New Yorker Nancy Cavaliere started trending online after she shared her thrift-shop find of a lifetime on social media. Cavaliere unknowingly purchased four authentic Pablo Picasso ceramic editioned plates from a Salvation Army joint in New York City for approximately $8. Little did she know that these plates would be the gift that kept on giving, as three of them went to auction and reaped a collective $41,000.
Cavaliere began thrifting in 2014 to furnish her apartment before it became a fun hobby-turned-habit. In a recent TikTok video, she recalled the experience of ducking into her frequently visited local Salvation Army on her way home from work on a blisteringly hot summer day in 2017 and finding the set of four plates sitting on a table in a particularly uninspiring china section.
“I was going to buy them to make a table skate because although I am very well-versed in art furniture and period styles, I did not know Picasso made ceramics,” she recounted.
When she went home and Googled the black plates featuring abstract faces for further information, she discovered that she was sitting on a set of authentic Picasso “Visage Noir” ceramic hand-painted plates from the 1940s, crafted at the Madoura pottery studio in Vallauris, a seaside town in southern France. Picasso had designed, painted, and signed or stamped over 3,500 ceramic works spread across 633 collections between 1947 and 1971, and his fleet of working artists produced an additional 120,000 “authentic replicas” known as “Edition Picassos.”
Cavaliere said she contacted every NYC-based auction house for authentication and pricing estimates and was told her plates were worth about $3,000 to $5,000 each. She raked in much more than that — three of the four plates sold for $12,000, $13,000, and $16,000 respectively, and Cavaliere kept one plate that was signed by Picasso in a safe to auction off later on as a gift for her daughter when she’s older. “It’s crazy that I actually own something signed by Picasso himself,” Cavaliere said in her video.
“It wasn’t difficult to part with them because they weren’t mine, I had no emotional attachment to them,” Cavaliere told Hyperallergic. “The only thing that made me sad was wondering who they might have belonged to, and why or how they ended up at a thrift shop in the first place.”
Apparently, lightning can strike the same place twice, as this isn’t even the first time Cavaliere has turned a major profit from a thrift store find. A few summers ago, she spent $20 on a real Alexander McQueen jumpsuit from one of his earliest collections and sold it for over $8,000.
Some of us are just born lucky. But Cavaliere’s number one piece of advice for new and amateur thrifters is to “research, research, research!”
“Learn how to spot things that might be worth something and familiarize yourself with things like textiles silk, wool, and natural fibers that would make a garment worth more money, over something that’s polyester,” she said. “Learn about art, different styles, and artists. Always, ALWAYS, Google ‘thrift store near me’ if you have some free time, wherever you are, and POP IN. The first rule about thrifting is you have to be in it to win it. The more you go, the more chances you have to find something amazing.”