Now, I know you want to get going. You’ve been in my van for only a minute or two and you’re already whining “Drive, Drive!” Okay, I get it. You want me to take you on another house call, meet the administrator of our next estate, then push me down a flight of basement stairs so you can score a box of old baby doll heads and someone’s coveted S&H Green Stamps collection. I get it. But first we’re snagging a decent cup of coffee–Chock full o’Nuts feels appropriate–and then we can focus on the big day ahead. See, I’ve so much I need to tell you.
For starters: If you’re seeking the estimated value of your mother’s never-used china, your grandfather’s overwound pocket watch, or your orally fixated late uncle’s collection of chewed pipes, you can get out of the van right now. I don’t do appraisals, repairs of any kind, or DNA testing. As my grandmother so often said: “Go grind your own keys!”
You see, this book is not “eBay for Dummies” or “Etsy for Idiots” or “How I Happily Made Millions Selling Sad Irons on Instagram.” Those titles are available in the book aisle at Costco– between the snow tires and the coffins. And don’t ask me for a coupon again.
No, this is a book about an entirely different–and dare I say, more important–degree of value. If you can contain your unhealthy obsession with money for just a few hours, there’s a bitter truth you need to know: People ARE their things. People are shaped and ultimately defined by what they collect and cherish. It is, quite bluntly, who they are.
Look around your home. There is nothing random about your surroundings and the items with which you chose to share your life. You found or bought or inherited these objects, right? Unless you’ve recently been a lucky guest on one of those redecorating reality shows, what’s in your home got there, in one way or another, via little pack rat you.
Okay, I did not call you a hoarder. No, I did not! Now get back in the van and put your seat belt on. Honestly, sometimes you can be so touchy.
What? I don’t know what I’m talking about? Honey, this collection of stream-of-unconsciousness essays, short stories, and retail recollections originates from one ginormous, staggeringly colossal, sky-high mountain of way too many vintage things. I’m talking about decades of selling my merchandise and that of uncounted others. Not to toot my own rusty resale horn, but I know from whence I have sold. When people talk about “volume,” they are not referring to the sound of my voice when being chased by a raccoon in someone’s attic. Well, maybe that one time.
Now, I know what you’re going to say: “What’s in it for me? Where’s mine?” It’s the unofficial motto of Chicago, you know. Say it: It’s a fair question. “Where’s mine?” Well, my eager vintage shopper, you certainly picked the right van to jump into.
And this is what I’ve planned for you today: A myriad of antiques adventures, house calls, resale interventions, high-end/low-end hoarder cleanouts, estate sales and fails, spiritual abnormalities, and some seriously questionable misjudgments of fact, but little fiction. Oh, and we’re going to be offered many cups of truly mediocre coffee by well-intentioned seniors. (Yes, more bad coffee–please make it stop!) Just be your ever-cordial self, respectful of the homes to which we have been invited, smile… and try to keep your mouth shut.
I remember the last time we went out estate sailing and anchorless–you asked a grieving widow where they found her husband’s body and she pointed to the bathroom floor. Then you inquired if her art deco vanity mirror was for sale. Inappropriate.
If I close my eyes tight, I can still see that woman’s reflection in the glass, her face aghast. But to her credit, she did take your check.
Okay, are we good here? And stop adjusting my rearview mirror. Remember, in the vintage business, the past is always our future. Besides, where we’re headed, we’ll never need to look back again.
To experience the 28 disturbing chapters that follow, please order your copy of “Selling Dead People’s Things” on this site, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or from your favorite bookstore– and if they don’t carry it, pester the pestilence out of ’em. Thanks!