Titusville, FL

Florida Thrift Store and Garage Sale Finds that Were Worth Thousands

L. Cane

It's exciting to hear about thrift store purchases that made the buyer a fortune, such as a man who bought a $3 painting at a South Carolina Goodwill store and found out later that it was a 17th-century work of Flemish art worth $190,000. Or the man who bought what he thought was a copy of the Declaration of Independence in a Nashville thrift store, only to discover that it was an original worth $477,650.

Florida has had a few of these trash to treasure stories, with finds worth thousands of dollars, although one story is a little different.

The College Kids Who Found Real NASA Flight Suits for Twenty Cents: Thrift stores are a great place to look for Halloween costumes or items for Cosplay, especially if you are a college student or young adult. In August 2017, college students Talia Rappa and Skyler Ashworth visited a Salvation Army thrift store that was going out of business in Titusville, Florida.

While there, they discovered five flight suits with NASA logos for 20 cents each. So they bought them. Turns out, the flight suits were authentic. The American Space Museum authenticated them. Names on the thrift store flight suits matched actual astronauts from the 1980s - George Nelson and Robert Parker - and payload specialist Charles Walker, all of whom flew on space shuttle missions. The Museum estimated that the suits could be worth up to $5,000 apiece.

The Man Who Bought a Ceramic Bowl for A Dollar But Found it Was Worth $30,000: In 2019, a man bought a ceramic bowl at a garage sale for $1. The man, Irwin Werbowsky, happened to volunteer and consign at The Exchange in Sarasota, a nonprofit consignment shop that raises money for local arts. When Werbowsky consigned the piece, the Exchange's pricer Kim Connor researched it, and discovered that the bowl was made by Italian modernist designer Gio Ponti in 1925. It had sold at Christie’s Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale for $30,000.

The Patrons Who Donated Thousands of Dollars Worth of Antiques to a Florida Thrift Store: The proceeds of some thrift stores go toward good causes, and St. Matthew’s House on Metro Parkway in south Fort Myers is one example. The Matthew House's Tony Bell has described the charity's mission as "a nondenominational charity that specializes in addiction services, homelessness, and also feeding the hungry."

That's why a donation that came in around February 2022 was arguably a blessing. Someone donated two 19th-century Chinese cabinets from the Qing Dynasty worth about $55,000 a piece and also a biblical concordance, or dictionary, dating back to 1767. Despite the high value of these items, Bell says that the proceeds of all donations go to help those in need in Southwest Florida.

Of course, not everyone goes thrifting to find literal treasures. Sometimes, it is arguably fun to find items that are special to you for personal reasons.

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