Skip to comments.Hunt treasure in dumpsters, thrift stores
Posted on 10/25/2005 6:37:45 PM PDT by SJackson
Before I could write my column this week, I had to take an hour off to watch "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS, locally WHA. It feeds my fantasy of finding or buying an item and have it turn out to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The show always has a few people who either bought an item at a yard sale for a dollar or two or found it. For example, Monday's show featured a man who went dumpster diving and found a rare print by John Turnbull of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was worth $700 to $800. That's not a bad find.
A woman on the show had something even more valuable: a Cartier cigarette case worth thousands. It had been given to her mother, who owned a restaurant. The mother took it from a hungry man in exchange for three breakfasts. The woman had kept it in a box under her bed along with other items her mother had taken in exchange for food when people couldn't pay for meals. When she got home, she planned to check through the box to see what else she could find. I certainly would and would seek a good appraiser too.
My favorite antiques story comes from the British edition of "Antiques Roadshow." A woman who was the supervisor for a dumpsite in Britain collected jewelry she found over the years in the garbage. Her collection was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it had come from garbage.
I'm left with the question of how it got in the garbage. Did someone cleaning house mistake real gems for fake ones and because she didn't like the style throw it in the garbage? Alternatively, did the piece fall into the garbage by mistake and was not missed for so long no one had any idea to where it disappeared? Or, maybe someone with a lot of money got mad at whomever gave her the jewelry and threw it away to flout him.
I think the show has spurred me to haunting thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales. I keep hoping that an item that catches my eye and is cheap will really be worth a fortune or at least much more than I paid. I don't know if this has ever happened, although I have bought plenty from such places. I never take any of my finds to antiques dealers or appraisers. I guess I am not optimistic enough that I will be that fortunate.
If I really wanted antiques, I should go to antique stores and shows. However, they scare me. I'm afraid my knowledge of antiques is too limited, and I would end up either paying more than something is worth, or I would buy a reproduction rather than a real antique.
I should go to some of the reputable dealers in the area, but I really don't have the money to buy antiques. My pocketbook squeezes me into the used market.
Anything we buy for our homes may someday become an antique -- provided not many people keep that particular style. For example, our parents and grandparents bought dinnerware in a style now known as Depression glass. It was cheap and colorful with many intricate patterns. You could buy it at the dime store in the 20s, 30s and 40s for next to nothing.
Many people probably donated it to thrift stores or sold it at yard sales when they got tired of it or their children didn't want it. Perhaps it even went out with the garbage, because nobody thought it was worth much.
Today, Depression glass is highly valued and collected by many people who will pay a hundred times what a piece sold for originally.
My plan is to find nice pieces of anything that might become an antique and hold on to them for years until they become valuable. Of course, I'm still limited by money and by space -- no house is ever big enough if you become a collector and you never have enough money.
If I could just find one item and take it to "Antiques Roadshow" maybe, I'd make some money. I believe my chances are probably as good as buying a lottery ticket and a lot more fun.
A little off topic, I admit.
If you find any Microsoft stock certificates issued around 1985, give me a call!
I frequent the ebay vintage clothing board. There are many ladies who make a living from shopping in Salvation Army and Goodwill stores, yard sales and estate sales. They research the stuff and sell them on ebay.
The board is educational and explains different eras, patterns, etc. of vintage clothes.
There is one woman who sells 70's and 80's junk clothes, but has fantastic stylists and photos. She caters to teenyboppers with lots of cash. Mamastonevintage is the envy of ebay vintage sellers.
My two best finds included a bakelite bracelet I found at the local Goodwill Store which I bought for $1.00 which, when I put it on eBay, sold for over $300.00 and an old framed print by a famous artist I found in a small thrift store that I paid $25.00 for and sold on eBay for over $800.00!
The thing the person described is an actual job -- those people are called "pickers" in the antique business. They mostly have a fair knowledge of a lot of different fields, furniture, glass jewelry, and a good eye. They travel across country or regions snooping in garage sales and thrift stores for un-discovered gems. When they find one, they sell it to a dealer who then launches it into the antiques pipeline.
Hasn't "Antiques Road Show" been busted for inflating values and trying to help hoodwink insurance companies?
I started with 'rescuing' pottery and glass...
now I seem to pick up 'everything'....sigh....
