Jessica Vincent walked through a busy Goodwill thrift store in Hanover County in June, passing VCRs, lamps and glassware typically sold at big-box retailers. Nothing caught her eye until she saw a contrasting glass vase.
After completing a lap around the shop, she returned to the bottle-shaped vase with red and green swirls. She noticed a small “M” at the bottom, which stands for Murano, an island off Venice and the historic home of Italian glassware.
She felt it might be worth something.
“I had a feeling it might be a $1,000 or $2,000 piece, but I didn’t know how good it really was until I did a little more research,” he said.
The mug has no price. Mrs. Vincent, 43, told himself he was paying $8.99 and no more. When the cashier called her, it was $3.99.
After returning home from a Goodwill thrift store in June, she joined Facebook groups for glass signs to learn more about the mug. Some members said it looked like it was designed by the famous Italian architect Carlo Scarpa, and they recommended her to Wright Auction House.
He sent the photos, and Richard Wright, the head of the auction house, immediately asked if he could call. “The minute I saw the photos I felt so much better,” she said.
On Wednesday, the vase sold for $107,100 to an unidentified private art collector in Europe. About $83,500 went to Ms. Vincent and about $23,600 to Wright Auction House.
In the 1940s Mr. Experts who evaluated the piece determined that it was part of the “Pennellate” series designed by Scarpa. It is not clear how many vases of this type were made, Mr. Wright said.
He said he was very impressed with the mirror’s pristine condition.
“If it had a chip — even a tiny chip — it would have sold for under $10,000,” he said. “It was like a winning lottery ticket.”
It’s unclear how the jar ended up at the Goodwill store.
“It’s almost impossible to pinpoint the exact donor in this area,” said Laura Faison, a spokeswoman for Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia, which processes more than 2 million donations a year.
Experts at Wright Auction House initially estimated the vase could fetch between $30,000 and $50,000. Despite its monetary value, he said he knew Ms Vincent didn’t want to keep it.
“When I found out how rare they were and what it was worth, it made me kind of nervous to have it because anything could happen to it,” he said. “When you have a piece that’s so expensive, it makes you think “What if”.”
Her mind flashed to the possibility of it getting knocked over, someone breaking into it, or it being destroyed in a fire or natural disaster.
“I knew I wanted it back in the art world. They didn’t know it existed,” Ms. Vincent said. “I feel like I rescued it from obscurity.”
And in a way, it saved her too, she said.
In January, Mrs., who trains polo horses. Vincent bought a farmhouse built in 1930. It needs major renovations. For now it is heated by two space heaters. With the new money, he hopes to upgrade his heating system, install a dishwasher and add fencing.
Mrs. Vincent said she has been going to thrift stores with her mother since she was a girl and has developed an eye for hidden treasures over the years. Mrs. Vincent said he is an avid “Antiques Roadshow” fan and loves exploring his purchases.
In the past, he has purchased items such as woodcuts from Polly and Burt Grodel lithographs for a few dollars, which he believes are worth a few thousand dollars.
In all her years of thrift store shopping, she never expected a find to change her life, but that’s part of the fun, she said.
“You never know what you’re going to find,” Ms. Vincent said. “It’s the thrill of the hunt.”