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Dusty painting purchased for $4 at Manchester, NH thrift store sells at auction for $150,000

A rare painting by N.C. Wyeth was purchased for $4 at a thrift shop in 2017.
Bonhams Skinner
A rare painting by N.C. Wyeth was purchased for $4 at a Manchester thrift shop in 2017.

Savers, the chain of discount stores known for its low prices and unpredictable inventory, encourages its shoppers to #thriftproud.

At least one local woman certainly did.

On Tuesday, an N.C. Wyeth painting she purchased for $4 at the Manchester location in 2017 was sold at auction for $150,000. After accounting for fees, the final sale price was $191,000.

The dusty oil-on-panel work was found at the discount store by a woman who has remained anonymous. Earlier this spring, after storing the piece in her closet, the woman pulled it out for cleaning and noticed the signature on the back of the painting. According to NPR, she then posted an image of the work to a Facebook page dedicated to the Wyeth family of artists.

Turns out that thrift store find was an original N.C. Wyeth from the 1930s titled “Ramona.”

Wyeth, the father of painter Andrew Wyeth, was a famous illustrator for novels and periodicals, according to Bonhamsauction house: “His work was renowned for its ability to increase the drama and character development of the accompanying text, something he achieved with vibrant, action-packed scenes, vivid colors, and a skillful use of light and shadow.”

“Ramona” captures the tension between a woman and her foster mother, and was made for a 1939 edition of a novel of the same name by Helen Hunt Jackson.

It isn’t clear who was in possession of the piece for the past several decades, or how it came to land in the Manchester discount store.

After receiving considerable media coverage in recent weeks, the painting received a single bid during Tuesday’s live auction. The buyer’s name was not released by the auction house.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.