Between 1947 and 1971, Picasso created 633 different ceramic editions, ranging from simple utilitarian objects like plates and bowls to complex pitchers and vases.
One can never predict when Lady Luck might decide to change their life overnight. Such was the case with Nancy Cavaliere who pretty much stumbled upon a treasure in a thrift store. The 36-year-old was going through tableware, furnishings and trinkets in the store when she came across a set of $6 plates—plates that turned out to be an original piece by one of the world's most famous artists, Picasso. In a TikTok video that gained 400 thousand views and on later shared on her Instagram, she explained how she "found Picasso at the thrift store."
"I stumbled on the plates during my daily trip to the store. On my way out I noticed some new china had been added to the shelves. My first reaction was that they would make a great tablescape, but then I turned them over and saw the Picasso tag," Cavaliere told Newsweek. Cavaliere moved to New York City from Italy when she was eight years old, and after marrying in 2014, she began thrifting, primarily to furnish her apartment.
In her video, she explains how she dealt with the crazy discovery of these plates from Salvation Army. In the summer of 2017, she visited the thrift store on her way back from work as was her routine. She didn't find anything worthy and almost turned to leave until she spotted these plates sitting on the aisle. Although she is well-versed in art furniture and period styles, Cavaliere says in her video, she wasn't aware that Picasso made ceramics.
When she later Googled them and found out how much their worth was, she felt overwhelmed. "I freaked out," she said. "I didn't know what I was holding, but I knew it could be worth serious money. So I checked out and ran back to my office... the date they were made and pretty much the whole history behind Picasso's ceramic line." After contacting the auction houses in New York, she started looking into how much they would sell them for. The set of plates was all hand-made and auditioned by alphabets.
The ones she had were 'G' and 'E'. She ended up consigning three plates instead of four and plans to sell the fourth one signed by Picasso himself after 20 years. The thrifter watched as the auctions climbed, and her ceramic discovery started selling for $12,000, $13,000 and even $16,000. "It felt like a crazy amount of money at the time," said Cavaliere. "Then even more so when the auction went live and the price started climbing. It was absolutely bananas. I was watching the auction from the office 'screaming, crying, throwing up.'"
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Cavaliere invested the proceeds of the sale and continues to thrift on a regular basis. She plans on giving the money to her daughter for a trip to Europe or for whatever she needs. "My entire home is filled with thrift, valuable, second-hand finds," she said. "Everything is worth money and has a cool story."
Picasso, a Spanish painter, sculptor and ceramicist, is still one of the most valuable artists at auction today, with some realized works fetching as much as $179 million. Along with his well-known abstract paintings, he created a large body of mixed-media works. Between 1947 and 1971, Picasso created 633 different ceramic editions, ranging from simple utilitarian objects like plates and bowls to complex pitchers and vases.
The plates were not this fortunate lady's only find. After the plates, she came across an Alexander McQueen jumpsuit from his second collection. It was purchased for $20 and sold for an incredible $8,500. While Cavaliere enjoys browsing the local thrift store, she admits that it isn't what it used to be. "Pre-pandemic I would go thrifting every day since there was a thrift store on the way home from work," she said.
"That store closed so now I maybe go once a week. Thrifting is not what it used to be pre-pandemic—the whole landscape has changed," she added. "Prices have skyrocketed and demand for secondhand has surged. It's a tough game out there, but you can still find magic."