Image: Tintype of Gen. Robert E. Lee
AP
A tintype of Gen. Robert E. Lee is seen in a photo provided by the Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. The tintype was sold by Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee on their online auction site, onlinegoodwill.com, for $23,001 Wednesday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/8/2011 2:52:01 PM ET 2011-09-08T18:52:01

A Goodwill worker who spotted a photograph of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has helped the charity make $23,001 in an online auction.

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The tintype photograph was in a bin, about to be shipped out to an outlet store, when a worker grabbed it and sent it to the charity's local online department. The item was put up for auction. Bidding started at $4 and closed Wednesday night.

"It would have gone to our outlet store where everything is sold by the pound," Goodwill spokeswoman Suzanne Kay-Pittman said Thursday. She estimated the tintype would have fetched a dollar and change based on its weight.

The sale was a record for Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. The previous record was an early 1900s watercolor that sold for $7,500 in 2009 to a museum in New Orleans, The Tennessean reported.

The newspaper said that the tintype had some intriguing aspects: It wasn't an original photograph but a tintype made of another picture, and it was a view of Lee that collectors had not seen.

Kay-Pittman said Thursday that the successful bidder lives in Virginia but officials didn't immediately know his name.

"We're doing a happy dance," she said. "We're beyond thrilled."

Msnbc.com staff contributed to this report from The Associated Press.

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