The Strangest Things Ever Found In Thrift Stores

The downside of bagging a bargain at a charity shop is that you never know your item's history -- some thrift store finds are downright nightmarish.
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Have you ever found yourself inexplicably drawn to an item in a thrift store or garage sale? take note, because items worth a fortune have been found by a few Goodwill bargain hunters. From old photographs to celebrity apparel, it’s all here.

The downside of bagging a bargain at a charity shop is that you never know your item’s history.

While a picture speaks a thousand words, one man never expected an old photo to raise worldwide controversy. The find was a blessing and a curse.

1. The $2 Photograph

The Telegraph

Randy Guijarro was trawling through a thrift store in California when a box of old tintypes caught his eye. He knew that he had to have them and hastily forked over $2 for the set — a bargain, or so he thought. What he didn’t know was that he was about to make history.

Randy thought that the man pictured playing croquet in the photo was none other than the famous outlaw Billy The Kid, but was told several times that it was a fake.

Eventually recognized as one of the only two authentic photos in existence, it was appraised at a whopping $5 million, but Randy almost went bankrupt over 5 years while he was fighting to get it authenticated.

Sometimes an item’s value is a lot more than anyone would have guessed. But Sean and Rikki McEvoy never expected to find a legendary piece of apparel in a charity shop…

2. Legendary Sweater

ftw.usatoday.com

Sean and Rikki McEvoy’s favorite pastime was sorting through vintage clothing at charity shops.

One day, they came across an old West Point sweater at an Asheville, North Carolina. When they saw the name written inside, they were bowled over.

The old sweater had belonged to Vincent Lombardi, Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers coach. The McEvoy’s had purchased it for just 58 cents, but it sold at auction for $43,020.

Sometimes, an item has more value to its previous owner than you could ever imagine…

3. The Old Flag

Youtube/USA Today

Texas couple Walter and Lanie Brown were browsing at a local garage sale when something strange caught Walter’s eye. It was an old American flag, and when he turned it over the inscriptions scrawled across it broke his heart. He knew he had to take it home. Although the price tag read $15, the seller lowered the price to just $5 when he saw that someone had written on it.

From the inscriptions, the Browns realized that the flag was a tribute flag for a fallen soldier named Fred. Taking to social media, they were able to contact Fred’s mother, who explained that the flag had been lost when her son’s personal effects were returned to her.

They returned the flag to her in person, meeting her at Fred’s grave at Calvary Hill Cemetery, where they held a surprise tribute for the fallen soldier. Fred’s mother was astounded to see that Patriot Guard Riders and Marines were there to pay their respects.

One woman never realized that she’d been wearing a priceless piece for 30 years…

4. Diamond In The Rough

Sotheby’s

A woman wore a pretty ring with a glass stone for decades before realizing that it was more valuable than she ever imagined.

She had always assumed that it was costume jewelry, until one fateful day. The ring cost a mere $13 at a garage sale, and the woman was instantly drawn to it. It was only until 30 years later that she decided to get it appraised on a whim.

The “cheap” ring was actually a 26-carat diamond, worth around $455,000. Sotheby’s sold the ring at auction as one of the largest diamond rings on record.

But what Sarah Thomas found in her bag from goodwill was priceless…

5. The Diaper Bag

Facebook/Sarah Thomas

The diaper bag was not only a designer label, but it was also vintage. Even better, it looked practically new. Sarah knew that this diaper bag would have retailed at around $200 new… what a bargain!

“I was cleaning it and just noticed something heavy shaking around in there,” Sarah explained. But when she rummaged through all the bag’s compartments, she still couldn’t locate the mysterious object. That’s when she noticed the small hole in the lining. Sarah was astonished to find a brand-new Sony digital camera inside the bag’s lining. When she turned the camera on and flicked through the pictures her heart broke.

“I would hate to lose pictures,” Sarah recalled. “It might not be much, but it is to somebody.” She posted the photos on Facebook, and luckily, the camera’s owner was found quickly.

Katie, who collected the camera with the precious photos of her son inside, was grateful to have it returned to her. Then, she revealed that it had been missing for 7 years!

Some “bargain” finds don’t have such a happy ending, though.

6. Creepy VHS Tape

Twitter/Foone

33-year-old Foone from California found the VHS tape in question at his local charity shop. It was simply marked “A Surprise!”

His curiosity got the better of him, but he would soon regret his choice. Fearing the worst, Foone inserted the mysterious VHS into the machine and hit ‘Play.’ Suddenly, he was confronted with the sight of a man in 80s garb.

It was the music video for Rick Astley’s hit single “Never Gonna Give You Up.” He had just become the victim of a rickroll.

Rickrolling, in a nutshell, involves tricking someone into clicking on a link that takes them to the video for the cheesy 1980s anthem, usually by suggesting it’s a link to something else — a bait and switch. It has become a well-known prank to netizens worldwide.

Our next lucky find was actually inside an old couch. These students had to make a tough decision.

7. A Lumpy Couch

Telegraph

Some students couldn’t understand why their new couch was so uncomfortable — until one of them stuck a hand inside.

