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A 19-year-old New England boy picked up a snowmobile helmet and an interesting looking vase at a yard sale last summer. He casually put the vase in the helmet for the car ride home, not realizing he had stumbled onto a treasure.

The vase turned out to be a rare c.1909 Marblehead Pottery piece of art. His yard sale vase sold at a Skinner auction in Boston for a record $303,000, far more than its $10,000 to $12,000 pre-auction estimate. The teen and his family “were thrilled when it hit $50,000, and they started getting nervous when it went over $100,000,” said Dan Ayer, Skinner’s Twentieth Century specialist. Ayer noted the teen paid “less than $60” for the two items and he eventually sold the snowmobile helmet on Craigslist for the $60 he paid for both the helmet and vase.

The vase is decorated with haystacks in a marsh, painted in the style of Arthur Wesley Dow, an artist from Ipswich, Mass. It was designed by Annie E. Aldrich, decorated by Sarah Tutt, and made by John Swallow. Marked with the Marblehead sailing ship mark, it is one of four known examples of this style of vase.

The teen suspected he had a treasure after online research showed a similar vase had sold for $90,000 in 2008. He contacted Skinner. When Skinner expert Ayer saw the photograph of the vase, he drove 250 miles the next morning to pick it up. The vase, with the low estimate of $10,000, had 18 bidders.

Marblehead Pottery began in 1904 as a small studio pottery therapy program in a sanitarium for nervous disorders in Marblehead, Mass. The designer, Annie E. Aldrich, was a patient. The same year, Arthur Baggs was hired to establish a commercial program for the pottery, which led to the creation of the for-profit Marblehead Pottery in 1908. The business was sold to Baggs in 1915 and closed in 1936.


c.1909 Marblehead Pottery Vase

Photo: Skinner, Inc. www.skinnerinc.com


#9 Awesome :)one56day 2019-01-11 19:12
While I agree it would be nice to know if the person who he bought the vase from was recognized I know if it was I, there were so many times of day long garage sales, hitting as many as a dozen in one day I would not remember where I bought certain items! With the ease of garage sale finders, google maps and waze it makes it so easy to hit a dozen spots starting early on a Saturday morning. Great story and kudos a young man has been bitten by the "hunt". I too as a previous commenter stated thought the youth of today had no interest in collectables. My greatest find was a lamp I purchased for $75. I bought it because I loved it to find out one sold for $850. I had no idea it was a Blenko lamp and apparently neither did the estate sale organizer.
#8 Amazing storyjennywren 2019-01-10 14:45
Like others, glad this young man took the time to look it up to see if it had any value. Being the person I am, I would have to go back and give that family a chunk of money, a way to soothe my guilty conscience. I'm sure there are others who would do the same, and others who would say that's the sellers loss and my win. I would just feel too much guilt to not do something. Would be nice to know if the family did something for the ones having the garage sale,
#7 A Promising Outlookjsgd1966 2019-01-10 08:25
As it is an amazing find, I find even more exciting to see that a 19 year old was drawn to it and thought enough about it to pick it up. It does a heart good to see younger generations see the beauty and value in vintage and antique items, let alone those of an artistic nature. I have personally seen interest levels rise in younger people amidst living in a throw away world, and this is a promising sign for the collector industry.
#6 Love the treasure hunt!Dublinkim 2019-01-09 19:22
My best buy was a Lego Town set for $20 - sold for $750!
#5 Love the story!MsMusic 2019-01-09 18:33
Yep, always on the lookout for this kind of find. Most recently purchased a paper mache snowman holding a red umbrella made in US Zone Germany for $1.50 and sold it for $150.00. Love the thrill of the hunt!!
#4 just wondering . . . .willowman 2019-01-09 17:30
just wondering if the folks who sold this at their yard sale found out about what it really was!? also: gotta wonder how THEY acquired it?
#3 Wow!mrhall 2019-01-09 16:34
Thank goodness for yard sales!
#2 This is what keeps me lookingstevewoods 2019-01-09 16:19
I have found a lot of great things, one items sold for over $3,000 that I paid 25 cents for. But I keep looking for a life changing item like this.
#1 Wonderful Find/Storywillowman 2019-01-09 16:13
Such a wonderful story of an incredible find. Goes to show you that there are still undiscovered masterpieces out there. Thank you Kovels for the background.

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