Last week, I went to a barbecue and saw a friend I hadn't seen in awhile. We complimented each other, then she complimented this blog. She really liked the last post I had written even though neither of us could remember what that post was. She asked if I had any blogs coming up.
Uhmmmm. I'm working on some things. I said even though I had nada.
Fortunately, the next day, I drove my friend Vlad to West Hollywood, and we had a bloggable experience.
Vlad had learned that on the last Wednesday of every month Bonhams and Butterfields will give free estimates on paintings, antiques, and collectibles 9-12. They don't give written estimates, but they can tell you if your special treasure is worth something.
Vlad is twenty years older than I am, and he recently received his mother's silver utensils. They were making him anxious. He was worried someone might steal his mother's silver. I said my usual, they're only things spiel, but I could see it didn't help.
Since Vlad wanted to get there before nine, we were on the road at eight in the morning. It had been awhile since I had driven the morning rush, so we discussed our traffic strategy.
Let's see, La Cienega will be bad.
Crescent Heights? Vlad asked.
Not really a fan.
We ended up taking surface streets and made good time to Sunset Boulevard. As we turned, we discovered two things: a parking spot right next to Bonhams and Butterfields and a line around the block.
We got on line and more people quickly got on line after us. People had paintings and prints in huge frames. They had things in boxes and on carts. It reminded me of those people on line you see at the beginning of Antiques Roadshow. I wondered who had that magic thing worth millions.
At nine, the line started moving at a good pace. A lady with a black sun visor on greeted us at the door and gave us a silver ticket for silver and an orange ticket because Vlad had a plate wrapped in newspaper in a box. It wasn't just any plate. It was decorative art.
We went inside and passed our tickets to another lady behind a desk at the entrance to a big room. The lady wrote numbers on our two tickets then told us to have a seat.
On the walls around the room were signs that said Decorative Arts, Silver, Pre-Columbian Art, Prints and Photographs, Paintings, Entertainment Memorabilia, Jewelry. In front of the signs were tables with black table cloths on them. Sitting at most of the tables were people who looked smart. The rest of the room was filled with chairs facing the tables, so if you were waiting for your number to be called for paintings, you could have seat in front of the Paintings table.
We went to the silver table first because we had a low number, but the silver lady waved us over right away. Maybe she saw that Vlad was carrying a heavy brown case filled with silver utensils. Vlad opened the case.
I couldn't believe it. It was packed. I thought he had a few knives and forks, but it was like Downton Abbey. There were even butter knives. Was Vlad's mother a Duchess? No, she was just of a certain generation. I am of the stainless steel generation.
The silver lady called the set a restrained pattern and started organizing and counting. She checked her computer. She did some calculating. She gave us a number. My jaw dropped internally, but I just nodded thoughtfully. Vlad smiled.
The silver lady talked about their commission rates for auctions, costs of internet photography, and insurance. Vlad nodded and said yes. Yes, take my mother's silver. Yes, auction it off. The silver lady gave us a form and brought the silver over to the consignment table. Vlad and I then went and sat down in front of the Decorative Arts table.
Even though the silver wasn't mine and I had just held it for a few minutes on line (heavy stuff), I felt like a great weight was off me. We had been purged of the silver. It was gone. We were free. I felt giddy and giggly. It was like Christmas morning only I was shedding all the presents and drinking hot chocolate. Away things! Away, away, away.
The Decorative Arts table dealt with everything from small statues to furniture to plates to lamps to vases. It was the knick-knack table. We sat down to wait. They were only on number five. We were twenty-two. Next to us numbers nine and ten were growing more anxious. They had been waiting awhile. When their numbers got called, we had a celebration in our row. Yipppee!
Vlad went out to fill the meter. I noticed he had a spring to his step. He no longer had to worry about thieves in the night. The things were gone.
I noticed that the Paintings table on the other side of the room was calling forty when Decorative Arts was still in the teens. When our number was finally called, we went to the table. Vlad put the ugliest plate I had ever seen down in front of the lady.
How ugly was this plate? Ugg to the glee. It was white with green, but the green was midway between lime and olive green. There was some gold on it too, but that didn't help.
The assessor turned the plate over and looked at the mark just like they do on Antiques Roadshow. She said Vlad could probably get a hundred bucks for the plate on ebay. I nodded thoughtfully even though it all seemed so anti-climatic after the silver.
As we walked out of Bonhams and Butterfields into the West Hollywood sunshine less than two hours after we arrived, we felt lighter and freer. Meanwhile, other folks sat inside with little slips of paper waiting for their number to be called and hoping that the thing they had held onto for years and carried to this place was worth enough to make all their dreams come true.