Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Monday, December 10, 2012

Treasure Hunting in your Home

We all have one somewhere in the house - the illustrious "catch-all" that's supposed to store everything that we own. We all have at least one and we choose to walk by them in shame daily, because they are nothing but an embarrassing pyre of junk.  Among that bloated, ever-growing stash however, somewhere around the stockpile of pens that don't work, the old scotch tape containers, loose staples and paper clips, there could be potential treasure, so listen up.  I decided to "liquidate" four square feet of space in my little apartment, just to see what I could throw out with 2012 and what might just have potential for a quick end-of-year eBay sale.  Extra money in January?  Heck yeah.  I chose a small area in my kitchen, next to the stove.  The area was covered over by holiday ads, plastic to-go containers and on it sat two catch-alls.  Not one, but two glass containers, brimming with old tape, cords, some old lotto tickets, box cutters, sharpies and of course, a yack of pencils and pens, because as we all know, one can get pretty desperate for a pen, while in the kitchen cooking food.  (?)  Even though the setup was lacking sense, it was very clear that I had inherited my Mother's penchant for hoarding pens and the area was certainly not lacking in writing implements.

I dug in and immediately threw away several pencils (sans tips and erasers), two dry markers (I don't even own a dry board), some old, dried rubber bands and a impressive ball of lint.  I then began the "pen test" process, that had been instilled in me years ago, again by my pen-hoarding Mother.  This process I'm certain, is a universal but just in case, you need a piece of paper for scribbling.  Take every pen out and scribble.  Pen by pen, if there's no ink, throw it out.  Most of the pens were dried up and useless - there were Bic black pens, some advertising pen from a local politician, a click pen that was broken, etc.  As I was scribbling, I grabbed a very pretty pen that was matte black, with gold embellishments.  I was puzzled for a second.  It actually looked pretty high-end and I began to question why it was in this wallow of trash.  I set it aside.  I also set aside another pen that was from the now defunct "Cedar Tavern" which was a West Village institution and artist hang-out for decades.  Back in the 1950's, Cedar Tavern was the favorite haunt of Pollock, de Kooning and Rothko, just to name a few ghosts.  I set it aside.  I also found a small metal tape measure, a few pennies,  a small toy in a plastic bubble, a cord for an MP3 player and a baseball bat keychain from the "Sweetwater Tavern," Williamsburg, Brooklyn's first punk bar, now closed and reborn the "Sweetwater Tavern," Williamsburg, Brooklyn's first punk bar-turned high-end steak and fish restaurant.  I set it aside as well.

Soon I had the counter space cleared out and after a few minutes of research, I had a winning group.  Turns out that the black pen was a "Monteblanc - Meisterstruck" rollerball pen, signed "Germany" with a full serial number.  It's actually gold plate and in its current used condition, is valued at anywhere between $100 and $130.00.  The Cedar Tavern pen had considerable wear but I noticed that at present, there were no collectibles listed on eBay for the Cedar Tavern at all, so there was promise there and I guessed I could perhaps reel in $14 for the pen.  The tape measure turned out to be a "Little Pal" 3 Foot tape measure, vintage made in the USA.  These run anywhere from $10 to $25, and this one had some wear and I thought could go for $12-16.  The child's toy was a "Chicana Power" small plastic figurine, which I discovered was from a series called "Homies Series 8" and her name was Adelita.  She was another $10 item but remember that the more specifics you have, the easier the sale.  The penny was not in good shape and it was very recent (1983).  I'd grade the penny at Very Fine, because although it was dirty, there was very little wear to the coin.  What the penny had however, was an incredible die crack (gauge) right through Lincoln's head.  As an error coin, it could fetch $20-25 if it went to the right collector.

So by cleaning four square feet of my apartment, and because I did some research, I now had the potential to make some extra money for the new year.  Treasures in the kitchen: $160-200.  The cord and the two Lotto tickets: worthless.  Maybe it's time to go cleaning in your house.  Give yourself a good, old fashioned "drawer tour," you might be quite surprised.  Just because you don't find a sterling silver pillbox from the 19th century that used to belong to Queen Victoria's half cousin, thrice-removed, doesn't mean that there won't be some tiny treasure in the bottom of that wretched container.  Never forget the golden rule:  "If it looks cool, don't throw it away."  Do some research first before you pitch out your things but by all means pitch away.  I don't know about you but that's my idea of working from home.

Update: December 22, 2012.  Well, the earth is still here and we all still have stuff to sell and money to make, so life in the collectible world goes on!  Out of the small group of items that I found in my kitchen, I gave the bat keychain away as a gift to someone who was a regular at that bar back in the day.  I sold the "Monteblanc" pen for $117.00 and the "Error" penny sold for $15.00.  The other items will have to wait for the new year.  So my total for an hours work was $132.00.  Not bad at all!  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!  See you in 2013!  Dan Ruth