Bought for $3.99 from a Virginia thrift store, this vase just sold for over $100,000

Dec 23, 2023, 12:00 PM

thrifted vase...

The vase, sold at a Goodwill in Richmond, Virginia for $3.99, turned out to be a rare and much-coveted piece made by Italian architect and artisan Carlo Scarpa in 1942. (Courtesy Rago/Wright)

(Courtesy Rago/Wright)

(CNN) — Jessica Vincent fondly remembers embarking on frequent thrifting trips — at secondhand stores, yard sales, flea markets — with her mother as a child. It’s a habit she retained into adulthood, and one that on Wednesday turned into a six-figure windfall for the Richmond, Virginia native (and the art and design auction house Wright), when a glass vase she purchased for $3.99 sold for over $107,000.

Vincent told CNN she and her partner were regular shoppers at the Goodwill store in question — ”probably two or three times a week,” she said, adding that thrifting was “just a funny thing to do, or a different thing to do on the way home to decompress.”

On the day of her lucrative purchase in June, Vincent noticed the vase immediately. “People tell me I have a good eye,” she said in a phone interview. “You can put me in an aisle with a whole bunch of dollar store stuff and I can pick out the one item with a little bit of value. I feel like I’ve trained myself — I’ve watched a lot of ‘Antiques Roadshow.’”

The bottle-shaped design features a swirling pattern — elegantly blown with translucent red and opaque seafoam green glass.

“As soon as I picked it up, I knew it was a nice piece,” Vincent continued. “I had no idea it was so nice, but I just knew it was good quality. I couldn’t believe nobody had picked it up before me.”

Crucially, Vincent said she recognized markings on the vase’s base indicating that it was made in Italy, from high-end Murano glass. But one word remained a mystery to her, so once home she shared photos of the piece, and its insignia, in a glassware Facebook group. Fellow members (and those in a separate group dedicated to Murano glass) soon identified the missing word as “Venini,” as in the famed Italian glassworks company.

“They were like, ‘Yeah, this is really good,’” Vincent recalled. “Some people were throwing out different makers and designers, until one person was like, ‘Oh, that’s Carlo Scarpa… very top shelf, every collector’s dream.’”

It transpired that the vase is from the “Pennellate” series that Scarpa, an architect who also dabbled in glassware and furnishings, designed for Venini in 1942, during his tenure as the company’s creative director. The term “Pennellate” translates as “brushstrokes,” in reference to the pieces’ painterly appearance. The vase demonstrates Scarpa’s “concept of a vase as canvas,” auction house Wright wrote in its listing for the piece, adding that production numbers for the series were “very low — likely because the pieces were so difficult to make.”

“When I first heard Jessica’s story and saw the image of the vase, I knew this was the real deal,” Wright’s founder, Richard Wright, told CNN in an email following the sale, adding: “(Scarpa’s) work in glass was among the most innovative on the island of Murano. The ‘Pennellate’ series was not widely produced or purchased in its day — so it is quite rare to find a work such as this one.”

Experts from the auction house soon visited Vincent to confirm the piece’s authenticity. The vase was then listed as part of Wright’s “Important Italian Glass” sale with a valuation of between $30,000 and $50,000. The final sale price more than doubled the top estimate. (The buyer’s identity has not been publicly disclosed, but they are described as an “esteemed collector.”)

Vincent and her partner watched the auction play out online. “We were shaking; we were cheering,” she said of their experience. “I can’t even put into words the excitement.”

“I love that I can say that I owned a ‘Pennellate,’” she added. “But I really felt like the right thing, for me, was to send it off into the art world where it can be fully appreciated.”

“I needed the money more than I need the vase,” she added, calling the windfall “a blessing.”

Vincent is already back on the thrift store circuit, saying she is “always looking,” whether that’s for the next big-ticket auction item or just the perfect piece for her home. “I even went thrifting yesterday after the auction,” she added. “It’s just something I will always do — it’s the thrill of the hunt.”

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Bought for $3.99 from a Virginia thrift store, this vase just sold for over $100,000