One person’s trash is another’s treasure, and every ardent thrift store shopper deeply understands this, but the phrase got too real for one Goodwill customer.
An antiques dealer may have found the bargain of the millennium after she found a priceless 2,000-year-old Roman bust – which was taken from Germany during the Second World War – for just $35 at a Texas thrift store.
Laura Young, of Austin, came across the 52-pound Roman bust at a local Goodwill store in her hometown in 2018 and didn’t think twice before acting on her intuition to buy it. Busts from a similar time period have been sold for practically $30,000, online auctions suggest.
Young said, reflecting on when she first purchased the statue:
“I got it outside in the light. He had chips to the base. He had clear repairs. He looks old. I’ve been to museums. I’ve seen Roman portrait heads before.”
She said that the statue was “pretty dirty” once she found it, and had a worker carry the 52-pound bust out to her car.
Young’s instinct proved to be the right one. After acquiring the sculpture, Young contacted art experts at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as collectors and auction homes around the country to get a sense of its authenticity and origin.
An unknown specialist confirmed it was an ancient Roman artifact, but Sotheby’s consultant Jorg Deterling was the one who resolved the era it was made in — dating back from the late 1st century BC to the early 1st century AD.
According to historians and researchers, the bust is probably the Roman general Drusus Germanicus or Pompey the Great’s son, and was kept in the villa of a Bavarian king. One theory is that during fighting in Aschaffenburg, Germany, near the end of the war, it was taken from the museum where it was kept.
Here’s what Young said, according to Austin’s NPR station:
“It was on a small credenza close to the entryway of our house. Facing the TV. So you could see his reflection in the TV when you’re watching TV. Every time you walk into the kitchen, you pass the head. Every time you walk into the house, he greets you. He’s there. He was a constant presence.”
She nicknamed the bust “Dennis,” after a character in the TV sitcom “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.”
Young reached a deal to return the bust to Germany with the help of an attorney who specializes in international art law, Austin radio station KUT reported. The terms of that deal were confidential.
“It hurt a little bit. It was bittersweet. Like, it’s nice that there’s a resolution to it and that it’s working out for the best. It’ll be a little bittersweet to see him in the museum, but he needs to go home. He wasn’t supposed to be here.”
It will be returned to Bavaria where it will go on display at a museum after negotiations over ownership of the head. However, for the next year, the bust will be able to be seen at the San Antonio Art Museum.
Watch it here: KVUE News/Youtube