The Antiques Sideshow
Relish tray so valuable my mom wouldn't ever use it. Now it's a soap dish in my bathroom.
It’s taken a long time, but yesterday I finally accepted this truth: the middle class upbringing I was afforded isn’t going to propel me onto an Antiques Roadshow segment where I learn something I own equals a ticket to retirement.
I just don’t think it’s in the cards for me. And trust me, it’s not for lack of trying and hoping - I'm sort of a collector. And I used to own a consignment store.
I’m no longer disappointed when I find out I was sadly mistaken about the value of an item I hold. From now on, I’m going to take the “well, it’s really not worth much” appraisal as affirmation that I KNOW about the good stuff, I just don’t own the good stuff.
Could be the only people who might remember Shirley Temple no longer know where their keys are, let alone have extra dough for buying mementos of their youth at exorbitant prices.
Knowing is going to be have to be good enough. I’ll continue to go through the world looking at an authentic in-person Eames chair as if it’s a giraffe at the zoo. I’ll admire the curve of its back wistfully, imagining what it’d be like if it was mine.
So back to yesterday. I’ve always been a fan of vintage watches. Back in high school, in my dad’s drawer, I came across a gorgeous tank-style 1950 Bulova. I put it on and didn’t take it off for the next 15 years. (Stop trying to do the math. I’ve been out of high school a long time, but the watch WAS old when I found it.) At one point, it needed a new crystal. The jeweler I took it to in Iowa said he had to send Bulovas like that away for repairs. The first time I wore it after I got it back, the crystal came off. Before I noticed what had happened, one of the hands fell off too. Sad.
Fast forward to the jeweler in upstate NY who replaced the crystal and the hand for me yesterday. He had some almost identical watches for sale in his shop, so I asked the question.
He smiled. “Well, it’s not gold. It’s not in real good shape. Maybe around $100.”
It’s not gold? “What about the engraving on the back?” I proposed.
He smiled again. “That makes it more valuable to you, less to anyone else.”
Well, there it was. To add insult to injury, the watch stopped ticking for good in the car on the way home. The dollar value ticked away too, I suppose. I’ll add it to my Antiques Sideshow collection.
Here’s a small sample of my collection, which I now look at as a sociological reflection of the prototypical Iowa middle class upbringing. Calder mobiles didn’t come into play so much when the head of household was a travelling salesman.
It’s obvious they’re mocking me.
The pair of Rosenthal doves that someone gave my grandma, and she gave my mom, and she gave me (via dying) – surprisingly valuable, if they aren’t chipped like mine are.
The mid-century furniture my mom had – ALL of it, that’s either a veneer knockoff obtained via Gold Bond stamps, or a hand me down from a taste-possessing friend of my mom’s who didn’t want it anymore, since it was broken. Or the cool wicker hoop chair with wrought iron legs. First time my dad sat on it, he bent the legs. Now it just looks fittingly depressed.
The Shirley Temple mug about which my mom always said, “Don’t touch that, it’s worth $500.” Well, mama wasn’t eBay savvy; bids on these are currently running right around $25. Could be the only people who might remember Shirley Temple no longer know where their keys are, let alone have extra dough for buying mementos of their youth at exorbitant prices.
The Miriam Haskell pearl necklace that’s missing a clasp. So pretty, so useless.
Mexican silver bracelet. I thought I had something here, till it fell off my arm and I ran over it in the driveway.
The stunning Raymor bowl someone gave my mom that she thought was so hideous she let my brother use it to putt golf balls into. It truly is priceless now.
The paper bag full of Avon bottles and decanters my mom collected during her stint as an Avon lady.
“These WILL be valuable some day.”
Let’s just say they’re no longer in my closet waiting for that day to come.
I could go on. Suffice it to say we didn’t need the Brinks truck backed up to the garage when we emptied her house. So many things were like things that are actually valuable.
Finally, I see my parents, their life, and my own, realistically. They had the ability to appreciate what’s valuable. I also have that ability, and have gone a step further to educate myself about the real value of items. It’s sort of a hobby. I know a lot about what I don’t have.
But best of all, I know the value of what I have.
And my watch. Engraved with my dad’s name and the date he managed the Iowa State League Champs in the semi-pro baseball league, it means the world to me.
::Our guest post today comes from our new good friend, Kitty Sheehan. Kitty grew up in Iowa. She's a writer for a spices & seasonings company, a mom, a wife and a photographer who lives in New York's Hudson Valley. Kitty's a former teacher, once owned a consignment store, she was a graphic designer and also worked as a corporate trainer. Entertain yourself some more with Kitty's insightfully funny look at life on her blog, Return To Bohemia.