One of the great things about flea markets is that you never know what you’ll find. Between all of the antiques, collectibles, vintage items and other treasures, there’s so much to discover. If you’re lucky, you can find a valuable product and make some good money off of it, and that’s exactly what happened to one man.
Jim Martin found a painting at a local upstate New York thrift shop for around $5, and thought it would go well on his bedroom wall. After some time, Martin and his wife decided it was time for the painting to find a new home, so over the summer they donated the picture of a royal poinciana tree to the Friends of Tompkins County Public Library Book Sale.
From $5 to $1,250
A volunteer from the book sale with some art history knowledge thought the painting needed to be appraised, and the surprise was that the value was found to be $1,250! Michael Scholtz, a volunteer of Friends of Tompkins County Public Library told Spectrum Local News, “Never seen anything like this. It’s one of the largest book sales in the country, it’s just unusual it happens to be in this tiny little college town in upstate New York.”
The royal poinciana tree painting is by Alfred Hair, an African-American painter from Fort Pierce, Florida. Hair was instrumental in founding the Florida Highwaymen artist movement and helping 26 young black artists sell their paintings door-to-door throughout Florida from the mid-1950s through the 1980s. Hair couldn’t get his art shown in galleries, so he sold his paintings along U.S. Route 1. The Florida Highwaymen were inducted into Florida’s Artist Hall of Fame in 2004.
Friends Benefitting Friends
This semi annual book sale takes place on the first Saturday in May and on Columbus Day weekend in October. Located in Ithaca, New York, all proceeds from the book sale benefit the Tompkins County Public Library, the Finger Lakes Library System, and organizations working for literacy in Tompkins County.
Between books and audio books, CD’s, DVD’s, records, puzzles, games and other merchandise, the warehouse gets completely filled every six months with over 250,000 donated items. Thanks to the work of around 170 volunteers, the sale makes around $500,000 every year.
The Gift of Giving
As soon as Martin found out the painting was worth over $1,200, he immediately texted his wife and said, “oh no.” In the end, though, he decided that the library could really benefit from the donation and that was more important. Now, this piece of history can go down in the Friends of Tompkins County Public Library history and contribute to the community.