I bought the Cosmopolitan edition of the first Male nude, Burt Reynolds, as I knew someday it would be worth alot. Unfortunately one of my kids got ahold of it and it disappeared. :-(
Dang, you must be really old! :o)
What you called Depression Glass I actually sold. Mine was actually sold as Westmoreland Glass (McKee, Jeanette, Westmoreland) companies that produced glass dishes and giftware in the early to mid 20th century. It was made in abudance locally...first rule of eBaying, sell something you can easily find yourself.
I thought it was undervaluing and buying the goods.
Maybe google will help us.
One famous segment involved a rather nondescript sword brought onto the show in 1997. The owner claimed to have used it, in his youth, to slice watermelons. Appraiser George Juno excitedly declared the sword a remarkable Civil War find worth $35,000, and instructed the bewildered owner to handle it in the future only while wearing white gloves. This was classic Roadshow -- an unassuming piece of rust, brought in by an owner who figured What the hell; guess Ill see if this is worth anything, turns out to be a portable Brinks truck.
Trouble is, that quintessential segment was faked. The Boston Herald recently investigated; turns out, the appraiser had orchestrated the entire appraisal. This wasnt Joe Q. Public stumbling onto an attic goldmine; this was a scheme by a businessman to cook up some free publicity for himself.
I'm not THAT old. Did you ever watch "That 70's Show"? :) I was one of the kids ... :o)
Found a metal tape measure "H.B. Maynard Co." with case all metal too. It's a hard-to-find item.
This is not the first time that ethics questions have dogged the pair. In June 1999 Pritchard and the AOPA were found liable in federal civil court of defrauding George Pickett V over artifacts of his ancestor, the famous general who made the futile charge at Gettysburg, artifacts that Pritchard purchased for $87,500 and were later sold for over $850,000.
Yes. Google records a number of problems with Antiques Roadshow. Which doesn't mean it's not fun to watch, hehe.
As a flea market vendor, I was shocked at the attitude of some other vendors who never missed ROADSHOW so they could exploit items evn remotely similar to anything on the show. Naive me!
Pinging ya DD...;-)
I'll never forget that sword segment. It is one of my favorite TV moments, and it's as though I just saw it yesterday. I am shocked to find out it was faked by the appraiser. The young man seemed so earnest, and the whole story was so believable.
Thanks for the truth, but I hate hearing it.
I finally seemed to run out of space ~ I was no longer selling because I began providing full-time care for an ailing elderly family member and didn't have time to do it anymore, so I had to really reign myself in!
I stick to documented stuff. The 1992 Postcard Ballot issued by the Post Office to the public so they can vote on which version of the Elvis Presley stamp should be printed. Millions of them were free for the public in the lobby of Post Offices. Today one of them cards sell for 3 to 6 dollars in Mint/Near Mint condition. I scuffed lots of them and will let my son or grandchildren have them.
I'm an artist and I'm always on the look out for cheap supplies in the thrifts and curb-shopping.
No treasures yet but I'm still hopeful.
"Hasn't "Antiques Road Show" been busted for inflating values and trying to help hoodwink insurance companies?"
I know a few of their appraisers have been busted for giving low appraisials on air, and later approaching that guest offering to buy their stuff.
Oh, yeah! You're the pervert with the plaid pants and the big afro, right? I was just a wee one in those times. Thank goodness I missed it!
The only thing of interest that I read being hidden in a dumpster was Eric Rudolph.
I bought a metal robot at a garage sale for a quarter when I was about ten. It was pretty impressive, the eyes flashed, arms moved, legs moved back and forth while gears turned wheels in the feet, and it had a traversing laser cannon in its chest that flashed and made pretty good laser noises.
Impressive or not, interest soon waned so I took it apart and scored a goodly number of gears, belts and motors.
About ten years ago they had the exact robot at an antiques show selling for $450.
Back when I was twenty or so, and in the market for a car, there was an ad in a local paper for a 1960 Jaguar, XK150 Drophead Coupe. I drove an hour to take a look at it, and ended up "test driving" it around the hilly southern part of the state for longer than that. The owner wasn't too pleased, but there weren't any warrants out when I returned the car.
The asking price was $3100, I had $3000 to spend, and I know I could have talked him down to a price I could afford. The car was cherry with the exception of the solid mahogany spars that supported the convertible roof. They were rotted out, but the owner had bought new ones, without installing them yet.
Thinking I was making an adult decision, (a rare occurrance even 25 years later) I decided not to buy it, because buying an old Jag for primary transportation just doesn't pass the common sense test. Especially not a convertible, when the February temps around here have been known to drop to minus 29 F before.
