Billy Vigeant, also known as Billy V, knows how true the adage is, that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Vigeant now owns an authentic America’s Cup replica, circa 1938, which he purchased for just $19.99. He unveiled his jewel for the first time yesterday afternoon at Stefan’s Cigar Emporium at 186 Broadway in Providence.
The extraordinary purchase, which cost less than the carrying case he bought for $50, came one day when Billy was browsing for antiques and collectibles at the Salvation Army on Pitman Street in Providence. He was in the store about four months ago when he spotted an ewer that matched the dcor of the library in his Johnston home.
An ewer is a container with a spout used for storing and pouring liquids.
“I actually thought I found the perfect urn. I couldn’t believe how well it matched my dcor ... the workmanship was superb,” Vigeant said.
A few days later he saw a book that had an image similar to what he then thought was his urn, but he didn’t think much of it and just walked by it. A week or so later, Vigeant’s mail included COLLECTION/Winning Bids, a magazine published by the Robb Report that advertises auctions and collectibles.
There, on Page 14 in the magazine’s February 2012 edition, was a picture that looked exactly like the ewer Vigeant purchased.
He was dumbfounded; his recent purchase looked exactly like an America’s Cup that the magazine reported recently went for the tidy sum of $31,000 at an auction.
Vigeant called his longtime friend and former Providence College basketball star Nehru King.
“I asked him to look at the picture and asked him if he saw what I saw. I wanted to show him what I had,” he said.
What Vigeant didn’t know was that King is well versed in the world of sailing; especially 12-meter yacht racing that determines the America’s Cup winner.
As soon as King looked at the picture, he gushed, “Where did you get the America’s Cup?”
King, who lived in Newport after his graduation from PC and later sailed on Skipper Russell Long’s Independence and several other syndicates, began looking closer at the Cup trying to find a date as to when it was issued. He told Vigeant to seek professional help in researching the gem and to find out whether or not it was authentic.
Vigeant called Steven Fusco, who owns and operates Estates Unlimited in Cranston and is known for his work with antiques, fine art estates and auctions.
Fusco confirmed that it is an authentic replica of the America’s Cup.
“As soon as I saw it, I said, ‘Billy, where did you ever find this?’” Fusco said. “We measured the base. The proof was in the base ... the measurements are exact.”
Further research revealed that Vigeant’s cup is believed to be a replica of the America’s Cup.
When asked what he plans to do with the Cup, Vigeant said he plans to do further research. No one at the Salvation Army had any recollection of how the Cup got there.
“We’ve found letters and are trying to come up with names ... it’s not going to be easy because age and polishing through the years has taken a toll. But right now, we’re enjoying this; it’s certainly bigger than any of us. It’s also educational,” he said.
Fusco is glad to be along for the ride.
“What a wonderful discovery. To find something like this is fabulous. The workmanship is extraordinary ... the detail jumps right out at you. I’m proud to be involved,” he said.
But Vigeant’s Cup is not for sale.
“We’re just going to enjoy what we have,” Vigeant said. “If and when we do decide to sell it, we’ll probably do that to raise money for some kids.”