Strange Inheritance: Quarter-million ancient arrowheads coveted by John Wayne

It’s a collection unlikely to be duplicated: nearly 250,000 ancient Native American arrowheads, some as old as 12,000 years.

North Carolina couple Moon and Irene Mullins amassed the relics over a half-century, and Moon willed it to his friend and caregiver Jerry Williams.

The collection is featured on the FOX Business Network series, “Strange Inheritance with Jamie Colby.” The episode premieres Monday, Jan. 22, at 9 p.m. ET.

“The Mullins Collection surpasses anything I’ve seen in private hands,” says Joe Candillo, Native American historian and a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe. “It’s breathtaking. You’re just overtaken by the number of arrowheads."

Wayne Underwood, another friend of the North Carolina couple, tells Colby that movie star John Wayne once tried to buy it from Moon.

“Not even John Wayne could convince him to part with it. Moon turned him down immediately.”

“The Mullinses began arrowhead hunting in the 1930s, when the small relics were still scattered across the American landscape,” says Underwood. “Just about any place you go, Native Americans have been there and you could usually find something if you were patient and hunted for it.”

Underwood recalls that the couple would “hunt all day long. They just loved life and they loved spending it together.”

They found their biggest hauls on farms — fertile land where tribes built villages, leaving behind artifacts.

After Irene died in 1982 at age 69, Moon asked his friend Jerry Williams and Jerry’s wife to move in with him. That would spare him from a rest home where he could not bring his collection.

“He didn’t want to lose it. That was his greatest fear,” Underwood said.

Williams cared for Mullins until he died in 1987, leaving the arrowheads to Williams, who assumed it would be worth more than a million dollars if he sold it piecemeal.

Historian Joe Candillo agrees the collection is worth a bundle. “As you go back in time, typically an arrowhead becomes more valuable. Some of the oldest points, my goodness, I have seen those go anywhere from five hundred to a couple thousand dollars.”

Even on the low end, intact arrowheads can sell for $5 to $15 apiece.

But Williams, who is part Native American himself, hoped to keep the collection together. Meantime, Underwood hoped he might display them at his roadside attraction and museum in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, called Mystery Hill.

“The day I heard Moon died, I said a prayer that someday I’d be able to buy that collection,” says Underwood.

It would take ten years, but Williams and Underwood ultimately struck a deal.

To keep the collection together, Williams was willing to take $300,000. Underwood, however, didn’t have even that much cash.

“But,” he says, “I did have the ability to sell tickets.”

Underwood offered to pay Jerry and his wife $1 from every ticket sold to Mystery Hill. When those payments reached $300,000, Underwood’s museum would own the collection, but continue to pay Williams and his wife a buck a ticket for the rest of Williams’s life.

It’s turned out to be a win-win. To date the couple has received nearly $400,000 and counting. And now Underwood is planning a new building to house the collection, which— because of new laws making it illegal to take arrowheads from public lands — almost certainly can’t be equaled.