Roamin’ for Romans is new example of thrift
Talk about a head-scratcher.
A woman in Texas was shopping at Goodwill in 2018 when she bought a Roman bust. Not a “bust” bust, like some dirty minds are imagining, but a head. Think Nero or Caligula or one of those other noble Romans.
Turns out the bust wasn’t some replica that had gone rogue from the local Olive Garden. No, it was legit – an authentic sculpture dating back 2,000 years. So about 10 years younger than my mother-in-law.
According to published reports, the shopper paid $34.99 for it (the head, not my mother-in-law), transported it home by car after securing it with a seatbelt, named it after a character in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and presumably did all the other things that people in “Weekend at Bernie’s” did with poor Bernie’s flaccid body.
I imagine her taking the bust on vacation to the Caribbean, dancing the flamenco with it and watching sappy black-and-white movies on rainy days. She probably dabbed its eyes when Ronald Reagan said to “win one for the Gipper.”
Nothing in the last paragraph really happened, of course. At least to my knowledge.
Instead, Our Hero assumed her find was valuable, contacted the sort of people who assign monetary figures to old, musty busts and found out that, yep, it was once the noggin of a bonafide Roman statue.
Eventually, after it’s been displayed in a museum, officials will return it to Bavaria, from whence it previously was looted by the Nazis before being further looted – uh, liberated – by an American soldier before being brought back to the U.S. before being sold to a Goodwill.
Lots of “befores” in that last sentence. Next year, it’ll befive.
To think that the only valuable thing most people ever get at a thrift shop is bedbugs. And those are only valuable to an exterminator’s bottom line. But here is somebody who won the flea market equivalent of the Triple Crown and the Grand Slam (the golf championships, not the Denny’s breakfast, although the breakfast is pretty good, too). She should have been set for life, right?
Surprisingly, the thrift shopper didn’t profit from the piece. Apparently, “finders keepers” and “possession is 9/10 of the law” hold up only in schoolyard swaps of comic books and marbles, not the marble head of some long-dead general.
I can imagine a latter-day Indiana Jones, protecting the head with a bullwhip while shouting, “This piece belongs in a museum!”
Not only couldn’t she sell it, but I can’t find confirmation that she even gets reimbursed for the $35. If so, does it come from Goodwill or the government? And if it’s the government, is it American or Bavarian? And does she have to claim it on her taxes?
At least she gets her name on a fancy plaque displayed next to the piece. That, and $35, would buy a halfway decent meal at Denny’s. Maybe a Grand Slam for the recipient and a friend, provided the friend isn’t the severed-marble head of a first-century Roman. (Maybe it can at least order off the kids’ menu.)
Anyway, every news cycle has winners and losers. This hapless shopper is one of the week’s losers.
She thought she was getting ahead, but all she got was a head. And now she’s gone and lost her head, although at least she generated some headlines.
And before this commentary heads toward disaster, it’s time to head out.
Reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @cschillig.