The price tag on another one just like it, at an auto show several years later, was $25,000.
There are treasures in those dumpsters, I tell ya!
I have a good story for you. About 45 years ago my father in law found a painting on top of a pile of trash in the basement of an old apartment building. It had been cut out of the fame and was rolled up. It was a painting of Sam Houston painted early in the 1900's (not during Houston's life time). At one time it hung in the Texas state Capitol but disappeared from there many years ago. The story that we learned was that the artist expected to be paid by the state and when that didn't happen, he took it back. It is in my husbands office now, we don't know what it is worth, but I imagine it is pretty valuable. Another one of Sam Houston by the same artist and in almost the same pose, hangs in the courthouse in Houston.
"There are treasures in those dumpsters, I tell ya!"
I know!!!!!! :)
The best story I remember coming across concerned one of smaller NYC museums. Several years ago it was reported that in their archives they found a scrap of paper with some doodles/sketches on it. Well, it turned out to be $12 million Michelangelo [although how to authenticate an unsigned scrap of paper with some minor sketches/doodles is a mystery to me]. And since the old guy was sketching all his life since age 13, there must have been some 20000+ of these.
there is a letter written about the artist pasted on the back, and a note....
it seems this lady was the "Grandma Moses of California" and exhibited across the country and at the Western whitehouse at San Clemente for Richard Nixon....
I don't know if its worth anything, but it is interesting....
you know, my girlfriends got in big trouble for posting that Bert Reynolds pic on the nun's door at the school we went to.......it was a strict nursing school run by nuns and this particular nun was in charge and a very, very strange nun in many ways and very old......LOL
Bought a copy of "The Sheltering Sky" in the East Village for $5. It turned out to be autographed by the author, Paul Bowles, who has not left Tunisia since the 1950s.
This thread has lots of promise for learning about new items.
I've found lots of personal gems at the thrift store. Just clothes, sports gear, etc. for myself and familly. Trick is to go often! (and quickly!). I work outside so work shirts and jackets are my isle. Of course I'll buy a $2 shirt and it's so nice it becomes my church-going shirt! I think my best deal was a clean (new?) full-length goose down L.L. Bean coat for my wife - about $15. I think. (1/2 price sale!!)
Thanks for the ping to this thread. I LOVE thrift stores. Unfortunately, the ones I've found so far here in upper Wisconsin aren't quite as good as the ones in Denver.
FYI for everyone: ARC Thrift stores are the BEST if you happen to be in Colorado/Denver. They used to have 50% off sales at least once per month on clothes and such (great for families on budgets as some of the children's clothes are in brand-new condition if you get there early enough on sales days).
That was my basement circa 1977 =;-)
I bought a jewelers roll-up full of them, from a guy on 14th st in DC, for a grand. It contained a couple of expensive watches, worth a lot more than my thou.
One of them, though, was a ringer, I thought. It had the name "Birks" on it. But, upon inspection, I noticed the name "Rolex" in tiny letters, on the bottom of the face.
At home, I opened tha stainless back. The case was 18k yellow, on this rectangular watch. Inside it was stamped Rolex. The movement also had the stamp Rolex!
It was missing the hands, and had no strap. but I had taken it, along with the rest of them.
I took it to a watch repairman at Fair Oaks mall, in Fairfax, VA. He was from Indian, and had lots of spare parts he had brought from retiring European shops. He looked at it, and suggested we send it to Switzerland, for inspection, or authentication.
I got a letter back from Rolex, offering 10 grand for it, so they could put it in their museum. It was made in the early 1900's, by them, for the Birks jewelry stores in Canada. Birk's had 18 specially made with a stainless back, due to the workmen's lifestyle, of those that bought them.
I asked to have it returned, and my watchmaker set some newer ROLEX hands on the beautiful filgreed face. I wear it occasionally, but it is really too dressy and fragile for everyday use. I have a Seiko, for that.
I ended up with over $85k in value, from that $1K investment, but nothing I bought, is for sale... I collect old watches...
that is the coolest thing i have ever heard! where is the jewelry repair guy in Fair Oaks Mall? i used to go to Root Jewelers in Rosyln to have my watches cleaned and serviced but it is too hard to park over there.
Audio finds and refurbs
Ah, that is the difference between someone who collects for the appreciation of the item, and a reseller who is only looking to turn a fast buck.