I keep hearing stories about people who find priceless artifacts in thrift shops. All I find are melted breath mints in clothing pockets, but I’m inspired to keep looking by people who make incredible finds—like a copy of the Declaration of Independence worth almost half a million dollars, or a Jackson Pollock painting worth millions. Prepare to be amazed by this list of 15 of the Luckiest People Who Got Valuable Thrift Store Finds.
15. Vince Lombardi Sweater
Many people browse thrift stores for clothes to sell online, but not everyone scores a touchdown like Sean and Rikki McEvoy, who picked up a West Point sweater for only 58 cents.
When they got home, Rikki realized it had moth holes and decided they couldn’t sell it. But then she put it in the basement, thinking she’d mend it and her husband could wear it. They both forgot all about the sweater until they were watching TV one day, and recognized their sweater on famous football coach Vince Lombardi.
© ABC News
The couple looked at their sweater again, and found the word Lombardi written on a cotton swatch inside it! Sean even drove to Dallas to have the sweater authenticated, and received confirmation it did indeed belong to Lombardi.
It sold at auction for a little over 43 thousand. I bet that sweater won the McEvoys’ “Most Valuable Moth-Eaten Sweater” award!
14. $26 bag
Retired chef John Richard was poking around a charity shop in Oxfam, England when he found a unique bag. It was brown, with stylized pictures of Elvis done by Andy Warhol printed on it. The 20-pound price tag was a bit steep for Richard, so he tried to haggle with the clerk. She wouldn’t budge, and ultimately he bought it anyway, then took it to the local Phillip Treacy shop to find out if it was theirs. Store manager Gee Brunet confirmed it was, and noted that only about ten of that style were ever made.
Richard said he received offers from buyers in China for 250,000 and 350,000 pounds – the equivalent of half a million dollars. Guess he’s glad he didn’t walk away from that sale over a five-pound discount!
13. A painting bought for $3
A South Carolina man identified only as Leroy bought a painting from Goodwill, mostly because he liked the frame. Leroy, a former antique dealer, said he thought the frame was worth $50, which made the price tag of $3 seem more than fair. He also figured the oil painting was from the 1800s and might earn him another hundred bucks or so if sold online.
Later his daughter-in-law took it to the Antiques Roadshow and received an appraisal of $20-30,000 on what was actually a Flemish school painting from 1650. But, it ended up earning $190,000 at an auction that included international bidders.
Meanwhile, a man from Indiana bought a $30 thrift shop painting for a really simple reason—he just needed something to cover a hole in his wall. One day, the man was playing a game about famous works of art and noticed something familiar. His wall covering turned out to be a piece by Martin Johnson Heade, an American still-life painter.
Ultimately, the painting sold for 1.2 million. Guess that leaves the thrifty shopper with a hole in his wall—but enough money to buy a whole NEW wall!
12. Barack Obama Award
Former US president Barack Obama received countless awards, including a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. But presidents and other high-ranking officials receive so many awards, they can’t collect or keep them all. In 2017, a Reddit user browsing a thrift store found a plaque stating the former president had received the ‘National Middle School Association’s Distinguished Service Award’ in November of 2007.
The original poster considered tweeting the former president to ask if he wanted it back, but he might never have received the plaque in the first place. According to one press release, on the date printed on the award, the former president was in Iowa hosting a discussion about challenges working women face.
If the thrifter decides to sell the plaque, I hope they can change it into a decent amount of money. If not, maybe they can be on the lookout for that Nobel prize instead…
11. A cup and a Bowl
In 2013, a shopper from Sydney found a weird-looking cup for only $4, so he bought it. Later, he sent a picture to Sotheby’s, who told him it was a 17th-century Chinese “libation cup.” Carved from a rhino horn, this rare piece ended up selling for about $60,000.
Elsewhere, This family purchased an ordinary-looking bowl, which could be mistaken for a small ashtray, in 2007. After paying all of $3, they researched the piece, eventually bringing it to Sotheby’s, where experts estimated its worth at two-to-300,000 dollars. But a lucky bidder paid 2 million for the piece, a thousand-year-old Chinese item known as a “ding bowl.” I bet the thrifty family was bowled over by that windfall!
© NY Post
10. An Egg-spensive egg
A scrap dealer purchased a Faberge egg for $14,000, which doesn’t sound cheap. However, he recognized it was real gold and felt he could profit by melting the egg down and selling the precious metal. Fortunately, he first conducted some research and discovered this particular egg was a gift from Russian Czar Alexander III to his wife, Maria Feodorovna, in 1887. Once he had it authenticated, the piece ultimately sold for $33 million—an egg-cellent profit on his $14,000 investment!
9. Declaration of Independence
One day Michael Sparks found an old, yellowed, rolled-up piece of paper at the thrift. After carefully unfurling it, he discovered it was a copy of the Declaration of Independence—or so he thought. It was so beautifully done, he initially thought it was an engraving. The clerk told him it was $2.48, and so he bought it.
