Five Fortunes Found at Thrift Shops

If you shop at thrift stores, then you already know that there are many great deals available to help you deck out your home, or some affordable outfits, but for some people, minor thrift store purchases have left them with some major profits.

The Declaration of Independence: $477,650

Michael Sparks visited a thrift store near his home one day to purchase a few items for his house. He ended up buying a candleholder, some salt and pepper shakers and what he thought was a reprint of the Declaration of Independence priced at $2.48.

After looking at his purchase for a few days, he thought the print might actually be a little older than he originally thought, but it was only after researching the issue on the net that he learned he was actually holding one of the original 200 authentic copies of the document –even rarer because there are only 36 copies known to exist today. When he got it appraised, he was told it would probably be worth about $250,000. Amazingly, the actual auction price ended up going for almost twice that –an amazing $477,650.

Sources: USA Today and Mental Floss

A 360 Year Old Painting: $190,000

A little while ago, an 81 year-old Massachusetts man named Leroy was shopping at his local Goodwill when a framed painting caught his eye. Leroy used to be an antique dealer so he was able to estimate that the fame was from the 1800s and worth around $50 and that the painting was probably from around the same period and worth maybe $150, so he took the $3 artwork home.

A year later, his daughter-in-law brought the painting to the Antiques Roadshow where it was appraised for around $25,000. They told him that the painting was from a Flemish school in Amsterdam and was painted around 1650. Leroy was right about the frame though, Flemish artwork was big in the 1800s and the painting was framed around that period.

When the painting went to auction a short while after that, the appraisal value was shattered when the painting sold for a whopping $190,000. Leroy said he plans to share the money with his son and daughter-in-law, since they were the ones who thought to bring it to the Antiques Roadshow.


An Original, Signed Picasso Poster: $7,000

Zachary Bodish was wandering the isles of a Volunteers of America thrift store just out of Columbus, Ohio when he spotted a cool poster advertising a 1958 exhibition of Picasso’s ceramic sculptures. Bodish gladly bought the poster for $14.14 thinking it was a pretty cool piece to hang in his home. While he originally believed the print was just a modern copy, the purchase inspired him to do a little more research on the event, where he learned the poster was not only an original, but that some small red marks on the corner might even be Picasso’s signature.

Sure enough, when he brought it to an authenticator, he had an original, signed poster. Soon afterwards, Bodish managed to sell the print for a tidy $7,000. Sure, it might not be a massive fortune, but it was still a pretty great investment on a $14 purchase.


An Original Jackson Pollock Painting: $50 million?

While this might just be the most famous story on this list, the controversy around the item’s authenticity leaves a blaring question about its value, especially considering it has yet to be sold and it might never sell –meaning it very well could be worth no more than the $5 originally paid.

It all started in 1992, when a 73 year-old retired truck driver named Teri Horton visited a local thrift store in hopes of buying a gag gift for a depressed friend. She ended up finding a massive painting covered in splatters that she believed to be simply hideous –thus perfect for her friend. Teri paid $5 for the item and was upset when she ended up getting stuck with the item since it was too big to fit through her friend’s front door.

Not wanting to hang the “ugly” painting up at her own house, Teri put it up for sale at a garage sale. That’s when a local art teacher saw it and told her it might actually be a Jackson Pollock piece. To that, Teri famously replied, “Who the f*** is Jackson Pollock?”

After a bit of research, the former trucker was convinced that she was in possession of a lost painting by the famous artist. While some experts agree with her, including a forensic specialist who matched a fingerprint on the painting with one at Pollock’s studio, most dispute her claims that the artwork was by the master himself. Pollock connoisseurs claim the color palate is wrong and that there are totally straight lines on the piece –something you’d never see on a true drip painting. The entire debate is discussed in detail in the delightful 2006 documentary titled, Who the f*** is Jackson Pollock?

While the controversy rages on, the painting remains unsold. Teri was approached by one potential buyer who offered her $9 million for the piece, but as she is convinced it is a true Pollock that could be worth as much as $100 million, she declined the offer and continues to hold out for at least $50 million.

Personally, I’d be content with getting $9 million for a painting I paid $5 for.


One of Michael Jackson’s Jackets: $2 million?

Like Teri Horton, Judi Woolworth Donahue may have something that could be worth millions –or it could be worthless (pretty likely in Donahue’s case). The great-granddaughter of famed mogul F.W. Woolworth bought a multicolored jacket at her local thrift store for only ten cents.

A hand-written note on the collar read “M. Jackson 5,” which led Donahue to believe that it might have belonged to Michael Jackson at some point. She says she has had it appraised and that it was confirmed to be one of Michael’s jackets from the early days of the Jackson 5, which were handsewn by MJ’s mother. She claims the appraisers valued the jacked at $2 million.

Donahue has yet to sell the jacket and its authenticity and value have been questioned by many. The value is particularly suspicious, considering that the performer’s Thriller jacket –his most famous jacket by far, drastically exceeded appraiser expectations when it sold for $1.8 million, so why would a relatively unknown jacket from the Jackson 5 era be appraised for $2 million?

If you still aren’t deterred and would like to buy the jacket with those few millions you have sitting about, you can always head over to Judi’s website where she has more information on the piece along with her contact info and a solution on how to stop global warming.


I recently came across a dress at a thrift store that cost me $4 and it's currently selling on eBay for around $70. Zeon did even better and got a painting for $3 that’s worth about $250. While those discoveries were pretty good, I don’t think either of us will be retiring from our thrift store finds any time soon. Have any of you ever run across something truly valuable at a thrift shop?

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One time at a thrift store I found 3 Vintage GI Joe action figures from the first series still mint on the card. They were 69 cents a piece and collectively I sold them for almost $1000. One of the figures was the original Cobra Commander =)
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