More often than not, the stuff you donate to Goodwill or to a vintage shop is mostly junk. After all, who would want to give up something that’s valuable or that they actually like?
Anyone who’s ever been to a thrift store knows the sort of wacky stuff available for purchase. Occasionally, however, you’ll come across some real gems hidden amongst the aisles of discarded items.
Even more rare is when a lucky individual ends up finding actual treasure in all of that trash. Here are some of the most incredible—and unbelievable—thrift store finds that ended up being worth a fortune!
1. A worthy watch: Zach Norris went into a Phoenix, Arizona Goodwill looking for a cheap golf bag. Instead, he found a watch that cost him $6. That watch ended up being a 1959 LaCoultre Deep Sea Alarm; he sold it on Ebay for $35,000.
2. Libation cup: In 2013, a man purchased this “libation cup” from an Australian thrift shop for $4. Later, it was discovered to be a traditional Chinese artifact made from rhino horn. He sold it for $60,400.
3. A priceless painting: In 2012, Beth Feeback walked into a North Carolina Goodwill looking for a blanket to keep warm. She instead happened upon this painting. Eventually, she discovered it was created by Ilya Bolotowsky, titled Vertical Diamond. She sold it at auction for $34,375.
4. A sculptor’s necklace: Norma Ifill was at a flea market in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when she happened upon this necklace. She received compliments each time she wore it, but it wasn’t until she visited an Alexander Calder exhibit at the Philadelphia Art Museum that she realized what it was. The necklace was by the famous sculptor and was sold for $267,750.
5. The Declaration of Independence: Nashville’s Stan Caffy sold this seemingly worthless copy of the Declaration of Independence for pennies after cleaning out his house. Later, he would find out that someone had sold it for $470,650.
6. Bond’s watch: The specialized watch that James Bond used in Thunderball mysteriously disappeared for decades after the film was released. In 2013, it resurfaced at a garage sale, where it was purchased on the cheap. Eventually, the buyer would sell it for $163,000.
7. A real trophy: Sean and Rikki McEvoy found this sweater in a Knoxville, Tennessee thrift shop, where Sean paid less than a dollar for it. While watching a documentary on Vince Lombardi, however, he realized he recognized the name from the sweater’s name tag. He sold it for $43,020.
8. Another Declaration: A bargain hunter in Pennsylvania somehow discovered an original copy of the Declaration of Independence—one of only 24—in a thrift shop. He paid $4 for it, because he liked the frame it was in. After he turned the document around and saw what was written on it, he sold it for $2.4 million.
9. What a painting: An antiques dealer discovered this painting in a thrift shop in Anderson, South Carolina. He was drawn to it because of the pricey-looking frame and assumed he could make a few hundred bucks off of it. So he paid $3 and went home. Ultimately, he would discover that it was from 1650 and extremely valuable. How valuable? It was auctioned off for $190,000.
10. A special egg: Though he paid $14,000 for it, a certain scrap dealer knew he had something worth much more. He recognized that the Fabergé egg he’d bought at a flea market was made of gold and figured he could at least melt it down and sell the gold for a profit. Before that happened, thankfully, it was revealed that the egg was an Easter gift to Czar Alexander III to his wife, Maria Feodorovna, in 1887. It was eventually sold for $33 million.
11. A poster from history: While walking through the aisles of the Volunteers of America thrift store in Columbus, Ohio, Zachary Bodish was drawn to one item. A poster, which was for a 1958 exhibition of ceramic Picasso sculptures, was neat enough that Zach bought it for $14. When he found out that the poster was actually signed by Picasso himself, he sold it for $7,000.
12. Who The #$&% Is Jackson Pollock? A retired truck driver named Teri Horton isn’t the person you’d expect to go on a mission to prove a painting’s authenticity, but that’s what happened. After discovering the painting in a California thrift shop—and paying $5 for it—Teri was planning to throw darts at it before it was pointed out to her that she may have a real Jackson Pollock. She responded, “Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?” Eventually her story to have the painting authenticated became a 2006 documentary. The painting has been valued at $50 million.
13. The painting found in a couch: A student in Germany paid $215 for a pullout couch from a Berlin thrift store when he discovered a tiny oil painting hidden inside. It was revealed to be Preparation to Escape to Egypt and was painted sometime between 1605 and 1620. The student sold it for $27,630.
14. Quite the upgrade: A man in Indiana was hoping to find something to cover a hole in his wall when he found this painting in a thrift shop. He paid $30 for it and went about his day. Later, while playing a game that featured famous works of art, he realized his $30 painting might be worth a whole lot more. It ended up being the work of Martin Johnson Heade, an American still-life painter. The painting was eventually purchased for $1.2 million.
15. All Quiet On The Western Front: While browsing a thrift shop, Laura Stouffer came upon a small print of “Shepherd’s Call,” a painting that was made sometime between 1850 and the 1870s. She liked it enough to buy it. But beneath that print was a lithograph of an original movie poster for the film All Quiet On The Western Front. It has been valued at $18,000.
16. Yosemite plates: In 2000, Rick Norsigian purchased a number of glass plates printed with images of Yosemite National Park on them for $45. Later, he would find out that they were original works by famed photographer Ansel Adams. They were sold for $200 million.
17. Not an average sketch: Art collector and businessman Andy Fields was searching for valuables in a garage sale in Las Vegas; he bought five paintings for $5. But behind one of those paintings was a sketch of 1930s singer Rudy Vallee, signed by Andy Warhol. The sketch is worth over $2 million.
And to think that most of us get excited when we find a dollar bill hiding in an old jacket pocket! Guess we all need to start buying more junk!
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