The other day I packed up a large, heavy box filled with old things and went back to Junior High.
That’s right! The Junior High jungle where kids are not exactly kids, nor are they really teenagers. We have come up with a term for this:
Dum dum duuuuummmm . . .
The box was filled with some interesting loot. A 600-year-old vellum page, a pencil sharpener, a hot air return vent, postcards from the turn of the century, a 130-year-old slide rule and a small toy set from the 1980’s worth $6,000.
Time to teach the kids about antiques!
A BIDDING WAR
I pulled a kid from his desk. His name was Tristan. I asked everyone how much they would be willing to pay for Tristan’s Jacket.
A bidding war ensued! One dollar, ten, a hundred! Kids kept bidding on Tristan’s jacket as if it came direct from Dulce and Gabanna. Soon, the jacket went up to $1,000. Then a million. I told Tristan he would soon be a very rich person.
Unfortunately, the kids couldn’t really pay up. It was just a game.
Tristan’s jacket was only worth ten to twenty dollars. But then I explained how the jacket may go up in value. If Tristan grew up to become a president, for instance. Or if something interesting happened to him in that jacket, he may later view it as priceless.
JUNK TURNS TO TREASURE
I wrote the word “story” on the white board.
Story is the machine that drives value. The more rare and interesting the story, the more something is perceived to be worth. This is why objects touched by famous people go up in value, even if they are quite common things. We believe celebrities hold Midas-like powers.
Case in point: according to the Daily Mail, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s “breath in a jar” went for $530 on eBay. The seller captured the breath as the two walked by on the red carpet.
That’s one crazy story!
What about Scarlett Johansson’s used tissue, which was auctioned off by Jay Leno for a whopping $5,300!
How about a $30 million-dollar diary? Yes! It has happened! Leonardo Da Vinci’s diary was sold to Bill Gates for that sum in 1994.
ANTIQUES AND STORY
I have gone to other schools and talked about antiques. But I have always wondered if kids care about the past. Are they even interested in old things? With the pretty, shiny newness of video games and toys and the internet, do they really look at a Gregorian chant page and see it for the amazingness it really is?
A few weeks later I got the answer to my question. One of the kids that was in the class that day told me, “People are still talking about your visit! They loved it!”
These kids enjoyed hearing about how I found a hobby horse on the side of the road and sold it for $500 within 24 hours. They loved hearing about my prototype dealing. They loved it when I let them choose a 100 year old post card to take home.
Kids really do find antiques fascinating. But only when you couple them with story.
Antiques and writing have always gone together for me. I began to love both at an early age and they have both progressed in my heart together. As I looked over my body of work I realized that I had been using them together all along. My first book was about magical antiques concentrated in one city. My second has been about antique toys.
We spend our lives around objects. Objects are our creations. They outlive us. They are heaped in piles in our closets and set lovingly in museums. Like oxygen, we take them for granted. Some people villainize them, calling them “just stuff.”
I have always been fascinated by “just stuff”, especially old stuff. All this stuff implies a creator, an artist and their story.
These past few weeks I have been struggling with how to share this passion with more people–especially young people, who are so open to new ideas. Like a puppy on a leash, this blog, this platform thing, has been pulling out of my control. It wants to go where it wants to go. So I am going to let it!
I love stories.
I love stuff.
It’s time they come together.
Over the next year, and onward, I will share what I know about objects I find as well as their stories. I will also share some things I have written about these objects. It will be educational and fun and extremely goofy. Not as goofy as a tissue earning $5,300, but very close.
(Incidentally, I will sell you one of my used tissues for the bargain price of $5. Breath in a jar will be $10 due to the overhead. Contact me for details.)
Let’s make the old new again!
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