£3.80 watch from charity shop sells for £22,650

Emma Woollacott

An Arizona man who picked up a $5.99 watch in a second hand shop has sold it for $35,000.

Zach Norris had been browsing the Goodwill shop looking for a golf trolley, but decided to take a quick look at the watch section while he was there.

And as a keen collector, he knew he'd found a good deal when he spotted the Jaeger-LeCoultre timepiece - he just didn't realise quite what a bargain it was.

It turned out to be a vintage LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm from circa 1959, one of only 900 ever made.

"I've found some stuff in the past that I have been really excited about and stoked, but this is one of those things you're like, `One day, one day it will happen,' and it happened for me," Norris told TV station KTVK-TV.

Zach Norris
Zach Norris

The watch was authenticated by local jeweller Oliver Smith, and Norris placed it for sale on a specialist website. It's now been sold to an unnamed collector, for $35,000 plus another, less valuable watch.

Norris says the proceeds will help pay for his wedding, but has also donated part of the money to the store.

It's always worth keeping your eyes open in a second hand shop, he says: "Research everything. Just take your phone in there and if you see something that looks goofy, you haven't seen it before, Google it. You never know."

Some finds can be even bigger: in 2012, for example, a West Virginia woman stumbled across a genuine Renoir in a £5 box of assorted junk at a flea market. She'd bought it just for the frame, but later discovered the painting was worth £50,000.

And in an even more astonishing example in 2013, a New Yorker bought a small ceramic bowl for $3 at a yard sale, only to discover it was a 1,000-year-old Northern Song Dynasty piece worth $2.225 million.

However, it's getting harder and harder to find such outrageous bargains. Charity shop staff are now trained to spot genuine treasures and antiques; in one example, keen-eyed workers recognised a rare antique Chinese brushpot which was later sold at auction for £360,000.

"We believe the best way to thank our donors is to get the best price we can, which in turn raises as much money as possible for Oxfam's work," says Oxfam's head of retail Ian Matthews.

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