Vase bought at Goodwill for $3.99 sells for more than $100,000


Jessica Vincent made her way through a busy Goodwill thrift store in Hanover County, Virginia, in June, past VCRs, lamps and glassware commonly sold at big-box retailers. Nothing really caught her eye until she saw an iridescent glass vase.

After walking around the store, he returned to the bottle-shaped vase with red and green swirls. He noticed a small “M” at the bottom that he believed represented Murano, an island off Venice and the historic home of Italian glassware.

I had a feeling it might be worth something.

“I had a feeling it might be a $1,000 or $2,000 piece,” he said, adding, “but I had no idea how good it actually was until I did a little more research.”

The vase was priceless. Vincent, 43, told herself she would pay $8.99 and nothing more. When the cashier called her, it was $3.99.

When she returned home from the Goodwill thrift store in June, she joined Facebook groups to identify the glass and learn more about the vase. Some members told her it looked like it was designed by Carlo Scarpa, a renowned Italian architect, and referred her to Wright Auction House.

She sent photos and almost immediately Richard Wright, the president of the auction house, asked if he could call. “The moment I saw the photos I had a really good feeling,” she said.

On Wednesday, the vase was auctioned for $107,100 to an unnamed private art collector in Europe. About $83,500 went to Mrs. Vincent and about $23,600 went to Wright Auction House.

Specialists who evaluated the piece determined that it was part of the “Pennellate” series that Scarpa designed in the 1940s. It is unclear how many such vases were made, Wright said.

He said what impressed him most was the impeccable condition of the glass.

“If it had a chip, even a small chip, it probably would have sold for less than $10,000,” he said. “This was like a winning lottery ticket.”

It was unclear how the vase arrived at the Goodwill store. A Goodwill Industries representative could not immediately be reached on Sunday.

Specialists at the Wright auction house initially estimated that the vase could fetch a price between $30,000 and $50,000. Despite its monetary value, Ms Vincent said she knew she did not want to keep it.

“When I learned how rare they are and the value they could have, I was a little nervous to have him because anything could happen to him,” she said. “When you have such an expensive piece it makes you think: 'What if?'”

His mind remembered that it had been knocked down, that someone had broken in, or that it had been ruined in a fire or some kind of natural disaster.

“I knew I wanted to get it back into the art world. They didn’t know it existed,” Ms. Vincent said. “I feel like I saved him from the darkness.”

And in a way, that saved her too, she said.

In January, Ms. Vincent, who trains polo horses, bought a farmhouse built in 1930. It needs major renovations and, for now, is being heated with two space heaters. With her new money, she hopes to upgrade her heating system, install a dishwasher and add fencing.

Ms Vincent said she has been visiting thrift stores with her mother since she was a child and over the years has developed an eye for hidden treasures. Ms. Vincent also said she is an avid fan of “Antiques Roadshow” and loves researching her purchases.

In the past, he has purchased items for a few dollars, such as a Bali wood carving and Burt Groedel lithographs, which he believes were worth a few thousand dollars.

However, in all his years of thrift store shopping, he never expected a discovery to change his life, but that's part of the fun, he said.

“You never know what you're going to find,” Ms. Vincent said. “It's the thrill of the hunt.”

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