Murano glass

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this kind of thrifting story where a cheap Goodwill vintage find sells for a bundle, not by a longshot. I’ve been showing people what to buy at thrift stores, online auctions, flea markets, yard sales, and estate sales for many years and cheering for their success in the world of vintage art treasure hunting. I have featured the shoppers and the vintage objects they find with my help on my YouTube channel in my Real Bargains and other videos. Some of the stuff that’s been discovered by my followers while thrifting brought high values just like an Italian glass vase that is in the news recently. For example, less than a year ago, one of my thrift shopper and YouTube followers bought a $250 estate sale painting that I appraised during a video call and later sold it at auction for $175,000. Here, I’ll talk about the Goodwill vase sells for more than $100,000.

The Italian glass piece that sold is in the shape of a bottle but it is called a vase. It has a small thin neck and a small round top opening with a clear glass body. The vase has a main feature of bold red and green swirling strokes overall. The glass vase was made by Venetian architect and designer, Carlo Scarpa for Venini in the Pennellate series dating to the late 1940s. It was made in 1947 to be specific. The round form of this Art Moderne vase was discovered at a Goodwill store in Virginia. The Goodwill vase sells for a ton of cash. The thrifter purchased the piece based on its attractive colors and the weight of the glass piece.

Here are the specs on the piece:

Artist: Carlo Scarpa
Title: Rare Pennellate vase, model 3664
Origin: Venini, Italy
Date: circa 1947
Medium: Glass with applied opaque and transparent glass
Dimensions: 13.5 inches tall x 4 inches diameter

The thrift store shopper admitted she had no idea that it was very valuable when she purchased it. Bought for $4 at a Goodwill thrift shop near Richmond, Virginia, the vase is the latest big story in the ever-popular culture of thrifting. The Goodwill vase sells  in a billion-dollar industry of donations, stores, online sellers, and objects, thrifting is fun and financially reliable.

How to Tell

Here’s how the owner of this Italian vase should have recognized that the piece was valuable, and these points will also help you spot a valuable piece of glass during your next thrift store shopping trip:
1. Weight of the glass
2. Color of glass
3. Multicolored modern design
4. Signed, marked, or dated
5. Italian origin.

When you look for a piece of glass, weight means quality. In design, colors–particularly complimentary colors and in this case that is the complimentary color pairs of red and green—are synonymous with high glass value. Signatures, markings, and dates like the maker, studio location, and time period impact value when it comes to glass. And, this glass vase, which was signed with a three-line acid stamp on the underside of the bottom of the vase as “Venini Murano Italia” puts the vase in one of the world’s premiere glass blowing centers. It is marked “Venini Murano Italia” which indicates that the piece was hand made on one of the islands of Venice, Italy with the valuable Murano glass mark. Murano pieces are very impressive and as a result, very valuable. Artisans have been making fine glass in Venice since the 1200s AD. So, the lesson is, don’t overlook Italian glass EVER. This Goodwill vase sells for $107,100 happens to be Italian, Murano, Venetian, colorful, and from the mid twentieth century. That checks off all of the boxes for collectors with deep pockets at auction.

Murano glass

These two Murano pieces are the popular millefiore style vases from Venice.

The Italian vase from the thrift store resold for $107,100 at Wright’s, a specialty modern decorative arts auction in Chicago, IL. Of course, the vase sold online through Wright’s. Don’t forget that this $107,100 amount includes a pretty hefty buyer’s premium. The owner will not really receive $107,100 from the auction house. She’ll get $107,100 minus the seller’s premium. The seller agrees to give up an amount of money, called the seller’s premium, to the auction house in exchange for the auction house marketing and selling her item at auction. The auction house sold the piece to an anonymous buyer. The auction house required the buyer to pay the final auction hammer price as well as an additional buyer’s premium, in this case 31% of the final auction hammer price. When the hammer hits the podium after the auctioneer yells going, going, gone at an auction, that’s the final price. This is how an $85,000 hammer price turns into a $107,100 price tag when something sells at auction.

Also, the auction house gave this owner of the Italian glass vase a pre-auction estimate of $30,000-$50,000. I always question these low market pre-auction estimates. They have two results: 1. The low pre-auction estimate makes the seller think that work of art they are selling is worth less than it really is. It will also make the seller think that the seller’s premium, a percentage of the final hammer sale price, based on the pre-auction estimate will be lower than the final hammer price and 2. The low pre-auction estimate makes the auction house look like a hero when the pre-auction estimate is exceeded by such a wide margin. In this case, the pre-auction estimate was $30,000-$50,000 and the piece’s hammer price was $85,000. That’s a whopping $35,000 higher than the pre-auction estimate.

The seller gave up a portion of the proceeds to the auction house who sold the glass vase and because the pre-auction estimate was so low, the seller paid an extra $8,750.00 in the 25% seller’s premium that she didn’t expect to pay to the auction house. The glass vessel sold for $85,000, but the seller didn’t see that amount of money as she gave up a high percentage of the final hammer price, maybe as much as 25% to the auction house. The buyer’s premium for this object was an additional 31% on top of the final auction hammer price. The hammer price is the final amount that the final bidder, also known as the buyer, who won the auction agreed to pay. The buyer also agrees to pay an additional 31% of that amount to the auction house for having the privilege to buy the piece. The auction sets the amount of a buyers premium of 31% if the piece sells for under $700,000.00. If the Goodwill vase sells for more than $700,000.00, then the buyer would pay a lower buyer’s premium, approximately 25% .

Still Great Stuff at Goodwill

To all the naysayers think my thrift with me videos are revealing to the staff members at Goodwill stores what is valuable on their shelves, well, they didn’t realize this was sitting on their shelves just waiting to be thrifted and flipped. The Goodwill vase sells for a bundle shows you that there is still good stuff at thrift stores despite what naysayers say.

And, one more thing…

The Italian vase bought at Goodwill in Virginia is a famous item in the history of art and design. In fact, it was published with an accompanying color photograph in the catalogue hardcover book by Marino Barovier entitled Carlo Scarpa: Venini 1932-1947 on page 438. The book features 300 works of art from his early career work to the period when he works as director of the Venini glassworks, circa 1932-1947. Scarpa plays a major role in the resurgence of collecting Italian glass in the twentieth century. The renewed interest in modern Italian glass is owed to Scarpa. The vase’s inclusion in this major publication helps owners, collectors, and auction houses confirm the authenticity of a design and attracts potential buyers to the work of art. Every owner likes to say that they have a published work of art and the publication of a work of art in such a catalogue book will impact the vase’s value going forward. In the future, the work of art will increase in value because of its appearance in a published book and in a major auction. Good luck hunting for thrift store treasures… you’ll find yours soon, I’m sure.

Watch videos on my YouTube channel where I reveal more about how to identify glass and the values of vintage glass. I can appraise your glass objects from photos or you can show me your pieces during a video call.