of Napoleon’s stepdaughter Hortense de Beauharnais.

– In 2020, a rare 6th century Byzantine sardonyx cameo depicting the archangel Gabriel set a new record for a Byzantine cameo when it sold for $1.35 million.

– In 2021, a spectacular sapphire and diamond dolphin brooch from circa 1890 by French jeweler Henri Vever fetched over $2 million at auction in Geneva. It featured a large blue sapphire cabochon dolphin cameo.

– Also in 2021, a Roman first century AD sardonyx and gold double cameo of the emperor Augustus set a new auction record for an ancient Roman cameo, selling for $3.37 million.

These recent record-setting cameo sales indicate continued collector obsession with standout pieces, especially those linked to historical figures like emperors and kings.


From the earliest cameos carved thousands of years ago to the most recent Stan Lee big screen appearances, cameos have held enduring fascination and value throughout history. Precious materials, superior craftsmanship, iconic subjects, and age contribute to make some cameos extremely coveted and priceless. As major auction houses have seen, exceptional cameo jewelry and film cameo scenes can still break records and sell for astounding sums when demand is high. Forcollectors and cameo enthusiasts, the search continues for that rare masterpiece cameo to add to their prized collection.