Have you ever been drawn to an item in a thrift store for no apparent reason? Perhaps you have a keen sense of price and are on your way to making the next fantastic flea-market find! Occasionally, treasures worth hundreds or even millions of dollars turn up in secondhand shops. Who knew shopping at a thrift store could be such a wise decision?
Here are the top ten most expensive thrift store finds ever uncovered.
- Jackson Pollock Painting
Location: Southern California
Teri Horton, a retired truck driver, purchased the Pollock for $5 and was included in the 2006 documentary “Who the $&% Is Jackson Pollock?” which was based on her response to an art teacher who saw it at a yard sale she organized in 1992. After finding one of Pollock’s fingerprints on the painting, a forensic art expert confirmed it was an original. The International Foundation for Art Research, on the other hand, was not convinced because there was no provenance. Despite receiving bids of up to $9 million, Horton died without selling the picture, which he believed was worth $50 million. The painting is still in the possession of her son, Bill Page. If he decides to sell it, it could be one of the most valuable items found at a thrift store.
- Andy Warhol Painting
Store: Angel View Thrift Store is a thrift store located in Angel View, California.
Location: Yucca Valley is located in the state of California.
Value: $500,000-$2.5 million in value
Michael P. Wilson, a Joshua Tree art collector and aficionado, was drawn to the picture but had no idea it was a Warhol because it didn’t look like the pop art style he’s renowned for. Wilson bought it for roughly $40 and kept it for a long time. He only realized he had a Warhol when he recognized the signature.
- Philip Treacy Handbag
Location: Kingston, England
John Richard paid around $30 for the thrift store bag because he appreciated the odd Elvis Presley pattern on it. Richard had no idea that the print had been created by none other than Andy Warhol. It was shortly revealed by the buyer that it was one of only ten ever created.
- The Declaration of Independence
Store: Music City Thrift Shop
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
In 2007, Michael Sparks, a music equipment technician, paid $2.48 for a 184-year-old copy of the Declaration of Independence. When he found it was an “official copy” commissioned by John Quincy Adams and dated to 1823, he was taken aback.
- Princess Diana’s Dress
Store: Chameleon Thrift Store
Location: Hereford, England
A ball gown worn by Princess Diana was donated together with other royal garments in 1996. The dress was purchased for around $250 by an employee with the intention of wearing it to a local ball. She never did, opting to store it instead, where it sat unused for 22 years. She didn’t realize how expensive the dress was until she saw a documentary showcasing Diana wearing it. It was later purchased at auction by a museum.
- Master’s Jacket
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canda
Augusta National Golf Club’s green Master’s jacket is legendary. While all members of the club receive a jacket, only the Masters winners are allowed to wear it outside of the club. A man discovered one of these jackets in a Toronto thrift store in 1994, along with six other blazers. He bought it for $5 and decided to put it up for auction in 2017. The jacket originates from the 1950s, and while it was most certainly owned by a Master’s winner (unless someone else smuggled one out), the name tag was no longer attached. As a result, its origins are unknown.
- Painting by David Bowie
Location: South River, Ontario, Canada
The artwork, a 9.75-inch by 8-inch portrait, was discovered outside of a secondhand store near a South River landfill by an anonymous person, who was surprised to find David Bowie’s signature on the back. “D Head XLVI” is one of a series of portraits painted by David Bowie between 1994 and 1997.
- Topaz Brooch
Location: London, England
Value: £32,000 ($45,001)
Daily Mail contributor Thea Jourdan discovered the brooch in a London junk shop in 2011 for £20 ($27.69 now) before learning it was from the nineteenth century and made of topaz and diamonds. Imogen, her toddler daughter, did fall in love with the piece and played with it as well as wearing it when she played dress-up. “I had no idea my daughter’s trinket had such a renowned pedigree — and such a magnificent price tag,” Thea said before the auction. “I’m a little sad that Imogen is going to lose it, but we’ll put the money into a trust fund for her schooling and purchase her a few pearls of wisdom.”
- Maud Lewis Painting
Store: Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store
Location: New Hamburg, Ontario, Canada
In 2017, a simple painting of a beach by Maud Lewis, a Nova Scotia folk artist, was discovered in a thrift store. “Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fisherman, Bay View, Nova Scotia,” was discovered in a donation bin by a volunteer and swiftly authenticated by art experts. Maud Lewis struggled to make ends meet and sold her paintings for as little as $3 during her lifetime. Her work became prominent after she died in 1970, and it now sells for five figures at auction.
- Vince Lombardi’s Sweater
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Sean and Rikki McEvoy sell vintage clothing and got the sweater for 58 cents in a bulk purchase. Until they discovered “Lombardi” printed on a tag inside, they assumed it was a vintage baseball warm-up sweater. It turned out that their assumptions were correct. It belongs to Vince Lombardi, the great football coach who was the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants before becoming the Green Bay Packers’ head coach. The teams won three NFL championships and two Super Bowls while he was in charge. Lombardi was an assistant coach at West Point for Army, tutoring offensive linemen and polishing his future coaching style under another renowned head coach, Earl “Colonel Red” Blaik, before becoming a legend in the NFL.
Thrift shops are often filled with vintage apparel, posters, and ancient kitchen appliances, but every now and again, a lucky shopper stumbles onto a true value. So the next time you visit a thrift store, do not forget to treasure hunt. Who knows that the next million-worth-item is in the glance of your eyes?
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