Have you ever thrown something out, like a Rembrandt etching or an old Tiffany lamp, only to find out later that it was worth tens of thousands of dollars? Neither have I. Yet every time I watch "Antiques Roadshow" or "Pawn Stars," I hear that someone found this Stradivarius violin in the trash, or that a neighbor had given them George Washington's sword to thank them for cleaning out the attic.
It makes me wonder what I did to get the stingy neighbors I have, who never seem to throw out anything valuable. When I go through their trash, there's never anything worth selling, and yet I'm the one who gets yelled at. I'm talking about you, Thelma! It's bad enough that all your garbage is just garbage. It's a real pain to have to listen to you telling me you'll call the police if I don't put it back in the recycling bin exactly the way I found it.
What a troublemaker she is.
I know she's got stuff in that house that's worth real money; it's got to be only a matter of time before she makes a mistake and throws it out. No one likes a hoarder, dearie!
It's not even about the money, it's about making a good deal. It's like the lottery, except your chances of finding a Rembrandt in the trash are much, much better. And you don't have to wait in line.
One of the things I see that are worth a lot of money are old dolls, the kind with porcelain heads and stuffed bodies that are wearing dull brown, truly unflattering Victorian dresses. All the experts pick them up and look at them and say they're worth $800. Eight hundred dollars? These things make Chatty Cathy look like Barbarella. No wonder most of them are in such good shape. Nobody would want to play with those dumpy-looking things. A dead flounder would be cuter and more fun. These antique dolls are the opposite of fun. They are anatomically correct in the way a sandbag is anatomically correct. And I'm talking about the hands and feet. Forget about the other parts -- they sure did.
It transforms into nothing. It does not speak or let you change its diapers or comb its hair. Calling this a toy is like calling a feed bag a prom dress. As a present, it would be worse than giving your kid a lump of coal for Christmas. At least the child can burn the coal. No one wants to burn $800.
Wouldn't you know it, I inherited one of these so-called "dolls" from an elderly aunt. I don't collect them, and no one I know collects them, so I put it on eBay to get the depressing thing out of my home before it sucked out my will to live. And to get a quick $800. There's no doubt I could buy something much more fun than that doll for $800. Like a hair shirt. Or leg irons.
There are lots of dolls like this for sale on eBay for $800, but they're not up for auction. They are always listed as "Buy it Now" with a price. So, I took a few flattering pictures of my windfall and waited for the bids to come in. The first bid was for $29. Well, that's OK, I thought. You start low, and it grows from there. There were six and a half days left for people to bid the doll up to its true value. And sure enough, they did. The final price? $39.
Well, I got it for free, so I didn't lose any money. And in truth, I wouldn't have paid that much for it. Now that it's gone, I can get back to looking for Van Goghs in the neighbor's trash.
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.