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Thrift store shopping is one of the best ways to find great deals on used clothing, furniture, and appliances. If you get really lucky, you might end up with something worth much more than you paid for it.
Let’s explore the stories of some of the most incredible thrift store finds of all time, many of which were a huge payday.
1. A Signed Picasso Poster
In 2012, Zach Bodish bought what he thought was a crudely made reproduction of a Picasso poster in a local Volunteers of America Columbus thrift store for $14.
He was pleasantly surprised when the poster turned out to be a signed Picasso original that sold for $7,000 to an anonymous buyer.
2. Paul “McArtney’s” Rare Record
In 2019, employees of a charity shop discovered an original single of Love Me Do with about 25 other records. After recognizing its rarity due to a misspelling of Paul McCartney’s name (“McArtney”), they sold it on the store’s eBay page for $11,000.
3. A Lucky Antique Dealer
Laura Stouffer, an antique dealer, found a framed print of the painting, Shepherd’s Call, in 2009. When she opened it, she discovered a rare window card from the film All Quiet on the Western Front, which was released in 1930.
Its value turned out to be nearly $20,000.
4. Some Very Valuable Canvases
In 2012, North Carolina resident Beth Feeback bought some art pieces for $10 from a local Goodwill. Feeback, an artist herself, was planning to paint over the canvases at the time.
However, she luckily noticed that she had three original pieces by famous abstract artist Ilya Bolotowsky, which eventually sold for $27,000.
5. An Uncommon Wrist Watch
Zach Norris went to Goodwill in 2015 looking for golf accessories. Instead, he purchased a watch he suspected was valuable for $5.99. After taking his find to a jeweler, Norris confirmed it was a 1959 Jaeger-LeCoultre diving watch.
Only 1,000 were ever in circulation, and he sold it for $35,000.
6. A Profitable Parisian Painting
In 2008, an employee at a Maryland Goodwill store spotted a painting of a Parisian street scene in a pile of donations outside. To their surprise, it was from the early 20th century – Marche aux fleurs, by Edouard-Leon Cortes.
They managed to auction it off at Sotheby’s for a whopping $40,000.
7. A Uniquely Desirable Video Game
Jennifer Thompson bought a 1987 Nintendo game, Stadium Events, for $7.99 in 2013. When she took it to a video game store, a clerk offered all the money in the register for it.
Fortunately, Jennifer refused. Only a handful of the games had made it to the U.S., and she sold her copy for $25,000.
8. The Lombardi Sweater
In 2015, Sean and Rikki McEvoy, vintage retailers, picked up a sweater for 58 cents. They thought it was a vintage baseball warm-up jacket until they noticed “Lombardi” written on a tag.
The sweater once belonged to Vince Lombardi, offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, and it sold for $43,000 at auction.
9. David Bowie’s Pricy Painting
A woman found a painting entitled outside of a thrift store near a South River landfill in 2021. It turned out to be a signed copy of DHead XLVI, from David Bowie’s Dead Head series of loved ones, painted between 1995 to 1997.
It was initially estimated to be worth around $9,000 to $12,000, but an aggressive bidding war drove the final price up to $108,120.
10. Green Jacket Worth a lot of Green
In 1994, someone found a green Augusta National Golf Club Master’s jacket on a rack of sports coats in a Toronto thrift store and purchased it for $5. Despite the original owner’s identity remaining a mystery, the jacket sold for $139,348.80 at auction in 2017.
11. An Antique that Auctioned for Thousands
In 2012, a former antique dealer found an oil painting at a thrift store. After purchasing it for $3, his daughter-in-law took it to Antiques Roadshow.
There, she found out it was from a Flemish art school, dated back to the 17th century, and was likely worth around $20,000 to $30,000. Then they put it up for auction, and it sold for $190,000.
12. Princess Diana’s Ball Gown
In 1996, a woman found a gown that Princess Diana had once worn in a secondhand shop. She planned to wear it to a local ball but decided the outfit would be too ostentatious.
Later, upon watching a documentary about the princess, the woman realized she had something special. It eventually sold at auction for more than £155,000.
13. Lighting Strikes for Michael Sparks
Michael Sparks, a music equipment technician, bought a seemingly run-of-the-mill copy of the Declaration of Independence for $2.48 in 2007.
It turned out to be a 184-year-old “official copy” of the Declaration of Independence, one of 200 commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1820. It sold at auction for $477,650.
14. A Philip Treacy Handbag
John Richard, a 73-year-old UK resident, bought a thrift store handbag for $20. He recognized the Elvis Presley print, designed by Andy Warhol, and suspected it was valuable.
His hunch was validated when he took the bag to a Philip Treacy shop, and they confirmed it was one of around ten ever made. John Richard soon received a £350,000 offer for it.
15. An Art Collector Strikes Big
Michael Wilson, a Joshua Tree art collector and enthusiast, purchased a painting for $40 that he couldn’t identify. He later saw a news release for an Andy Warhol drawing and matched it to the signature on his painting.
He then took it to be authenticated, and its value was estimated between $500,000 and $2.5 million.
16. A Rare Sighting of Billy the Kid
Randy Guijarro purchased some old photographs for $2 from a junk shop in Fresno. When he took them home, his wife recognized one of the subjects as Billy the Kid and his gang. That made it one of only two in existence.
Kagin’s, a numismatics firm in California, authenticated the picture and placed its value in the millions.
17. The Third Imperial Fabergé Egg
A scrap metal dealer paid $13,302 for an ornate golden egg at a flea market. He intended to have it melted down for the raw materials, but a lucky Google search told him that it was a famously missing Fabergé Egg that belonged to Russian royalty.
It was later auctioned off for an undisclosed sum, but some estimates placed the egg’s value as high as $33 million.
Nick Gallo is a Certified Public Accountant and content marketer for the financial industry. He has been an auditor of international companies and a tax strategist for real estate investors. He now writes articles on personal and corporate finance, accounting and tax matters, and entrepreneurship.