Inside the couch were stacks of cash stuffed into envelopes — totaling almost $41,000! For a struggling student, finding such an enormous amount of money inside a $20 couch was a dream come true. But, on closer inspection, they noticed a deposit slip in one of the envelopes.

As heartbreaking as it was to see all that money go, the teenagers decided to do the right thing and return it to its owner, an elderly woman who had forgotten that she’d left her life’s savings inside the couch before her daughter donated it to the Salvation Army.

But it’s not the first time a precious piece of memorabilia has been donated accidentally.

8. Strange Coincidence

youtube-WFLA News Channel 8

Julie Anne and her husband Mike were looking through the donated items at their local Goodwill when Julie let out a shriek. What had she found that had startled her so?

There on the shelf was an old baseball mitt. When she picked it up, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

It was the very same mitt that her son had lost 40 years earlier! ‘Christopher Lisi’ was written on it in black sharpie — her son’s name. What an amazing coincidence! This exact glove had covered an extraordinary distance, over a thousand miles, in fact. Moving from shop to shop all the way up from Ohio down to Florida. The price tag? $1.49.

One woman got a lot more than she bargained for when she found a hollow book…

9. The Hollowed-Out Book

News 10

A book sale volunteer discovered a real treasure inside a hollowed-out book and tracked down the man who donated the book so she could return the money.

Cathy McAllister says she was sorting books when she picked up an old copy of “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.” At first, she thought the money was Monopoly tender but was astounded to find that it was the real deal.

There were four packets of new $100 bills totaling $4,000 and fortunately, the owner of the book had placed an address label inside the cover. After speaking to the man’s daughter over the phone, Cathy met the man and returned the money. The elderly gent who had stashed his savings inside the book had forgotten he had even hidden it there!

Sometimes, priceless art is found in the most unlikely of places…

10. The “Fake” Picasso Print

CNN

In 2012, A man named Zachary Bodish was browsing through a Columbus, Ohio, thrift store when he came across an old poster for a Pablo Picasso art exhibit. He thought it was a nice replica, he bought it for the bargain price of $14.14.

Upon closer inspection on some red markings on the poster and after doing some research, Bodish started to suspect that what he had in his hands was an authentic print, signed by Pablo Picasso himself.

Bodish told The Associated Press that he was able to get “a pretty darn good return” on his $14. The signed Picasso print fetched a cool $7,000!

But this wasn’t the only piece of art found in a thrift store. One student didn’t even realize that she’d bought it.

11. Art Inside A Sofa

historyly.com

A student residing in Berlin bought a pullout couch for $215 at a flea market in the German capital city but found a painting worth 100 times that amount hidden inside when she unfolded the sofa.

The work was authenticated and confirmed to be “Preparation to Escape to Egypt,” painted by an unknown artist close to Venetian painter Carlo Saraceni between 1605 and 1620. The tiny 10- by 15-inch oil painting sold for $27,630 at a Hamburg art auction.

One woman hit pay dirt completely by accident…

12. Vertical Diamond

ABC News

Beth Feeback entered a North Carolina Goodwill store in 2012 because of cold weather. Stopping to buy a blanket on the way to an art show where she planned to sell her own work, she noticed a few paintings selling for $10 each. She was immediately drawn to the large size of the canvases and thought they would be perfect to paint over.

Luckily, a friend suggested that she did some research before painting over the artworks. But it was months later when she decided to do just that.

It turned out that one of the paintings was the original Vertical Diamond by 20th-century abstract artist Ilya Bolotowsky. The $10 painting eventually sold for a whopping $34,375!

But what if your costume jewelry is actually worth a fortune?

13. Costume Jewelry

Depop

British Thea Jourdan spied a sparkly brooch at a charity shop and knew her 4-year-old daughter would love it. She bought it for $31, thinking it would be a nice addition for her daughter’s dress-up box.

The little girl wore the brooch to school, but no one thought anything about it. Assuming that the diamonds were fake, the family thought it was just costume jewelry with fake glass diamonds.

One day, while Jourdan was having her engagement ring valued for insurance, an appraiser happened to spot the brooch. It turned out that the jewel was a royal gem once worn by a Russian czarina, and Jourdan was able to sell it for about $43,000.

The next find was so rare and historic that it was worth almost half a million dollars…

14. Declaration Of Independence

History.com

Michael Sparks found what he assumed was a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence in a thrift shop in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2006. The copy seemed to be of incredibly high quality, so he snatched it up for the bargain price of $2.48.

However, after doing a bit of research, Sparks discovered that this was no ordinary copy of the historic document. It turned out that it was one of only 200 official copies, commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1820. To boot, it only the 36th copy that had ever been found.

Michael Sparks sold the parchment for the whopping price of $477,650.

Finding an original copy of the Declaration of Independence is one thing… one man found his fortune in a kitch handbag…

15. Elvis Presley Print

keywordbasket.com

John Richard stepped into an Oxfam charity store in the U.K. and was immediately drawn to a handbag with the face of Elvis Presley printed on its side. Intrigued, he bought it for the low price of $30.

