Lee Pitts: That time in life 7-11-11
It is my conviction that people are either acquirers, or they are liquidators. I happen to fall, most assuredly, in the acquiring camp. I’m not so extreme that you’ll soon be seeing me star in that hoarding show on TV, but I have been known to collect motel stationery, caps, auction market buyer cards and any other free thing that is not bolted down. My wife insists that our local bank went broke because I took so many of their free ballpoint pens.
Our house and shop are full, we’re not getting any younger and we have no kids that I can leave my valuable plier and wrench collection to, so my wife recently stated the obvious: we’ve reached that time in life when we should start getting rid of what my wife calls junk, but I call “antiquities.” I reluctantly agreed to begin to turn our trash into cash and promised that as a start I would put a few boxes of stuff together that I might be able to live without.
As luck would have it, this all coincided with the fact that my friend Todd recently started selling a monthly sale for a nearby auction house. I felt I should support him in his new endeavor by entrusting him to sell some of our valuables, which included an electric stapler that never worked, a rusty set of truck chains that I have no idea what model they fit, an electric knife sharpener that actually makes blades duller, two old and broken horse bits, and a tool called a Dart that I never quite discovered a use for. In other words, I dug deep into my bag of goodies to put together an extremely valuable consignment.
During our 37 year marriage my wife has sat through thousands of auctions so I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t care to accompany me to the auction. I, however, being an auction junkie sat through the entire seven hour spine-tingling sale of my valuable consignment, and other people’s junk. How can people sell such trash?
Upon arriving home after the sale my wife immediately wanted to know how much richer we were.
“How did the sale go?” she asked expectantly.
“It was great,” I said. “Todd did a fantastic job and you should see what I bought.”
“Wait a minute,” my wife replied in an agitated and somewhat aggressive manner. “May I remind you that you went there to sell junk, not to add to your collection of it.”
“Yes, but I couldn’t pass up the bargains. Look what I got,” I said excitedly as I showed her a box of old hammer handles, a set of 15 blacksmith tools, another box of old rusty blades for wood planes, an oil painting (that I didn’t realize when I bid had a hole in it), a watercolor (that I thought was an original but turned out to be a print), a collection of old medicine bottle labels from an old drug store, one end of a pair of brass bookends, a sack of wine corks, and to top it all off … a collection of motel ash trays that will go with my motel stationery collection perfectly. “Wow!” I exclaimed. “Can you believe our good fortune?”
Going from a simmer to a slow boil, my wife replied, “I hope you got enough money out of the stuff you sold to pay for all this junk.”
“Not exactly,” I said quietly in hopes she might not hear me.
“What do you mean, “not exactly?”
“Our stuff was such a bargain that I bought it back.” (And it only cost me a 10 percent seller’s commission and a 15 percent buyer’s commission.)
“Did you sell anything?” she screamed.
“Of course. I sold two pieces of Roseville pottery and a box of Christmas ornaments.”
“BUT THOSE WERE MINE you idiot. I didn’t even know you consigned them. You didn’t ask my permission. Those were old family heirlooms,” she said, now starting to sniffle.
“Now, now, you know what you said? I remember that you stated quite emphatically that we’ve reached that time in life when we need to start getting rid of a few old things around the house that aren’t serving any purpose.”
“And you’re next mister!” she yelled in what I thought was a complete overreaction.