Friday, June 18, 2010

The Value of Sentimentality

If you have been following the blog from the beginning, or have taken the time to read from the beginning, you are already somewhat familiar with my Grandfathers farm supply shop/gas was called "Elkhorn Super Service".

After I moved away from my hometown at 18, out on my own, living in the "big city" of Winnipeg, starting to wheel & deal more in antiques & collectibles, I also started collecting old advertising.

I now wonder if it has a base in a comfort/security sort of thing, maybe subconsciously reminding me of simpler times, like working in my grandfather's business. I think possibly working there also helped secure the ideal of hard work in your own business as THE way to do things. Maybe with that entrepreneurial influence & tendency in my system, it pushed me towards becoming an antiques & collectibles dealer.

Being in the business, I have seen & owned many really nice pieces of vintage advertising, including a number of Willard Battery advertising clocks.

One summer day, on a buying trip, I was going by the village my grandparents had lived in & decided to check out the old station I had worked at for so many of those happy summers.

It was now owned by the local Co-Op association.

I walked in, over the familiar, somewhat crooked concrete floor, seeing familiar things, and noting some of the changes. As I looked above the counter, there it was, the Willard Battery clock, looking like it had so many years previous. After a brief discussion with the manager about how the station had belonged to my grandfather, a deal was made. No money was to change hands, he said to just bring in another electric clock, and the Willard Battery clock was mine. After a quick trip to the local hardware store a few doors down, and a trade was made.

I still own it, had the paint spots that had flaked off restored, but there are still spots coming off. Normally I'd sell the thing quick, before it deteriorated further...but, this one is special, of course, and no amount of cash could pry it out my my hands. My grandfather would think that was crazy, but it still holds a special place. I'm sentimental, and that has been hard to get around over the years. Whenever I come back from a good, successful picking trip, I tend to hang on to a piece or two from the load, adding them to my collection.

There is actually two reasons for that....part is adding it to my collection as a physical trigger for my memory of that trip, and the other is banking some "money".

I have had to sell items out of my collections to pay household bills, unexpected car repairs, accumulating debt, buy groceries, etc, etc, etc. Yes, I am a good picker, but my luck has not always been that great. Things that you have no control over can knock you flat on your ass. I'm sure I'll blog about some of that stuff in the future....but, I am trying my damdest to stay on topic here...


I encounter many situations where sentimentality comes into play when buying items from private people...."private" as in the general public, and not dealers, flea marketers, other pickers, etc.

You want to buy an item, can pay $30, but the person is humming and hawing....

"It was grandma's, and I remember it being...."

You get the picture.

Sometimes it is a ploy to make you offer more. But, sometimes there is a sentimental grip on it that item cash may not over-ride.

So, I just pass on the item, or, I say something to the effect of:

"If it has a ton of sentimental value to you, I recommend you hang on to it. I can't pay for sentiment, and if I do buy it, I don't want to leave with it, and have you calling a week later wanting it back because it is breaking your heart to have sold it."

I really don't need anything that badly. There is the odd thing I cringe at having to leave behind, but, I am in business. Giving them extra cash beyond what you would normally pay, just to cover their sentimental attachment, is not a wise thing to do. DON'T pay for that sentiment! It can also still come and bite you in the ass. It is annoying/upsetting/a pain/bad for business when you get that call from the seller, or they come into your store 2 weeks later wanting, pleading, demanding, to buy the item back.

So, what do you do if you have to answer:

"It's gone" - "It's already been sold."


Then they cry, scream, yell, threaten, make a scene and/or may well make your good name "mud."

Was the bit of profit you made on the item worth it?


Photos are one of those things I buy, and I have ended up leaving behind some very good photos, simply because a family member was too attached to them, and I knew that even if I did buy them, no matter how high of a price I paid, I'd likely get a call a few weeks later from the seller, wanting some or all of them back.

Family members dealing with loved one's estates create this sort of situation most often. Grieving people are just not in a state of mind to make the best decisions. Seeing people tear through their deceased loved one's prized possessions in a frenzy to find "treasures" could drive even the most calm person into a really unbalanced state. Sentimentality can make the most inane object something impossible for someone to part with...a pair of old, oil soiled work gloves that are close to trash could hold the most valuable memory for that grieving son.

"What do you mean you will give me 50 cent's? Do you know how much these cost new???"

People say stupid, strange, goofy, weird, (etc) things when they are having trouble parting with loved one's former possessions. They say things that they would not say if they were not in a state of grieving. I try not to judge people when they are in this state. They are not themselves; they are coping with the death of a loved one.

How would you feel? You need to put yourself in their position. Yes, there are those who never really get out of that state of mourning, and they simply will not sell.

Get over it, and move on for crying out loud!

Ummm, NO, I don't mean THEM, I mean YOU.

Yes, YOU. Get over it. So they won't sell, big deal. You know how much cool STUFF there is in this world? Forget it, that stuff that you just can't seem to buy is the TIP of the iceberg of what is out there. You can AFFORD to leave it behind. Trust me, it is not worth the grief, no (bad) pun intended.

I won't sell the clock for any money, forget it, simply won't happen. It may not be a great piece, but when that item someone is not wanting to sell IS a great piece, it can be tough to just lay off, let it go....I know!

But, sometimes you HAVE to let it go. Get on with YOUR life. Can't covet something you will not get, or will OVERPAY to get. it is still business. Anybody can overpay for stuff, and get REAL COOL STUFF. But will they be in business long? Maybe. They could be laundering money for some bike gang....or "investing" little old ladies' money as a part of a scam.

Sentimental issues apply to all sorts of situations, really, not just estates. There has been lots of stuff I have not been able to buy, and I agonized over them, strive to try to buy the items, watched, waited, hoping, etc, etc...then have the item simply disappear, sold to someone else, be destroyed, etc, etc. After awhile you begin to realize you need to brush it off, forget about it, except maybe file it away for your memoirs. Not worth torturing yourself over. You are a dealer, not a collector. As a dealer, dying with the most stuff is NOT what you want to strive don't "win" that way....and you won't EAT that way!

There are some people who can not be dealers no matter how hard they try. They simply can not part with items. They can play at being a dealer, but never really do it. They have lots of cool stuff hanging in their premises...but none of it is for sale. Sure, the trash is for sale, and they might under price the odd good piece, but the real cool stuff isn't...or it is all priced at 5 times what it is worth.....and the difference between them and a rank amateur is that they know it.

Though, thinking back, there is the odd exception to that. I knew one dealer who had TONS of cool stuff...some of it rotted away to trash outside in the weather. His prices were outrageous. He sold the odd thing that he may have under priced unknowingly, as we all do, but it was very tough to buy anything from him. That is, unless you dug deep into the piles. You may have gotten lucky enough to find something that was buried there for many years, and the price on it was just now only top dollar and not five times what is was worth!

But, he was the sort who would trade. Good thing, otherwise he'd have had little inventory turnover at all. He'd value the items you had high, also. So, SOMETIMES the values would work out in a way that you could swap a $50 item for a $40 item....seeing as he valued your item at $400 and his was priced at $300.

Generally, it is not a good use of time to attempt this with that sort of character, unless they really have something you can move, or want to rotate some dead inventory you have been having a heck of a time moving.

Hmm...I have gotten off of the topic of "sentimentality", haven't I?

Oh well, sometimes you just can't get what you really want.

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