Friday, August 24, 2012

The Big Bang

I buy antiques and collectables a number of different ways from flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales, estates sales, house calls and auctions. They are all good but the one I like the most is house calls. There is no competition and they ususally have everything out on a table or in a cabinet and call me because they are ready to sell their stuff. The negotiating is casual and pressure free.

One of my favorite places to buy is a gated retirement community 55 and older with tight deeds restrictions that is not too far from where I live.

It's a well kept and maintained neighborhood with nice homes and neatly cropped lawns and landscaping. Most of the residents take the same amount of pride in their interiors and the stuff they own. It's clean and generally good quality. I always get excited when I get a call from this place.

On one particular call, the woman said she had some art work to sell and would like me to come take a look at it. I set up an appointment for the following day.
Upon arrival, lady in her mid sixties answered the door and introduced herself as Karen. She invited me in and I followed her to the living room where the art was hung.

As an antique dealer, it is only natural to take a glance at everything else in the house on the way. The paintings were done by a relative of hers in the 1940's.Beach and landscape scenes that weren't really well done but the frames were beautiful. If they were cheap enough, I would buy them just for the frames.

On the wall next to one of the paintings was a vertical curio cabinet completely filled with LLadros, Dresden figures with lace dresses and Royal Doulton figures all nicely displayed on 5 glass shelves including the bottom. I've sold enough of these figures over the years to know an average price.
The figures ranged in value between 75 to 200 a piece some may bring up to 400 or more depending on the mark. Focusing my attention back on the paintings.

"How much do you want for the 3 paintings?" I asked.

"Well, I'd like to get twenty five for the two small ones and forty for the big one"

That was more than I wanted to spend but thought I would make her an offer on some of the items in the case and try to make a package deal if she was interested in selling them.
I gestured toward the curio cabinet,

"Are you selling anything in the case?"

 "Oh no. I've had those for years and some of them were gifts." she replied.

 I've heard this line before and sometimes when you throw an offer at them sentiment goes right out the window for the cash.

I quickly counted in my head the amount figures including two Bradford Exchange collectable plates that weren't very valuable there was 41 pieces in the case. Thinking 50 a piece and 90 for the paintings was 2090. So I would start at 2000.

"Would you sell the contents of the case and the paintings for two thousand cash?" Karen paused a few seconds for thought.
A long pause is usually a good indication of a sale because they are considering it.

 "No those are LLadros. Do you know what they are?"

 "Here sit down." She said. There was a chair directly to the left of curio. I sat down and she gently tugged on the case door slightly rattling the figures on the shelves. She slowly swung the door open
reaching in to remove a Royal Doulton figure.

 "This is a Royal Doulton" she said proudly.

She held it in front of me revealing the bottom then carefully placed it back in the cabinet. Then she pulled out a LLadro figurine of a girl.

"These are LLadros. They are from Spain. I bought this in a gift shop in 1976"

I call this show and tell. The sellers like to give a history or little story on how or where they got the piece and I usually play along with it if I think they are going to sell something.
Items to me are a commodity to be bought and sold while Karen has understandably placed sentimental value on them. Each piece has a special meaning with a memory attched to it.
 I upped the offer.

 "I can go as high as twenty five hundred for everything if that would make a difference." I said.

 She had Dresden figures in there that have these frilly lace dresses and they tend to break and chip easily with the slightest bump. At that time I was doing 3 antique shows a month and I didn't like wrapping and moving them around.

She started to say something as she put the piece back on the top shelf then I heard a "TINK" followed by a tremendous KERRRASH!! CRASH!!
Somehow the top shelf gave way and came down in an avalanche of glass and porcelain taking out all the other shelves below shattering everything in the case spilling on the carpet.
The sound was incredible. Loud fast and surprising.

"Wow......."I thought.

It was surreal looking down at the pile of broken glass and porcelain dismembered hands, heads, fingers, legs and arms in the bottom of the case and floor that only moments before was neatly displayed in a lit cabinet.

 I was at a loss for words. "What happened?" is all I could say.

 I was just waiting for her to angrily snap "Ok, I'll TAKE your offer MISTER CHEAPO!"
Instead, she just stood there slack jawed and stunned, "I, I don't know...I just put it on the shelf and it fell"

 Now, I've heard stories of dealers shelves crashing down in a case at an antique show but I have never witnessed it first had.
I felt terrible. Tragic and unfortunate but it happened and I really didn't know what to say or do.

I started looking at some of the bigger pieces that might have minor damage but
most of them were beyond repairing. I think one figurine and one of the two plates were the only thing left intact in the entire case. Everything else needed a broom and a garbage can.

My immediate next thought was "flee the scene before Mister Karen gets home"
There was nothing I could do. . I Shoulder shrugged and half smiling suggested to her keeping the pieces and finding a good restorer.

 Out of guilt I ended up buying the paintings from her after she refused another offer to help her clean it up.

 A lot of times people will just let me look through their cases and cabinets,
and as I was backing out of her driveway, I kept thinking over to myself, "I'm so glad I didn't touch anything in the case, I'm sooooo glad I didn't do that!"


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