It’s every thrifter’s dream to stumble upon a treasure they would otherwise never be able to afford to own.
In Jessica Vincent’s case, a heavy vase she purchased for $4 at Goodwill was actually a historic example of Murano glass that would sell for more than $107,000 at auction in New York, including fees.
“I had a sense that it might be a $1,000 or $2,000 piece,” Vincent told the New York Times, “but I had no clue how good it actually was until I did a little bit more research.”
The find was made in June at a busy Goodwill thrift store in Hanover County, Virginia, outside Richmond. The bottle-shaped vase had swirls of color in sea foam green and burgundy purposely meant to imitate brushstrokes. It was actually designed by Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa as part of a series called “Pennellate” in the 1940s. The series required master glassblowers to produce, and the objects in it were very difficult to make, resulting in very few pieces. Murano glassworks designed by Scarpa were shown at the Venice Biennale in 1942.
To confirm Vincent’s vase was authentic, glass consultants Jim Oliveira and Sara Blumberg told ARTnews they immediately drove to Virginia to meet her and view it in person. “We spent decades doing this and it’s absolutely essential that we see it in person. Otherwise, it’s impossible.”
The glass specialists also compared Vincent’s find to a catalogue of Scarpa vases published as part of a 2013 exhibition organized by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice.
To determine the “reasonable” auction estimate of $30,000 to $50,000, Oliveira and Blumberg considered previous examples of “Pennellate” works that had sold at auction, where they went for between $30,000 and $200,000.
Vincent’s vase ended up selling for above its high estimate. On December 13, Lot 106 at Wright Auctions in New York sold for a hammer price of $85,000, or $107,100 with fees.
Vincent said she planned on using the auction proceeds to renovate a farmhouse she had recently purchased and probably go to a dinner. “I don’t even know how to feel right now honestly—it’s just very surreal,” she told Elle Decor, which first reported the story. “It’s kind of like winning the lottery.”
While Vincent will continue to frequent thrift stores, there are slim chances another Scarpa is hiding in the shelves.
Blumberg told ARTnews she could count on one hand the number of times that glass items of this caliber are consigned to an auction house, especially due to the large number of fake copies of designer Murano glass. “It’s really a rare occurrence,” she said.