Behind The Warts May Be A Gem

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, April 11, 2013

There's a ceramic bowl on the deep freeze in our laundry room. I wonder…could it be worth $2 million?


A couple of years ago I purchased the bowl at an auction. It was in a large box of dishes at a considerably discounted price.

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If you know Rob, you know his favorite word in the English language is “clearance.”

And though one does not purchase “clearance” items at an auction, they can certainly pay “clearance” prices if they are astute, attentive and a bit lucky. (Note: one can also pay too much, too, if they're waving at their neighbor at an auction at just the wrong time, Keep your hands down unless you really mean it.)

The dishes that I bought were individually wrapped and were mostly of the same modern vintage, but buried in the bottom of the rather ordinary, plain cardboard box was this large, old ceramic bowl. How old? Well, anything older than me is getting to be old and expert opinion puts this somewhere in the 1930s.

It was a nice find and I quite enjoy glimpsing at it from time to time, as it collects dust from its lofty spot on top of the deep freeze. There's pleasure in the having, even if we don't always know what to do with it-whatever “it” is.
And there's also a lot of joy in the find, but truth be told, there aren't always a lot of “finds” at an auction with so many people looking.

Real finds, so the stories on Antiques Road Show go, are at yard sales, but as a wise yard saler once told me: you have to kiss a lot of frogs. Personally, I have an aversion to warts (much less paying for them) so I examine the frogs very carefully.

Surprisingly, I have no great yard sale tale to tell. Trouble is, with my schedule, a Saturday is a precious commodity and sleeping in a tiny bit is a bonus I don't want to forgo. So I have an inherent problem being the early bird, which makes it nearly impossible to get the worm.

Extra sleep, even if it only comes one day a week, is just too valuable to cash in for sorting through a lot of warty frogs.

But there's plenty of treasure to be had, apparently, if one shops at the right places-like this one couple, a number of news outlets report, purchased a $3 Chinese bowl a couple of years back that wound up selling for $2.2 million at auction.

Now that's what one calls a return on an investment!

I had read the story, but I was dying to see what the special prize really looked like so I did a search on the internet and, well, to be honest, the answer is not all that special. It was merely white with a simple pattern. I guess the least assuming things sometimes hold the greatest value (Indiana Jones figured that out in The Last Crusade)-or maybe it was just two bidders that each wanted this rare find. And it was old-a reported 1,000 years.

Whatever the reason, the tumblers all aligned for the seller on this one magnificent auction day and there the bowl was selling for $2.2 million.

Some people have all the luck and those some people aren't me. Honestly, I'd be hard pressed to find something more than a hundred years old in my collection of oddities.

Then again, I guess you never know about value. In addition to the bowl on top of the freezer, I have that old corn sheller in the garage that could be worth a nickel or two and the old Macintosh Plus computer (it would make a good door stop!) would add another buck fifty.

You're laughing, but anything is possible. Nobody shells corn any more and hey, maybe Steve Jobs signed the antique computer inside the cover-possibly doubling or even tripling its value. That gets me up another three bucks, maybe a whopping $4.50. A guy's got to dream.

Yes, it's a far cry from $2.2 million, but I just like writing it: $2.2 million.


$2.2 million.

It's cool jazz, but if there's one down beat, it has to be the person who sold the Chinese bowl for three bucks.

You've just got to feel for them wherever they are. It's just not everyday someone sells a prince thinking it's a frog.