The Million-Dollar Jacket – Teaching Kids About Value and Antiques

Written by on February 6th, 2015 // Filed under Erika Viktor, Uncategorized


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!




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.



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.



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!

44 Responses to “The Million-Dollar Jacket – Teaching Kids About Value and Antiques”

  1. I like this! I often tell my friends that stories are the most powerful things on earth. A story can bring a country to war if it is powerful enough, or it can also mend a broken heart. Stories are not to be taken lightly!

    As you said, let this blog go wherever it wants to go. I’ve been doing that with my own lately and even if it produces some strikeouts–those big strikeouts are interesting!

    Posted by Alex CespedesReply
  2. Thanks, Alex! You did a post the other day that I really loved about acting like a fool (I’m soooo good at that! Lol!)

    I’m reading an interesting book you might like called “The Power of Story.” It is the undercurrent that dominates our lives in a big way.

    Posted by erikaviktorReply
  3. Thanks for this post. I love that insight: that antiques are all about the story. Otherwise, a reproduction is just as good, right? Lucky kids, in that classroom.

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  20. I think its great to get kids interested in old things when they are so focused on the latest and greatest things they always seem to want. Why not help them see that there was a past beyond them at one point? I wouldn’t buy any of Scarlett’s molecules though!

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  28. I am also a little peeved at some of the prices celebrity crap goes for (well, the Davinci diary is pretty cool!) I am not personally the type of person who gets all excited about celebrity. I really think celebrity is kind of disgusting, actually especially when its not warrented! Anyway, I found your blog and read some of the posts and they were quite funny.

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  29. Its strange to think that some things that are worn by famous people might be worth more than a mere object owned by a common person. I really don’t think it should be that way. I mean, aren’t we all children of God? Aren’t we all here to be special? Some say no but I say yes. So does anyone want to buy my jacket for a million dollars? Yes.

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