2,000-Year-Old Roman Bust Was Purchased for $35 USD at a Goodwill in Texas

If an original Yoshitomo Nara ashtray isn’t a good enough reason to go check out your nearest Goodwill, perhaps the latest find will be. Laura Young, an avid antique seller in Austin, Texas was thrift shopping when she found a hefty 52lb marble Roman bust in 2018.

“I was just looking for anything that looked interesting,” Young said in an interview with CNN, adding, “It was a bargain at $35 USD – there was no reason not to buy it.” She immediately reached out to a number of auction houses to gauge the authenticity of her piece and was delighted to find that her object wasn’t a knockoff.

A specialist from Sotheby’s confirmed that the bust appeared in archival photographs dating back to the 1930s in Aschaffenburg in Bavaria, Germany.

A Sotheby’s specialist confirmed that the bust was spotted in archival photographs dating back to the 1930s in Aschaffenburg in Bavaria, Germany. According to Lynley McAlpine, a postdoctoral fellow at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA), the bust is in fact 2,000 years old and once belonged to the Roman military leader, Sextus Pompey, adding that it was housed in a replica of a Pompeii home, dubbed the Pompejanum, which was commissioned by King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

There, the bust was showcased until it was put into storage to shelter from attacks during the Second World War. For the next 80 years, its whereabouts are a mystery until Young unexpectedly found it at a Goodwill in Austin. “Since it ended up in the US it seems likely that some American that was stationed there got their hands on it,” McAlpine said.

Young has since tried to locate the original person who first donated the bust to Goodwill via Craigslist, but to no avail. “It’s most likely not the original person who took him, but [I] would still like to know the story,” said Young.

The Roman bust is currently on loan to SAMA for a year before it will return to Germany in May 2023.

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