In Pursuit of the Great Vintage Find

The garage/moving sale section ad sounded a bit ominous... "Because of the vast collection and security reasons, we will only take visitors by appointment ONLY. One customer at a time, NO KIDS allowed, NO pets coming with customers, please you need to keep your appointment, if you (sic) late 30 minutes, your appointment will be given to someone else. If interested give us a call we will set up the appointment for Saturday and Sunday, and as far as the security code, we will give you the code when you arrive on time at the location. Sorry, if you find our procedures too strict, good luck to you, you may find another moving sale, we are bound by the community and management restriction."

Was this a sale at Fort Knox? Alarms went off in my head and red flags fell everywhere. But the ad also said  "costom (sic) jewelry modern and vintage" so I was willing to risk life and limb to see what this high-security warning talk was protecting. Maybe this was the 'Big One', my treasure trove of costume (it's NOT COSTOM or CUSTOM people!) jewelry.

I called the number and asked for 'James', the name in the ad. A voice with a foreign accent answered. It was not a voice one would associate with the name 'James'. In fact, he admitted it wasn't his real name. Uh oh. He's lying about his name. A fugitive of the law? The plot thickened as I half-heartedly made the appointment.

I was to be second at 11 a.m., right behind the book dealer at 10. As long as I didn't have to follow another jewelry dealer, I was good. James took my email saying he would send me the secret code to get into this fortress of treasures and a few hours later, I was armed with the code and ready. I had casually told James I was into Martial Arts, just in case he was a serial killer.

On the morning of the sale, I gave my husband the address and number and code. I took my wad of money and headed off to find this luxurious community bound by strict management restriction. It turned out to be an over-55 enclave of tinker toy houses with flower pots and swinging chimes. The chances of finding an early Tiffany piece were dimming.

James was outside, directing me how to park. Inside the little house sat a little old man who turned out to be James' father who lived there. He was moving and his years of hoarding were coming to an end. James sat me at the kitchen table and set out some jars of bits and pieces...or as he called it ‘the jewelry’. Meanwhile, Harvey the book man was there making piles of books. He was trying to finish up because now it was 11...MY designated hour. I poured out the jars onto a tray James had given me and started the hunt. Nothing. Broken pieces, junky pieces, single earrings, stupid pieces, rusty pieces. That was all I saw. The boxes got bigger and the pieces got junkier. This was the kind of stuff I threw away or donated in craft jars. There was none of the 'gold and silver' James had mentioned on the phone.

I looked around at the art on the walls. A painting of horses caught my eye. 'How much is this one James?', I asked. '$80', he said. I liked the horses but didn't know enough about art to buy it for $80. Back to the table and James' biggest box which I helped him carry out of the closet. I was ever hopeful, having found only a handful of things that were even remotely feasible to fix or save. James came to help me put it back when it didn't deliver anything. 'Where's that Madagascar necklace?' he muttered. 'What Madagascar necklace?', I asked. He looked at every bag of junk as we set it back in the box, frowning. 'I had a necklace...it was orange', he said. 'I haven't seen an orange necklace' and then I knew that he thought I'd taken this 'Madagascar necklace' that I'd never seen.

'Do you want to frisk me?' I asked, totally willing if it would make him feel better. I had a small fanny pack around my waist and no pockets on my clothes. The thought made me feel both sick and angry when I saw his face and the suspicion on it. But he declined my offer.

About halfway through my hour, the doorbell rang and it was the 12 o'clock lady. She was there for 'art, glass, and costume jewelry'. James left me wandering to chat with his father while he whisked Ms. Noon off to show her the art. After what seemed like an endless amount of MY TIME, she had several paintings lined up to buy. And then I heard her ask about the horse painting. 'You can have it for $20', said James. I bolted over to them. 'You told me it was $80', I said, trying to remain cool. 'I did?...I don't remember', said James whose name wasn't really James and whose price of $80 wasn't really $80. As Ms. Noon said 'I'll take it', I made an instant decision to leave the little pile of junk I'd just spent two hours sifting through.

'That's it...I'm leaving!' I said as icily as I could. Neither James or Ms. Noon seemed to care with no one running after me to apologize for their misbehavior and trouncing on my hour. As I drove away, I knew that Ms. Noon was now asking James how much he wanted for the little pile I'd left on the table. It wasn't the pile I cared so much about but the two hours of my life I'd just wasted digging through crap for it. Two hours I could have shopped at other sales and maybe found that old Tiffany piece.

Rita Brand

GreatVintageStuff


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