Technically an item must be one hundred years old to qualify as an antique. But as I watched the Boomer edition of Antiques Roadshow on television the other night it became clear that while our childhood treasures may not rank up there with nineteenth century impressionist masters, our crap definitely has value. The special episode featured Baby Boomers and their off-spring bringing in items they found, inherited or simply claimed.
One such item was a custom-made left-handed 1955 Fender Stratacaster electric guitar that had been ordered for the owner’s father when he was a teenager and she had a photograph of him playing it when it was new. Because of the condition, provenance and collectivity of Fender guitars it was valued at approximately forty-eight thousand dollars. Another man brought a toy Smith Miller yellow Coca-Cola truck loaded with tiny glass bottles from the early fifties that was in mint condition and still had the original box. The truck had been a gift and at the time was so valuable (it originally cost ten dollars) that the man’s mother wouldn’t let him take it outside and he could only play with it on carpet. Because of all the restrictions on his being able to play with it he soon lost interest and it was packed away. That little item is now worth upwards of three thousand dollars.
A two-page typed and signed letter from Martin Luther-King in 1958 detailing his opinions on Richard Nixon was valued at ten thousand dollars and an original Kennedy For President campaign poster from 1960 was estimated to be worth between six and eight thousand dollars. The jackpot, however, was produced by a man who had worked with Peanuts creator Charles Schultz and had a collection of original pencil drawings by the cartoonist that had been languishing in a cupboard in his home for fifty years. They were now worth about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
Most of the people presenting items had no interest in selling them because of personal family stories associated with the memorabilia. I can totally understand that, which is why I’ve never been able to part with my black and white Beatles bubblegum cards from 1963 and 1964. Looking at them takes me back fifty years when my heart would beat faster just looking at their happy faces as they struck artificial poses walking down the street or jumping in the air. I’m pretty sure I can still smell the cheap bubble gum that came in the package. I did finally part with my Beatles 50-year-old 45 rpm records at a garage sale last year. I think I gave them away. It’s tempting to toss our collectibles as we downsize and declutter but it might be worth a glance through eBay first to determine if they might have some value.
A friend of mine still has a lime green leather mini-skirt she wore in the sixties (when it had a matching jacket) that always evokes howls of laughter and shock when she brings it out. It can’t be more than twelve inches long. I think she should mount it in a shadow box and hang it on the wall. It may not be worth a fortune dollar-wise but the laughter and conversation it generates is priceless.
I still have a pair of roller skates made in 1931 that were originally my mother’s. They have cast iron wheels and they clamp onto your shoes with adjustable tabs at the sides of the toes and a leather strap across the front of the ankles. The key for adjusting the tension of the clamps still hangs on the original dirty old string I wore around my neck. Who remembers Melanie in 1967 singing “I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates, you’ve got a brand new key”?
There are a couple of scrapbooks in my basement that contains cocktail napkins, ticket stubs, matchbooks, birthday cards and other detritis from my dating life in the sixties. The past was fun; it was painful at times; it was valuable in terms of life experiences. But the present is much, much better and who among us would trade those memories for a few bucks at auction? My Beatles bubble gum cards may not have the same meaning for those who try to sell them when my ashes are turning to dust but they’re worth millions to me. So I think I’ll keep them a bit longer. Who knowsâ€”maybe they’ll buy me an upgrade to a nice private room in the home some day.
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