Secondhand shopping is all about the thrill of the hunt: Sifting through dozens—if not hundreds—of pieces in hopes you’ll find a great bang for your buck. (And, if the piece that catchy your eye also comes with an excellent story, or turns out to be a priceless antique? Even better.) That’s what happened to one woman, who asked to remain anonymous, when she hit the thrift store jackpot, unknowingly picking up a Newell Convers Wyeth painting for…wait for it, $4.
According to NPR, the woman found the “quite heavy and dusty” artwork in a pile of frames at a New Hampshire-based thrift store called Saver back in 2017. Six years after she purchased it for $4, she rediscovered the painting while cleaning out her closet. (Yup, this valuable artwork went from a thrift store stack to a dark closet.) She had a hunch that this painting might be worth something, so she posted it to a Facebook group called Things Found in Walls – And Other Hidden Findings, which directed her to another Facebook group dedicated to Wyeth’s work. Little did she know, her impulse buy was one of the original four illustrations the artist created for Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona, a 1939 novel that chronicles an orphan living in Southern California after the Mexican-American war.
Lauren Lewis, the conservator who authenticated the painting, said that this work simply disappeared for 80 years—only to show up at the thrift store of all places. Lewis notes that this bargain buy was painted on a panel by Renaissance Panels, a brand Wyeth typically used, which tipped her off that this could be the real deal. Several meetings later, and it was settled: This $4 purchase was an original Wyeth work.
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As if finding an artistic diamond in the rough isn’t exciting enough, this painting is poised to be worth some serious coin; Bonhams Skinner is putting the piece up for auction on September 19, where it is estimated to sell for as much as $250,000. That’s a potential profit of $249,996.
As we wait to hear how much Wyeth’s work goes for, remember that you truly never know what you’ll find at a thrift store. (Sometimes, it’s a potentially haunted painting; others, it’s an illustration that goes for a quarter of a million dollars.) If you’re looking to find the best bang for your buck, check out these unexpected thrift store finds that are often worth a lot of money.
Kelsey Mulvey is a freelance lifestyle journalist, who covers shopping and deals for Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, and ELLE Decor, among others. Her hobbies include themed spinning classes, Netflix, and nachos.