Laura Young of Austin Texas was shopping at her local Goodwill store in 2018 when she noticed a man’s head under a table. Young paid $34.99 for the 52 pound object, buckled it up into her car and took it to the vintage goods store she owned, also in Austin.
Young was curious about her find, so she began to do some research. What she ultimately learned may have surprised her: the bust is believed by experts to be a sculpture that was taken from a German museum after WWII. It is also probable that a U.S. soldier brought the sculpture back home after the war.
It’s not clear what became of the sculpture between the time it was brought to the United States and when it landed at the Austin Goodwill store. What does appear to be certain is that the bust is rare and extremely valuable. It is believed the sculpture could be the bust of ancient Roman commander Drusus Germanicus. A Sotheby’s expert has found that the work is dated to the first century CE and was last known to be part of a museum collection in a Bavarian city in Germany.
Young wanted to sell the valuable object, but first contacted an attorney who specializes in art law. That was a wise move, since the lawyer, Leila Amineddoleh, informed her that “US law doesn’t recognize the transfer of title when theft is involved,” and “advised Laura not to sell it, either publicly or privately, that is, on the black market. She risked expensive legal battles or criminal penalties if she tried.”
Amineddoleh helped Young negotiate a deal with the Bavarian authorities, that includes an undisclosed finder’s fee. The bust will be sent back to Germany, but not before it is displayed at the San Antonio Museum.
Doesn’t this story make you want to run out to your Goodwill store? Have you ever found anything cool shopping at Goodwill?