That $4 Thrift Shop Painting Finally Does Sell for Big Bucks

A New Hampshire couple was heartbroken when the sale of a rare N.C. Wyeth work they found fell through. But a new buyer emerged, paying more than $100,000.

The saga of the $4 thrift shop painting has a happy ending after all.

On Thursday, the rare N.C. Wyeth illustration that Tracy Donahue found years ago for a bargain at a Savers was handed over to a representative of Heritage Auctions at a public library in Keene, N.H.

The representative, Aviva Lehmann, had read an article in The New York Times about how Ms. Donahue and her husband, Tom, had been disappointed to learn that the bidder who agreed to pay $191,000 at an auction in September then failed to cough up the cash.

“I had a visceral reaction,” Ms. Lehmann said.

She resolved to sell it, had a particular private collector in mind and closed the deal one recent morning at 3 a.m. when that same collector, without prompting, sent her a message out of the blue.

The collector had also read about the painting and wanted it.

“Kismet,” Ms. Lehmann said.

On Thursday, the Donahues drove from their New Hampshire home to the library and met Ms. Lehmann, who had driven up from New York. Painting went one way. Receipt for wire transfer of the money into the Donahues’ account went the other.

All of which led Ms. Donahue to ask her husband: “Can we afford to go to lunch?”

At the barbecue restaurant, like someone biting an old nickel, Mr. Donahue checked the banking app on his phone to make sure the money had been deposited.

“Tom has shown me four times already,” Ms. Donahue said.

No one is saying who the buyer was or what exactly he paid. But Ms. Lehmann said, “It’s six figures.”

For months, after discovering that the hulking painting they had once stored in a closet was valuable, the Donahues had dreamed of using the funds from its sale to pay bills and visit their son in Germany. He was their first call on Thursday. “Start planning,” Ms. Donahue said. “We’re coming!”

There is also possibly a new dishwasher in their future, along with something to “pass it forward” during the holiday season, Ms. Donahue said.

Ms. Donahue admitted being a bit crestfallen to have parted with “Ramona,” a frontispiece illustration that was part of a four-image set Wyeth contributed to a 1939 edition of the Helen Hunt Jackson novel of the same name.

But she said Ms. Lehmann had promised to make her a true-to-scale print of the painting after Heritage cleaned and restored it. Ms. Donahue plans to have the print framed so it will look a little bit like the original.

“It is an amazing end to all of this,” she said. “I still get to enjoy the painting.”

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