$4 thrift-store vase sells for $107,100 at auction

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An Italian glass vase, purchased for $4 at a thrift store in Richmond, Virginia, fetched $107,100 (including buyer’s fee) on 13 December at Wright Auction House. Produced for the Italian glassmaker Venini on the Venetian island of Murano, its path to a Goodwill is a mystery to all parties, especially given the vase’s near-perfect condition.

Jessica Vincent, who purchased the vase from the thrift store, often frequents flea markets and secondhand stores near Richmond. While the vase stood out to her due to its remarkable colours and weight, she was otherwise unaware of the object’s significance. Speaking with Elle Decor, Vincent said she will use her auction proceeds for a farmhouse renovation and other small luxuries. When asked if she would continue to shop at thrift stores after her windfall, Vincent said: “Absolutely, I plan on going today.”

The vase, designed by Carlo Scarpa around 1947, is a rare example of his Pennellate series, which mimics painted brushstrokes through opaque and transparent glass appliqués. It is one of a few remaining examples of Scarpa’s Venini work worldwide, and one of only two vases with the same colour pattern known to exist. Scarpa, a Venetian architect and industrial designer influenced by the history and materials of his native city, designed the vase during his time with Venini. Notable for its commitment to contemporary designs in handcrafted glasswork, the company has collaborated with a number of designers and architects over the years, including Tadao Ando, Cini Boeri and Tyra Lundgren.

“It’s an amazing story, that this very sophisticated piece of glass finds its way to Virginia,” Richard Wright, the founder of Wright Auction House, told Artnet. “It was expensive, not mass-produced, and it falls through the cracks all the way down to the Goodwill. It’s not even chipped.” Wright added that Vincent discovered the worth of the vase after posting in an antique-glass forum on Facebook, where she had the resolve to turn down a $10,000 offer in favour of auctioning the piece.

While the winners of the auction choose to remain anonymous, comments from Vincent indicate that they are deserving recipients of the rare find. “It’s gone to a very good private collection,” she told Elle Decor. “It’s really just a lovely story start to finish.”

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