After some research, it was determined by some markings on the bag that it was produced by Irish designer Philip Treacy. Months later, Richard took it to a Philip Treacy shop in London to discover more about the bag’s origin.

It turned out the Elvis Presley print was by none other than pop artist Andy Warhol, and even more surprisingly, that it was one of ten in existence.  Its worth? 350,000 pounds — more than $450,000.

But the next item proved to be worth more than the sum of its parts…

16. Golden Egg

History.com

A scrap metal dealer spotted an ornate golden egg at a flea market and was happy to shell $14,000 for the decorative piece, planning to melt it down for a small profit.

Luckily, he did some research first. He was astonished to find out that there was a lost Faberge egg, made for Russain royalty in the 1800s. Could this egg be a Faberge masterpiece?

The scrap dealer took the golden egg to a Faberge expert and antique dealer in London, and was ecstatic to learn that it was the real deal! Although he sold the egg for an undisclosed amount, estimates put its value at around $33 million.

The next story really drives a point home: another man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

17. Dog Lithograph

ABC News

In March 2015, Floridian Maureen Flaherty attended the grand opening of a local Goodwill store and immediately noticed a large lithograph print of a dog. She fell in love with it and paid $44.

She hadn’t even made it to her car when an antique dealer flagged her down. “You just walked out with the most valuable thing in there,” he exclaimed and tried to buy the print from her. Flaherty declined because she “just loved it.”

When Flaherty did some internet research, she discovered that she’d just bought a print of a 1911 Alexander Pope painting called The Brook Hill Dog! A similar print had recently been sold for $3300, so Flaherty decided to auction off her find for charity.

“I foster dogs so I had the idea that since it’s a dog print, let’s auction it off so half the funds will go to a dog fund,” Flaherty told ABC News. The lithograph sold on eBay for $5150 and Flaherty donated half her earnings to a local animal rescue.

One man found the motherlode when he unearthed a few old negatives…

18. Valuable Negatives

The New York Times

Rick Norsigian, a painter, was rummaging for antiques at a garage sale in Fresno 10 years ago when he found a wooden box which contained a stack of aging manila envelopes. Inside were some negatives that were wrapped in newspaper dating from 1942 and 1943.

He bought them all, even bargaining down the original price from $70. Over time, he realized that the negatives had an uncanny resemblance to Ansel Adams pieces that were published in Yosemite.

A team of experts was then called in to analyze the pictures, including the handwriting on their packaging and weather conditions in the photographs.

It was revealed that the photos were indeed the famous photographer’s work, and could fetch thousands.

One lucky (or not so lucky) woman found a painting worth a fortune, only to get some disappointing news…

19. A Lost Masterpiece

Franceinfo

A painting was bought for just $50 at the Shenandoah Valley Flea Market in Virginia.

The small painting had a lovely frame and a place of honor on the kitchen wall. Its owner was about to tear the brown paper that covered the back of the artwork when her mother noticed a label on the back of the frame.

She suggested that it was shown to an auction house, and the unassuming painting was actually the famous Paysage Bords de Seine by Pierre-Auguste Renoir — one of the most bankable painters in history!

It was evaluated at between $75,000 and $100,000, and it was set to be sold at auction. Unfortunately, a museum in Baltimore recognized the painting as the same one that was stolen from an exhibition in 1951, and it was withdrawn from sale.

Another tiny but priceless item was displayed for years before its worth was discovered…

20. A Chinese Bowl

Sotheby’s.

A New York family bought a dish no bigger than a cereal bowl at a garage sale in New York state for $3.  It sat on their mantle as a decorative piece for years before they discovered its true worth.

The piece was actually a 1,000 years old Chinese “Ding” bowl, from the Northern Song Dynasty. At only 5 1/2 inches in diameter, the multimillion-dollar pottery bowl could very well have been mistaken for a fancy ashtray.

One woman got a surprise when she bought the ugliest painting she could find as a joke…

21. An Original Jackson Pollock

Fine Art America

Truck driver Teri Horton wanted to cheer up a depressed friend, so she popped into a California flea market and bought the “ugliest” painting she could find for $5.

Her friend politely declined her gag gift as she didn’t have the space to hang it in her mobile home. Teri then decided to resell the painting at a garage sale, but an art teacher from the area gave her some unexpected information.

The art teacher thought that the painting might actually be a Jackson Pollock. Teri Horton had never heard of the American painter before that day, but experts say it could be worth millions.

But this is not the first artwork to be found in a thrift store…

22. The Andy Warhol Sketch

SWNS

British businessman Andy Fields bought a small lot paintings with no apparent value from a flea market in Las Vegas for $5. When he was about to frame one of the paintings, he discovered something hidden in the back.

It was a pop art portrait of 1930s singer and actor Rudy Vallee, sketched on a background of yellow, orange and green squares, The picture, on closer inspection, is signed by Andy Warhol.

After doing some research, Andy Fields was able to determine that the sketch dates back to between 1939 and 1940. Andy would have been a small child back then and was infected with cholera at the time.

This drawing is rare and historic because Warhol officially began his trademark style of pop art at the age of 23. Experts estimate that this drawing is worth at least $ 1.5 million. But Andy Fields refused to part with it.