Last year, an elderly woman from Oxfordshire bought a “print” at a probate sale for £100 ($180 CAD).
When the art lover passed away earlier this year, her husband brought in the painting to be appraised by art expert Sarah Lewis of JS Auctions in Banbury, Oxon.
The widower wasn’t expecting to learn that his late wife’s painting was actually a rare watercolour by British wartime artist Eric Ravilious — part of a set of three — valued between £40,000 and £60,000 ($72,000 to $108,000 CAD).
Art historians weren’t even aware of its existence, Spear’s reported, as the piece “had not changed hands since its initial sale at a Tooth’s exhibition in 1939.”
When Ravilious’ daughter, Ann Ullmann, heard about the work, titled “Bathing Machines, Aldeburgh,” she immediately traveled to Banbury to see what she described as “an absolute corker" in person.
At auction, “Bathing Machines, Aldeburgh” set a new record for a Ravilious painting: £312,700 ($563,000 CAD).
The widower said he was "blown away and speechless" by the sale.
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Last spring, a New York man bought a Long Island cottage and discovered thousands of paintings, drawings and journals by Arthur Pinajina, an obscure Armenian-American abstract impressionist, stashed away in its attic and garage. An art appraiser valued the works at $30 million.
Last summer, a Colorado couple picked up a $5 plywood chair at a local garage sale — only to discover it was a Herman Miller original worth thousands.
And in March of 2012, an 81-year-old South Carolina man named Leroy sold a painting he purchased at a Goodwill for $3 for a whopping $190,000 at a Massachusetts auction house.
"It’s the biggest find I’ve ever had. It’s that one thing you’re always looking for. I’d like to get the big one. Well, that was the big one. I can only thank Goodwill for that," he said.