It's amazing what people just lose track of, isn't it?
I think it is interesting that they thought it was some "lump of stone" and left it laying around then thought to have it valued. Usually that's the kind of stuff that ends up in the Goodwill box.
Ohhhhh yeah! I have had a few of those.. and I have FOUND many really awesome things at goodwill too.
Had I have found that? I would have lost my little mind.
I probably would have walked right past it despite years of sitting through art history lectures.
When i worked at a Family Shelter in the late 1980s, a woman who worked in the thrift store next door, stepped over to the office one day and asked me to look at a violin someone had put in a donation box. It had no strings, and was rather dry, but was otherwise intact. Inside (no one had bothered to look inside) was a label with the name "Amati" on it, and a date in the early 18th century (17-something, i don't remember specifically). The violins of the last of the Amatis aren't considered as good as a Stradivarius, but Hell, that's like saying a Rolls Royce ain't as good as a Bentley. I advised them to have it valued by a professional. Later, they called over to the office and said that that would cost them $200. I said it was up to them, but if it were a real Amati, it would be worth thousands of dollars. They kept their mouths shut after that, and the violin disappeared. The only thing they would tell me is "it was real." Of course, it was a real violin, so i assume they meant it was a real Amati. I think they got close-mouthed for fear that the donor (who had a receipt for the donation) would come back and demand the return of her violin.
The violins of Nicolo Amati can go for a half-million dollars and up. This would have been made by his son, though, and not considered to be the highest of the violin maker's art, but better than most. It was worth, i would guess, many tens of thousands of dollars.
Whether or not thrift shops get the value of their items depends on the manager or staff. I was waiting for a bus once, just idly window shopping, and in the window of a thrift shop, there was an atlas displayed. It was open to the page which showed Czechoslovakia. Looking closer, i could see that the "Sudetenland" was shown as part of Germany, and the northern part of Czech Silesia was shown as part of Poland. That was a very rare atlas, indeed, as it could 0nly have been set up and printed at some point in the last few months of 1938 or the first few months of 1939. Someone in that thrift store knew the value of the item, and was subtly advertising it to anyone sharp enough to know that value themselves. I never did go in there to ask how much they wanted--it was too obvious that someone in there knew it was rare, and at that time, i didn't have the money to make a large purchase. The only point would have been to hold it hoping the value would increase, and that i could find a rare book dealer who wouldn't cheat me. Besides, i knew it was rare, but had no notion of what the value should be.
They make so many museum gift shop copies that it's hard to spot the real thing from the fakes.
It was probably bought by someone back in early days of the British and French exploration of Egypt. There was more curiosity attached to the items than value. Every Egyptian was running around grabbing stuff out of tombs to sell to Europeans who fancied themselves explorers and historians. Something like this would have been considered a souvenir at the time. I don't know what the most recent Uncle thought of it, but a great, great, great Uncle probably would have thought himself chic by displaying the thing on his bookshelf long before a new generation thought the trinket looked better in the garden.
My favorite story of this kind is about the man who bought a crap painting at flea market for $4, and found a copy of the Declaration of Independence behind the painting. You can read all about it in a New York Times article by clicking here.
Declaration of Independence Sells for $2.4 Million
By ELEANOR BLAU
Published: June 14, 1991
A first printing of the Declaration of Independence, said to have been found in a picture frame bought at a flea market two summers ago, was auctioned for $2,420,000 yesterday at Sotheby's.
"This was a record for any printed Americana," said David Redden, the auctioneer, who is a senior vice president at Sotheby's in Manhattan. "It was far and away the highest price for historical Americana ever."
The buyer was Donald J. Scheer of Atlanta, president of Visual Equities Inc., a year-old fine arts investment firm. After the session, he found himself backed against a wall by a throng of cameramen and reporters.
"We thought we would add historical documents to our portfolio," Mr. Scheer said, adding that "we were prepared to pay considerably more."
My favourite story of this kind is one I saw in the newspaper a few years ago. A man saw an unremarkable painting in a junk shop and bought it for a few pounds. He was interested because it showed a landscape, a wide river, some figures and a Dutch flag. He thought it was old, possibly American in origin, and it may have shown the East River and Manhattan Island at the time it was settled by the Dutch.
Sure enough, and having the sense to have it valued and auctioned in New York, it was recognised to be one of the earliest paintings ever discovered of that place, very desireable to a collector, and it sold for a small fortune.
I wonder if the publication of stories like this send people off to the antique shops and the flea markets.
I know the popularity of Antiques Roadshow and Ebay certainly has motivated people. I was able to get much better bargains 20 years ago, but now many people, including thrift shops, go on-line to check out possible treasures and their values. Long gone are the days I could get circa 1940 cookie jars for $8 or Stickley chairs for $20 a piece.