Sunday, March 22, 2009

An Appraisal!

If you're a fan of PBS' "History Detectives," as I am, you are fascinated with the stories they investigate. Someone may have a book, supposedly signed by someone famous and given to their great grandfather. Or a typewriter, presumably the one Ernie Pyle used in World War II. Or a book of slave songs -- was it the first slave songbook?

Elyse Luray is one of the four "history detectives" who appear in the show (it returns to some TV stations in reruns now with new episodes in June).

She recently came to town in our library's speaker series, discussing the show at the main library and doing appraisals at two branches.

So, despite the fact that it was the manic weekend before my surgery, of course I had to go.

I have a tea set that my father's great aunt, a missionary in China (or somewhere near there) brought back to the states. He guessed this was at the turn of the century. And, along with the tea set she brought some wee shoes and a kimono, which is lovely and really deserves to be hung and not squirreled away in the closet. (to do list.)

While I didn't expect her to tell me its story (my own details are sketchy enough), I hoped she could put a monetary value on it, and possibly clear up its country of origin.

Well, let me say that if the estimates are correct, the set is not turn of the century but possibly 1920s. And the value is $500. Give or take. This is in part because I have the teapot, cream and sugar, plus 9-12 of the plates, cups and saucers. The teapot was the deal breaker.

The interesting thing about this is how I felt afterwards.

I was a little bit relieved.

This set is exquisite. When you hold the plates to the light they are translucent and each one is individually handpainted with some Kanji on the back -- presumably the artist's mark?

And I never use it.

It sits in the china cabinet where I see it daily and occasionally pull out a piece to admire. Then I put it back. Because what if it's worth a whole lot -- I mean, a really whole lot! I'm not God's gift to graceful movement and I've dropped more than my share of lovelies in my lifetime.

It's totally irreplaceable. I saw some of the larger-sized (dinner) plates -- I only have one of those. They were at a pricey antique shop in Shaker Heights and I think they were $900. Now, there could have been differences, they were up-marked, they weren't the same even though they looked it, it could be a dishonest shop... nonetheless, that was enough to scare me off.

What if I break something? Or it can't take the heat of the tea? I can't really replace this.

Now, Elyse is admittedly not an Asian expert and she asked the other appraiser on site for his opinion -- he came up with the dollar amount. And while $500 is not chump change, it certainly isn't $1500.

I know the set came from abroad, I know it's from the family, and that's what matters. And it's not so darned valuable that if a plate slips from my hand, I go all hara-kiri and fall on my sword (or chef's knife).

That's a relief.

Now you see, this is somewhat ironic. I have always believed you use the good silver, the good china, the crystal, because suppose tomorrow you're run over by a bus and you didn't? Wouldn't that be sad?

But this I just couldn't use.

Reality check welcomed. Sometime this spring, when I can hold it in both hands, I'm using it. Carefully. Maybe a tea for friends; maybe just with Rick and me. But I will use it and celebrate a family legacy -- and something beautiful.


Rosa said...

It's beautiful and yes, use it! It is nice and springy!

Herzblatt said...

It is wonderful.....I have another good idea....send it to me and I will see, if a rich German lady is interested in it....if not, I`ll send it back....and if it returns without any broken cup or saucer, you will never worried about it in your life and I swear it will come back absolutly perfekt and then, when you put it back in your cupboard, one cup will drop and break in a thousand pieces...*lol*...that`s life!

Joanne Huffman said...

I totally agree with you about using family treasures instead of squirreling them away.


BONNIE K said...

I feel your guilt about not wanting to use valuable things! It is very pretty and unique.

Anonymous said...

How beautiful - and a family treasure, too. I hope you do use it, gently, and enjoy! Tea or coffee will surely taste better from those precious cups.

Annie said...

Jeanie, it is so good to actually know something of what you hold in your hand. All that family history that lives there. $5, $500, of $1,500 - Your set is beautiful AND priceless. I hope you have a wonderful tea party when you are feeling better and will share the pictures with us. Hugs, Annie

anno said...

That is a beautiful tea set, real treasure. And now, even better, it's treasure you can use. Sounds like an interesting encounter you had at the library.

Oh said...

Lovely set. And at least you can see it in your china closet.

I love this entry for the pictures, the history and your humor!

So, you're doing well, yes?

robin bird said...

i don't know why it is but i laughed a little (out loud) at the "what if i go all hari-kari" and then cried just a smidge when you said you decided you can use it. carefully. i could almost imagine you on tenterhooks looking at the lovely piece and then placing it carefully back in the cabinet. i love you jeanie! i really hope you continue to improve and feel better each and every day that you work hard at recovery.

thank you so much for your kindest and most generous comments. we are off to the beach this week and i will return with a new magazine article (with photos of course) completed and sent off to Somerset Life for the July issue.. isn't that just too cool :)

jet1960 said...

What lovely pieces! How wonderful that you could find out a little more about them. I understand your debate about using vs. preserving. I hope you have a grand tea party when able.

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