Would Your Nonprofit Recognize a High-Value Donated Antique?

Whether your nonprofit organization holds garage sales, auctions, or runs a thrift shop, this latest news piece — “Pot donated to charity is worth £360,000 — should make you rethink how you look over the donated goods.

The charity in question was a hospice thrift shop in England. It had received a dusty Chinese bamboo brush pot that, instead of selling in their store, it was smart enough to turn over to an auction house. A “fierce” bidding war ensued. (I’m not going to do the math, but £360,000 is even more in dollars.)

Of course, that’s the sort of good luck that most groups can only wish for — resigned, meanwhile, to sorting through piles of donated ratty  T-shirts and cheap glass vases. But the real question is whether members of your group would recognize such good luck if it came your way. The article makes two things very clear:

  • the shop’s workers receive regular training in how to spot items of value, and
  • the charity has established an ongoing relationship with the auction house, making it easy to arrange such trainings, as well as appraisals and sales.

It’s not hard to implement something similar where you are, if you go to local experts for advise and help. And even lesser payouts can be significant — for example, if you’re able to sell a first-edition book for $50 rather than $5.

By the way, you’ll notice that the comments to the article express concern that the charity should have offered the item back to the donor. Probably true, if they knew who the donor was — but they may not have, as the article did mention that he or she was “anonymous.”