Employees at the Goodwill store in Healdsburg did as they had been instructed and set the painting of the Indian aside because it included the artist's signature.
The portrait had arrived at the store as most donations do, in a container filled with other stuff.
"In my estimation, it was quite ugly," said Mark Ihde, the CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire. "If I had seen it, I probably would have thrown it in the trash or put it on a shelf (for sale)."
Instead, the painting sold on Goodwill's online auction site for $70,001.01. Turns out, it was an original by famed Utah artist Maynard Dixon.
The 2009 transaction, made public for the first time this week, is an example of the valuable finds that have turned up at Goodwill stores across the nation in recent years.
In the past six months, a Salvador Dali sketch found at a Goodwill shop in Tacoma, Wash., sold for $21,000, and a North Carolina woman made more than $27,000 on a painting she bought for $9.99 at Goodwill.
In Milwaukee, a woman paid $12.34 for a lithograph that turned out to be the work of American artist Alexander Calder worth $9,000.
Such finds are the stuff of "Antiques Roadshow" dreams, and in the case of the Dixon piece sold in Santa Rosa, an example of how the auction world has been turned on its head with thrift stores offering valuable items for sale on the Internet.
"These days, the global garage sale is on eBay and Goodwill Industries. You never know what's going to show up," said David Clemmer, a research specialist at the Zaplin Lampert Gallery in Santa Fe, N.M.
Ihde said the gallery was the highest bidder for "Blackfoot Indian" on shopgoodwill.com in 2009.