Friday, October 11, 2013

Just Listed: Sometimes It's All About the Story

Just listed on Etsy:

Sometimes it's more about the story than the item and in this case, it's ALL about the story. But before I get there, let me give you some specifics:

This is a Harker Pottery pitcher with a delightful floral design. The flowers look like Irises to me in the colors of orange and purple. It measures about 7 1/2" tall at the top handle by 8" wide.

There are plenty of issues:

The top handle has broken off and has been glued back together minus a chip. Speaking of chips, there is one on the lid that has been repainted to try and cover and one chip on the pour lip of the pitcher. There are also some flea bites and a bit of paint loss. You'll also notice some crazing, which is relatively common for older pottery pieces.

So what makes this extra special?

I attended an estate auction a few weeks back in central Missouri. The former owner was an antique dealer but had already consolidated her antiques and was now consolidating her estate. She had moved into the rest home and had two rooms, which she was very excited about. 

When I first arrived an older gentleman asked if I knew Ruth. I told him I didn't which made him launch into the sweetest description of Ruth. Oh, everyone just loves Ruth. She was born and raised in this small central Missouri town. She could strike up a conversation with anyone and there was never a shortage of people who had something nice to say about her. Infact, he pointed out, she was standing a few tables down and I should go up and say hello.

I looked over and she was in a deep conversation with a few other people. She stood maybe 4 feet 8" tall bent over. Her bald head was covered by a black crocheted hat and she was stylishly dressed in black pants, a grey sweater with a matching grey scarf. She held on to her cane for dear life, but she sure didn't look like life slowed her down. She was happy and smiling and giggling like a young girl and that, in and of itself, made me smile.

Later as I was looking at another table she ambled up to me and asked, "Do you like my things, honey?" I smiled and told her she had very good taste. She nodded her head and smiled, "This is JUST my household! Can you believe it? I've had fun with everything, but now it's time to pass it along."

As the auction started the auctioneer gave a long speech about Ruth and then asked her if there was anything she would like to tell the crowd and she yelled, "Turn it all into money!" Everyone, including me, laughed. And money she received. The auction went very well for her.

At one point, I overheard several people talking about this pitcher. "It was Ruth's mother's and she remembered her using this pitcher every day for orange juice." When it went up for auction I purchased it quickly. As I walked away to put it carefully in packaging, a few people smiled and said, "Oh, I'm so happy you bought her mother's old orange juice pitcher." When I was putting it away I found the note tucked inside that reads, "This was my mother's and she made orange juice in it with a small can of frozen juice."

Near the end of the auction I was talking with someone who said that Ruth tucked notes in several of her items that were up at auction as a surprise to the new owner. I was happy I bought one of those items and I hope that by passing it along, you will enjoy the pitcher and the story, too.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Happy Family

Back a couple weeks ago, when I was at the cottage in the midst of painting at Delavan Cottage, I pulled out one of the wall cabinets in the kitchen.  This is a perfect example of the Missouri Ozarks' make-do projects:

Upon closer examination:

Do you see the bottom? In the center it says "Happy" and what's left of "Family."

I smiled.  Indeed, this cottage is now being loved by a very happy family.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dollar, Dollar, Do I Hear a Dollar?

Instead of shopping at garage and estate sales, I'm an auction junkie, you might say.  While I'm not even close to the hoarders you see on American Pickers, I do like the hunt and for me auctions are the ticket, especially estate auctions in which every article of clothing sits out in the yard next to an air popcorn popper, the lawnmower and a dryer.  But intermingled with every day items are very personal vintage items that meant something to the previous owner but has no meaning whatsoever to the heirs or the executor.

Through these items, one can easily piece a life together.  Sometimes the seller is still living like at the auction I attended last Friday.  The auction was held in a large 4-H building on the fairgrounds and it was chock full of glassware up the wazoo, housewares and delightful vintage pieces.  As I perused around the tables an older gentleman asked me if I knew Ruth.  "No," I replied.  "Oh, Ruth is the most wonderful person you'll ever meet!  She was born here and has lived here her entire life.  Everyone loves her.  In fact, if you look down this row you'll see her.  She's the one with the cane and the black hat.  She talks to everyone, so you should meet her."  And then he walked away.

Still in the midst of scoping out items I wanted to bid on, suddenly Ruth wobbled carefully over to me and said in her sweet, shaky voice, "Do you like all my stuff?"  We began to talk and she mentioned that she was an antique dealer and she already had a sale just full of her antiques she collected over the years but this sale was "just" her household items.  "Oh, I've had my fun with these things but it's time to pass them on.  I've moved to the retirement center, you know, and I have two rooms there!  Two!"  She then chuckled.  "So honey, enjoy my auction."  And with that, she wobbled away to talk with others she knew.  Always with a smile.  There certainly wasn't a shortage of people who wanted to give Ruth a hug.  

Ruth is a collector with a kind spirit.

Her auction went quite well in the beginning.  The glassware went incredibly high and I was happy for Ruth.  I sat that part of the auction out because there was no room for profit, but before the auction started, the auctioneer asked Ruth what she would like to tell the bidders and she said, "Turn it all into money!" and that's exactly what was happening.  

She shared her story and thus the items I bid and won mean something and I will be able to pass the stories on to the new owners who buy from me. But sometimes it's the items, themselves, that talk like this suitcase from a Nebraska farm auction:

Or this blouse from a Missouri farm auction:

How about this photo album from a northern Missouri farm auction:

Or this quilt I purchased from an antique store in Kansas City and researched the family name and found lost long relatives that I returned the quilt to:

And finally this trunk from a northeast Kansas farm auction:

The items the auctioneer hands in the air aren't just things, they are pieces of someone's life.  That is never lost on me and while at times I get frustrated that some of the things I'd like to buy go way too high for me, I'm always thankful the seller is getting some worth out of the items.  But something happened Sunday that really bugged me and I'm very surprised I feel this way.

This auction was being held because the lady passed away.  Her house was up for auction as well as her entire household of items.  She collected antiques and had quite a collection of top-notch glassware and furniture and lots of it.  I was in heaven when I was looking everything over.  As the auction started, prices were in an expected range but as time went on, things were going so cheap. For example, an 1800's iron bed including the rails, headboard and footboard with a brand new, high-end mattress set sold for $25. Can you imagine?  And the auctioneers were getting frustrated so they just started adding more and more just to get an opening bid. I picked up a few deals but after awhile I felt badly, it was so cheap.  The final straw was when the glassware was being auctioned.  Depression glass, jadeite and beautiful pieces were not getting bids and sometimes there was so much glassware put together for a bid that I felt guilty even raising my hand, though others didn't feel the same way. I'm talking 20 pieces of glassware or more for a bid of $1.

It was the first time I really felt sad about how low things were going and before the auction ended, I left.  I did well and have quite a few things ready to list on Etsy, but I could have bought so much more!  But instead of looking at the Depression glass and thinking wow, this is a great deal, I was seeing the woman who carefully hunted each piece out, paid a good price and came home to lovingly display it among her collection.  And I felt like if I bought the pieces at the low prices offered, I was taking away the value she put on her collection. That I was looking out only for me and not taking into account the meaning and history behind each piece.  

At one point I heard one of the family members say, "We should just let everyone go and pick up what they want for free!  If it was up to me, I would have shut down this auction a long time ago."  I had to agree. 

I'm not in the antique/vintage business just to make a buck.  If that were the case, I'd sell clothing on eBay.  No, I'm in the business because I truly enjoy the stories, the history and the experience.  I feel that it's not just someone's used stuff up for auction, but it's the passing down of heirlooms from generation to generation.

And that deserves more than $1.