On Antiques Roadshow, people full of hope (and, ok, often delusions) show up with their family heirlooms or items unearthed at a garage sale. They all get to consult an expert and ask the million dollar question that actually might be worth a few bucks: would anyone pay anything to own this? Of course, the answer is quite often no, but sometimes there's a yes. Some lucky woman finds out that her great-aunt's tarnished fruit bowl is a 18th century solid silver epargne from France and is worth over 20,000 dollars. Usually the lucky woman says that she would never sell Aunt Selma's fruit bowl, but she's thrilled to know it's worth so much. And everybody goes away happy.
Cash in the Attic is somewhat less fun. It entails a family ransacking their home to find items to sell at auction so that they can build on a new garage or go to Disneyland. I love seeing people finding treasures in their own home, but I find it somewhat painful that they'd sell, say, their great-grandmother's china in order to go on the It's a Small World After All boat ride.
But that's just me.
So, I have spent years dreaming of making a Big Find, of waltzing into a thrift shop and snapping up something for pennies that turned out to be Something. Not that I'd sell it, but it would be Something.
And Saturday morning, I think I finally did it!!!
It was 10am and I'd convinced JP and Tya to go with me to the much anticipated Big Sale over at the Emmaus. As you probably remember from the Blue Haired Sparkle Jesus incident, I am just the kind of person who would get very excited about an all-day, gigantic sale at the region's only thrift shop.
But we were struggling through the huge crowd, meeting with disappointment after disappointment. Each time we'd find a great piece of old furniture, there would be a big "sold" card taped to it. And it was always the same two names on the card, which indicated that the antiquaires/brocantes guys had struck again. Antique store owners flock to these things, camping out in front of the doors before they open in order to snap up all the decent pieces. Then they drag their finds back to their lairs and sell them for 100 times more than they bought them for.
I guess a person has to make a living, but it's frustrating when they buy nearly everything in sight, except for the stuff that was complete junk even when it was new back in 1980.
So, we gave up on the furniture pretty quickly and decided to have a look at the "artwork". Most of it was pretty bad and astonishingly odd. A still life in oils featuring lemons and playing cards. A cheap plastic frame displaying a blurry photo of an elderly poodle...
But then this caught my eye:
Ooooh! Pre-Raphaelite!!!!! I have long adored the PRB! I am all about high-quality overblown Victorian romanticism! One of the first posters I ever bought (after I grew out fo my Star Wars phase) was a William Holman Hunt print which now hangs in Tya's room.
Now, I'm far from being any kind of expert on Victorian era etchings, but this looked like the real deal to me. It was dated 1884 and had a tiny embossed stamp on one corner. Not that I really thought it was valuable in terms of money. But I liked it and knew I would enjoy having it in my home, especially for 20 euros. So, I hauled it around while we wandered in the book aisles and then among the dishware. The whole thing measures about 50cm x 70cm, so it wasn't very easy. But I really wanted it.
We didn't find much else at the sale. JP bought a book and we found an enamel covered pail to use as a kitchen compost bin. Not very exciting.
We got home and had a nice lunch of roasted chicken and french fries. Then I sort of pottered around the house, folding laundry, sweeping up, and that sort of thing. Then it occurred to me that it would be fun to try to look up my etching online.
I had to kick the kids off the computer and that took a while. But eventually I sat down with a cup of tea and the keywords I'd garnered off the etching: Sir Frank Dicksee, Adolphe Lalauze, July 1st, 1884 .
I nearly spilled my tea when Google showed me this page. It's a place in Oxford that specializes in prints and engravings. It's supposed to be the biggest place in the UK for that sort of thing. And they are selling "my" etching for 1200£!!
That's 1500 euros!
My Antiques Roadshow/Cash in the Attic dream has come true!