Collectors of things like matchbooks, shoehorns, and pens, are now aging and cannot find anyone willing to take their stuff, let alone pay for them. Yet still they collect more, storing them in overflowing basements and closets, even shelling out for public storage units. One woman has over a million matchbooks. Only someone wanting to be cremated would take those into their house.
I never purposely collected anything, but I do have lots of stuff important to me that I inherited. I was the only one of my generation still living in the area who was dumb enough to take it all, piece by piece, as if I would live forever. I expect to have them until I die and leave them for someone else to throw out. I will never be able to do it.
Furniture pieces are the biggest items. I have a magnificent carved and veneered mahogany dining room set from my rich uncle and aunt, a doctor and nurse who delivered me. He did the needlepoint seats on the chairs, and I have an old photo of me at about 10 years old sitting on the very same chair at the very same table that is now in my dining room. How could I throw them away? But homes today do not even have dining rooms. I also have the oak Hoosier cabinet that sat in my grandmother’s kitchen where she kept change for the paperboy in one corner of the upper compartment. The side that faces me now has the dim markings where the pencil sharpener once was. I remember pulling myself up by the deep lower drawer, the metal lined one that was a breadbox. Standing beside it, the top was chest-high. The pull-out breadboard probably still has the original, century-old bacteria. I have the enameled metal dishpan where I remember being bathed in my mother’s sink. I could never part with these. I think it was Thoreau who said such things become burdens that we drag through life on our backs.
We have a full set of gold-rimmed Lenox china that has to be hand-washed as well as our own china that my wife and I chose before we were married. All microwave un-safe. We also have our original silverware that no one wants to polish, but at least they can be melted down by someone who will pay a quarter of their value for them. And, we have several sets of incredibly thin crystal goblets that ring when tapped but must be hand-washed. We could dine on our Big Macs in royal splendor.
I have a several Hummel figurines that I detest, but my mother loved. I was happy to find their value has dramatically decreased over the years, so I can just trash them with a clear conscience. I have a drop-leaf cherry table from my grandparent’s house that once belonged to my grandfather’s parents and a Sunday school book in German awarded to my young great-grandmother, Carolina Helmer, for perfect attendance (Sonntags-Schule, 1858).
Some of this still has value, even considerable value. I see Hoosier cabinets for sale on E-Bay for over $2,000. But I do not want to spend my remaining years struggling to get a good price for each piece. I just hope they will appear on a future Antiques Roadshow as a stranger’s great garage-sale discovery. (You only paid $5? You got a good deal. It’s now worth, at auction, $5,000.) Let someone younger carry them on their backs for their lifetime.