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Thrift store painting found to be rare classic sells for jaw-dropping amount after years-long saga: ‘An amazing end to all of this’

“I’ve never gotten that close to, you know, hoping for something.”

Art experts and museums verified that the artwork Donahue thrifted was done by N.C. Wyeth.

Photo Credit: iStock

Sometimes thrifting can be hit or miss, but for Tracy Donahue, her $4 purchase turned into a once-in-a-lifetime jackpot. 

Donahue bought a painting in in 2017 at Savers in Manchester, New Hampshire, and took to Facebook earlier this year to ask if what she found was of any value. 

Art experts and museums verified that the artwork Donahue thrifted was done by N.C. Wyeth, a famed American illustrator from Massachusetts. 

“When I examined it, it’s in beautiful condition,” Lauren Lewis, an art conservator who once worked at the Wyeth Study Center, said, according to Boston.com. “It’s got a few scratches … but overall it’s in excellent condition.” 

The piece, titled “Ramona,” was just one of four frontispiece illustrations Wyeth produced for a 1939 novel of the same name.

Photo Credit: Bonhams Skinner

It was to be sold through Bonhams Skinner auction house for an estimated $150,000-$250,000, but the buyer who won the bid for $191,000 failed to pony up the cash.

“We’re crushed,” Donahue said at the time, according to the New York Times. “I’ve never gotten that close to, you know, hoping for something.”

Just months after the transaction fell through, though, Donahue sold the painting to an anonymous private collector via a representative of Heritage Auctions in December. The collector paid an unspecified amount, though the representative noted, “It’s six figures.”

While thrifting doesn’t always result in treasures that can fetch life-changing amounts of money, several shoppers have stumbled upon some rare finds. One person found a jacket once worn by Sir Elton John, and another picked up a Rolex watch at a Salvation Army.

Not every purchase at a secondhand store has to be rare for it to be worth it, though, as thrifters are estimated to save around $750 over 10 years.

The benefits of the practice extend far beyond personal gain as well, as it prevents waste from polluting the environment. Only 1% of textiles are properly recycled, while 85% are incinerated or taken to a landfill. 

Should the clothing end up in a landfill, it will take over 200 years to decompose and release planet-warming gases like methane.

However, with secondhand shopping expected to rise by 127% by 2026, that means less trash ending up in landfills and more potential for rare finds like “Ramona.”

Heritage Auctions plans to send Donahue a replica of the artwork once it’s cleaned and restored, much to the satisfaction of Donahue.

“It is an amazing end to all of this,” she said. “I still get to enjoy the painting.”

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