Mistakenly Bought Treasures

In the past, I’ve written about the rich spending astronomical sums of money on art. Today, I’m going to write about the rest of us. Sometimes, we common folk get lucky.


ABOVE: Martin Johnson Heade, Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth, 1888-90, oil on canvas, 14.8 x 24 inches

Every so often, there is a news story about an artwork bought for peanuts, being worth a fortune.

Unfortunately, what seems too good to be true often is, and the authenticities of these works are often in dispute.

Fortunately, I did come across one story with a happy ending:

In the late nineties, a young tool and die maker from Indiana (who remains anonymous) bought some used furniture for thirty bucks. Included in the purchase was an ‘old’ painting of flowers – he used it to cover up a hole in his wall.

A while later, he and some friends decided to play Masterpiece, a board game in which players outbid one another for art at auction. Included in the game was an image similar to the one on his wall – by an artist named Martin Johnson Heade.

Intrigued, he began searching for the painter online, and later contacted the gallery responsible for handling his estate. They verified that the painting was in fact a Heade (see painting and caption above), and put the young man in contact with the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston – they paid $1.25 million for it.

Who doesn’t love a story with a happy ending?