Well, hello Dali! Donated etching surprises Goodwill

tacoma: Work attracting much interest online

Staff writerNovember 15, 2012 

Along with the old suits and silverware, books and bicycles, keyboards and snowboards, along with the gaggles of miscellaneous just-plain-stuff that arrives daily, comes the occasional treasure.

So it was when an actual Salvador Dali etching randomly appeared at the Federal Way Goodwill donation station.

It’s an etching titled “Reflection” from Dali’s “Cycles of Life Suite.” It’s No. 126 of 150.

And it’s up for auction at the Tacoma Goodwill website www.shopgoodwill.com. It’s one of some 3,000 items the agency has listed for sale online.

By late Wednesday afternoon, with 31 bids, the price of the Dali etching had risen from a beginning $999 to $2,505.

Dylan Lippert, e-sales manager at Tacoma Goodwill, said early Wednesday that more than 2,000 people had viewed the item on the site, and 250 were following the sale.

“It tells me there is a lot of interest in the piece,” he said.

By 3:30 p.m., there were 5,080 views.

The person who donated “Reflection” did not leave his or her name. He or she simply left the item at the store.

“Any time we get an art piece with a signature or a number, we set it aside,” Lippert said.

So it was that Federal Way quality control officer Shea Munroe began checking.

“She looked online and said it was particularly a high-value item,” Lippert said.

Munroe notified store manager Ed Dopp, who called the Tacoma online operation.

“He said, ‘Hey, I think we have a Salvador Dali,’ and he brought it here,” Lippert said. “It just showed up on our donation floor. It was kind of a surprise.”

But not unprecedented.

A Rolex watch donated last year in Sequim sold for $900.

A sterling silver flatware set earned $1,036 in October. A Rickenbacher slide guitar fetched $1,627. A 1726 English cookbook brought $657.

A $12,000 diamond ring garnered last year’s highest sale.

In fiscal year 2012, the Tacoma arm of www.shopgoodwill.com earned $4.5 million.

“These items really boost our mission services,” Lippert said. “It funds our job-training services.”

Among all Goodwill offices nationwide, Tacoma marks the third-highest online sales – which Lippert credits to “a strong regional philanthropy. Our donors have been very generous.”

The Dali was an easy call to go online rather than onto the shelves of a local Goodwill store. Such a decision concerning where an item will be sold typically centers on the potential market. If an item shows “a high degree of collectibility and a limited audience, it goes online,” Lippert said.

And that can mean anything from vintage toys to old tools, from beer steins to carving knives, from a nostalgic dispenser of Pez to a Shriner’s scarlet fez.

And that Dali?

Robert Varner, a national expert on the artist and owner of Doubletake Gallery in Minnesota, said it is likely authentic given the authentication by the original gallery, the signature and sequence number (“Ones that are faked usually have another designation”), and especially the size of the image, which forgers often get wrong.

“So, that’s why I’ve been getting so many calls,” he said Wednesday.

He speculated that people interested in the Goodwill Dali had been calling for information while keeping their intentions secret.

And the value?

“The last one I bought for $500, for inventory,” he said. “I sold it for $650. The book value for the piece – it’s notoriously high – is $10,000.”

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535

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