Laura Young was shopping at a Goodwill in Austin, Texas, when she came across a $35 bust that reminded her of Dennis Reynolds from Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It made her chuckle, so she bought it but almost right away, she suspected that this was something special.
“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.”
She did a little Google research and started to get a hunch that this was no cheap knockoff of an Ancient Roman statue that you’d display in a garden or in your living room. Young contacted some auction houses and told them what she’d found. They agreed with her. It might look like Dennis Reynolds, but it probably predated him. They were right.
It turns out, the bust is probably something like 2,000 years old — dating back to the time of Jesus, at least. Experts believe that it came from Pompeii and, at some point, ended up in the collection of a Bavarian king in the 19th century. That collection was looted during World War II and, at some point, the bust went missing. Maybe it ended up in the possession of an Allied soldier who brought it back to the U.S. and forgot about it, but how it ended up in a Goodwill remains a mystery.
Young’s a good sport about it. She can’t legally keep or sell the piece, so she’s returning it to Bavaria in exchange for a small “finder’s fee.”
“We are very pleased that a piece of Bavarian history that we thought was lost has reappeared and will soon be able to return to its rightful location,” said Bernd Schreiber, president of the Bavarian Administration of State-Owned Palaces, Gardens and Lakes. That statement was released by the San Antonio Museum of Art, which is displaying the bust for a brief time to honor its finding place in Texas.
All in all, not a bad reminder to go with your gut at Goodwill. You never know what you might find. Even if you can’t keep it, you get a good story out of the deal.