She Bought a $3.99 Vase at Goodwill. It Just Sold for $107,100

A thrifter in Virginia snagged a rare work from renowned Italian artist Carlo Scarpa

Carlo Scarpa Vase
A woman bought this 13.5-inch-tall Carlo Scarpa vase for just $3.99. Wright Auction House

Over the summer, Jessica Vincent bought a vase at a Virginia Goodwill for just a few dollars. The piece turned out to be a rare work from Italian architect and artist Carlo Scarpa—and last week, it sold at auction for $107,100.

Vincent, who is an avid thrifter, never imagined she had snagged such a good deal. “When we got to the checkout, it was $3.99,” she tells Southern Living’s Meghan Overdeep. “I had been prepared to pay $8 or $9 for it, so I was super excited at the price.”

Scarpa created the 13.5-inch-tall vase for Venini, one of the leading makers of Murano glass, in the 1940s, according to Wright Auction House. The artist used a complex technique to combine opaque and transparent glass, ultimately achieving the illusion of brushstrokes. The vase is part of Scarpa’s Pennellate series (“Pennellate” means “brushstrokes” in Italian), which ultimately only included a small number of glassworks, likely due to the difficulty involved in production. 

The Scarpa vase “is one of the rarest pieces we have offered in more than a decade of auctions with Wright,” says glass expert Jim Oliveira in an essay on the auction house’s website. “We know of only one other example in this form and color combination, which resides in a private collection.”

Pennellate (Brush Strokes)
The decorative glass on the vase resembles brush strokes. Wright Auction House

Vincent started to suspect her find may be valuable when she posted about it on a Murano glass Facebook group. One group member even offered $10,000 to take it off her hands, per Artnet’s Brian Boucher. Instead, Vincent decided to consult with Wright. She soon found herself speaking with Richard Wright, the auction house’s founder.

“We had a great phone call in which he explained how rare this piece was,” Vincent tells Southern Living.

The auction house estimated that the vase, which was in good condition and wasn’t chipped, would sell for between $30,000 and $50,000. But once again, the final price exceeded Vincent’s expectations.

“[The bids] just kept going up and up and up. I was holding my breath,” says Vincent to Elle Decor’s Anna Fixsen. “It’s just really unbelievable that my $3.99 vase sold for $85,000,” the final price excluding the buyer’s premium. She adds, “It’s just a blessing.”

Sara Blumberg, a glass specialist at Wright, was also impressed by Vincent’s find. “I can count on one hand the times this has happened over the years,” Blumberg tells Elle Decor. “This is really a very, very rare occurrence—particularly at a Goodwill.”

She adds, “You have to know how to see things out of context. It’s so easy to go to a museum and peer into a case and say, ‘God, that’s a great example.’ But to see something on a dusty shelf and understand it is a leap of faith. You have to be able to look with wide eyes to see these things. And happily, there are people who do—and [Vincent is] one of them.”

Vincent plans to use the auction money to renovate a farmhouse she recently bought with her partner.

“It’s something I never thought would happen, but I never crossed out of my mind, either,” she tells Block Club Chicago’s Linze Rice. “I’m always hopeful that I’m going to find something good. It finally happened. It can happen to anybody if it can happen to me.”

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