$4 Thrift Store Painting Sells for $191,000


Sep. 21 2023, Published 12:48 p.m. ET

Outside of a Savers thrift store.
Source: Getty Images

If you watch the PBS show Antiques Roadshow, you’ve probably seen an episode or two where someone learns their thrift store find is worth a lot of money. A New Hampshire woman got that lucky when the $4 painting she bought at a thrift store sold at auction for $191,000.

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Such a find is rare, and not everyone scouring the thrift stores is lucky enough to find a priceless piece of artwork. Most people usually end up with a basement or garage full of junk. Here’s how a $4 thrift store painting sells for a major profit at auction.

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A woman bought a priceless painting at a NH thrift store for $4.

The NH woman, whose name is withheld in media reports to protect her identity, was shopping at a Savers thrift store in Manchester, NH, in 2017 when a painting caught her eye, the New York Times reported. The painting depicts two women in what appears to be a church. A young woman is standing looking at an older woman seated in a chair. The scene seems tense, like there is some conflict between the two women.

The NH woman bought the painting for $4 and hung it on the wall of her bedroom, unaware that it was an authentic oil painting by renowned illustrator N.C. Wyeth. Wyeth was a 20th-century artist who illustrated classic novels like Treasure Island, Robin Hood, and Robinson Crusoe, reports the Times. He was also the father of well-known artist Andrew Wyeth and grandfather to artist Jamie Wyeth.

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N.C. Wyeth painting hangs in an art gallery.
Source: Getty Images

N.C. Wyeth painting hangs in an art gallery.

The woman eventually replaced the picture on her wall and stuck it in a closet, where it sat until May 2023. When she took it out of storage, she noticed a signed label on the back, the Times reported. Not knowing what the label meant, the painting’s owner posted a picture of it on Facebook, and those images got the attention of art curator Lauren Lewis.

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The painting sold for $191,000 in an auction.

Lewis determined that the thrift store painting was really one of four illustrations Wyeth created for the 1939 edition of the book Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson, UPI reports.

According to catalog notes from the Bonhams Skinner auction house, the painting, also titled Ramona, “portrays the tension between Ramona and her rigid and overbearing foster mother, Señora Moreno.”

The auction house believes the Wyeth painting may have been gifted by book publisher Little, Brown and Company to either an editor or the author’s estate before it eventually ended up at the thrift store. The painting was auctioned off on Sept. 19, 2023, and sold for $191,000.

Of the four illustrations in the Ramona series, only two have been located, per Bonham Skinner. That means there could be two more out there sitting on thrift store shelves. Does anyone want to go shopping?

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