Sparks did some research, eventually bringing the Declaration to an auction house, where experts discovered it was no knockoff—it was the real thing, an official copy printed in 1820. Only 35 copies were known to exist in the modern age—until Sparks’ thrift store find made it 36.
He ultimately sold the Declaration at auction for $477, 650. That’s a lot of Ben Franklins! Now the new owner just has to hide it from Nicolas cage.
8. Photo Worth Millions
Randy Guijarro visited his favorite shop and found a box of tintypes—old photographs. He found some he liked and paid $3 for them. After going home, he got out a magnifying glass and studied the photos. In one, he recognized outlaw Billy the Kid, and called his wife over to look. They discovered other people in the photo as well, who were part of Billy’s gang.
After that, they spent another year authenticating the photo, ultimately identifying all 18 people in the picture and even finding the ruins of the building they posed in front of. A similar picture sold at auction for 2.3 million in 2011, and Randy insured his for 5 million.
7. Charity Shop Clothing
A bride-to-be wanted a good deal on a wedding dress. Her friend suggested to check out a local charity shop, and she was in luck—they’d just received a big donation of wedding dresses from a local boutique. One dress had a 1595-pound tag, but was only 25 pounds at the charity store. It fit the bride like a glove and she left happy, and hopefully spent the more than 1500 pounds she saved on a seriously awesome wedding cake.
6. An $8 video game
Paying attention to news about valuable antiques can really pay off, and it did for Jennifer Thompson of Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2013, she was browsing her local Goodwill and noticed a game behind the counter for $7.99. It was an N-E-S cartridge from the eighties called Stadium Events, and the name reminded Thompson of a story she’d seen about a rare game that sold for thousands of dollars.
Because so few of the game were produced, not many are left, and copies sell for a high price. Thompson rushed across the street to use the Wi-Fi at McDonald’s and quickly confirmed her hunch. She hurried back to the Goodwill store and bought the game, later selling it on GameGavel.com for $25,000.
5. Valuable Books
Now, these examples will remind you to always check what’s inside books at thrift stores. One Goodwill shopper found an apparently autographed copy of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, that also included a fingerprint. Pretty amazing, right?
Unfortunately not – some commenters noted that Hawking’s disabilities prevent him from handwriting anything, and have since the 1980s. The 1996 date suggests the handwriting must belong to someone else, although no one has been able to identify the fingerprint.
Another thrifter’s uncle nabbed an autographed copy of Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. The handwriting is even pretty legible for a guy who liked to say, “Write drunk, edit sober!”
4. A valuable splash of paint
Teri Horton was searching a thrift shop for a gift to cheer up a friend and decided that what she saw as a large, ugly painting would do the trick. She negotiated the price down to five dollars, and her friend did get a laugh out of the picture. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t fit in her house so she gave it back to Horton, who stuck it in a shed and later tried to unload it in her own yard sale.
There an art teacher noted it looked like a Jackson Pollock. Horton responded with, “Who the f*** is Jackson Pollock?” Ultimately, she did some research and realized Pollock was a F***ing famous painter whose pictures were worth a F***ing lot of money.
Then she tried to get the painting authenticated, even hiring a forensic specialist who matched a fingerprint on the back of the piece to one on another Pollock painting. Although the art world still refused to accept her find, Horton was offered nine million dollars for it—which she turned down because she believed it was worth FIFTY million. Excuse me… fifty F***ing million!!?. 25 years later, she’s still waiting for someone to pay it.
3. A Rare Diving Watch
Zach Norris was looking for a golf cart at Goodwill when he made a quick detour to the watch section. Digging through cheap watches, he spotted a diamond in the rough—a 1959 Jaeger-Lecoultre Deep Sea Alarm watch. Only 900 were made, and Norris recognized it was worth a lot more than the $5.99 Goodwill wanted for the slightly worn watch.
He was right—after having it authenticated by a brand dealer, he sold it online for $35,000, plus a $4,000 Mega Speed Master watch. Now there’s something to watch out for at the thrift shop!
2. Lookalike Paintings
Sometimes going to the thrift store isn’t just about finding valuable items, but about finding items that really speak to you.
This shopper found a painting that looked eerily like him, complete with a red sweater and glasses.
Another thrifter found the perfect t-shirt—it had a picture of a guy who looked like his twin, with similarly styled brown hair, a beard, and glasses. The caption? Hipster. Never has a more accurate caption been written.
1. A loaded purse
Finds that are worth a lot of money are great, but sometimes it’s nice to just find the money itself! This shopper purchased an old purse at a thrift store, and it came with a bonus item—cash!
When she posted her find online, commenter’s suggested the currency looked brand new and could be worth even more than its face value—an extra good find.
So, what’s the best find you’ve discovered at the thrift? Let me know in the comment section down below!