An Ancient Roman Bust Sold at Goodwill For $34.99

published May 8, 2022
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If you head to Goodwill, it’s a given that you’ll find a few must-have pieces that can be considered a bargain. But what you don’t generally expect is to (accidentally) purchase an ancient roman relic for less than $35.

Art collector Laura Young was shopping in Goodwill in 2018 when she spotted a bust that “reminded her of actor Dennis Reynolds from ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’.” She purchased it for $34.99.

“I got it outside in the light,” she told the New York Times. “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.”

After a little research and connecting with a couple of auction houses, it was confirmed that the Dennis Reynolds look-a-like is actually an ancient Roman bust that’s over 2,000 years old. Experts believe that the bust came from Pompeii and once belonged in the collection of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. It’s unclear how it ended up in Texas, but it is thought to have been stolen from Germany and brought back to the United States by a solider.

Due to its complicated—and fascinating history—Young is not the rightful owner of the bust, which is now on display for a limited time at the San Antonio Museum of Art, before being returned to Bavaria. She will, however, receive a “small finder’s fee”.

Credit: Laura Young

“Immediately, I was like, ‘OK, I cannot keep him and I also cannot sell him,” Young explained. “It was extremely bittersweet, to say the least. But I only have control over what I can control, and art theft, looting during a war, is a war crime. I can’t be a party to it.”

Young handed over the bust to the museum earlier this year, but she does have a 3D-printed model of the piece that she keeps in her living room as a reminder of her successful Goodwill haul.

The sculpture is available for viewing at the San Antonio Museum of Art now through May 31, 2023.