What we treasure

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about “collectibles”. It was his observation that anything marketed as collectible rarely ever increases substantially in value if at all. Commemorative coins, beanie babies, Cabbage Patch dolls, Swatch watches. Should I continue? I’ve said here before that I’m anti-crap. Which is not to say I don’t have way too much of it. I think most of us do. I suppose there’s an up side to people collecting things they don’t need and only think they want. Thanks to sites like E-bay and Craig’s List, we can sell all that crap in order to have money to buy someone else’s crap because theirs looks pretty good in the pictures. Which is awesome, especially if you can get something for less than it’s worth.

Ah, but that leads me to a question: Who or what determines something’s worth?

My mom has several Madame Alexander dolls from the early 70’s. She has a Scarlett O’Hara doll in mint condition which she said several years ago was valued at over $800. But that doll is only worth $800 if you find someone willing to pay $800 for it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I suppose she could commit insurance fraud and report the doll stolen, but that’s very unlikely to happen.

I used to collect a few things. I still have a case full of ceramic Disney characters from years ago. Some I bought and some were gifts. By the way, if you find yourself becoming too obsessed with collecting any sort of themed item, just tell your friends and family how much you like said theme. I had a friend that liked hippos. She received so much hippo paraphernalia that she had to plead with people to stop buying her anything hippo related. I used to like to remind her what incredibly vicious, violent animals hippos were, and that a real hippo would just as soon kill her as look at her, but I digress…

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Who or what determines something’s worth and what makes some things more valuable to us than other things? For me, certain things I consider treasures because they evoke special memories. Many of the objects I cherish are of very small monetary value.

I have a jar of shells sitting in a prominent place in the family room. The jar itself is special because it was given to me by a dear friend as a housewarming gift. I’ve kept different things in it over the years, but I think the plain, white shells will stay in there. Nothing fancy, but these are the shells my daughter and I collected on her first visit to the beach. It was just the two of us and we had a wonderful day.

I also have a Wedgewood covered dish given to me by my in-laws. They have given us many wonderful gifts over the years, but this dish is special because of the story behind it.

My husband is the youngest of four kids. His dad was a science teacher then later a school principal. His mother was also a teacher. They worked hard, raised 4 kids on modest salaries and still managed to save and invest money. I don’t think either would mind me saying that they are frugal. They buy things on sale when they can, rarely if ever spend extravagantly on themselves and they both love a great bargain.

After they retired, they traveled extensively in the United States and abroad. In 1996, one of their vacations brought them to Copenhagen, Denmark. They were shopping for mementos and souvenirs when they saw some items in the window of an antique shop. They picked out a few gifts and brought them to the sales clerk. My father-in-law had been converting Kroner to U.S. dollars in his head, figured they had approximately $90-$100 worth of items and felt like they had found some good deals. My mother-in-law sensed that the sales lady was very pleased by their purchases as she filled out their tax free shopping cheque.

They went to another shop where my father-in-law tried to purchase two items. When he handed the clerk a $10 bill expecting change, the man asked him if he wanted to put the rest of the balance on a credit card. At this point they discovered that the conversion rate was about 10 times higher than what they had been figuring. He declined to purchase the items and proceeded to the Tax Free Shopping Office, both with a sinking feeling.

The items they had figured to be between $90-$100 came to a grand total of $900.

That box is special to me because they probably could have explained their miscalculation to the antique shop and selected less expensive items. Instead, they choose to keep them. Which, knowing them, probably went against every fiber of their being.

So my covered Wedgewood dish is a treasure because the story behind it is a testimony to my wonderful in-laws, who are living proof that you can be both very frugal and very generous all at once. And if my husband is reading this, I’d just like to point out that I’ve got the generous part down, just not so much the frugal part…


This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Treasure hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To read more posts on the topic of Treasure, please visit him at PeterPollock.com

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21 Responses to “What we treasure”

  1. JamesBrett April 5, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    i remember bragging to my dad when i was young about a rather expensive (for a 12-year old) baseball card i’d gotten. i told him how much it was worth — according to a price guide — and he asked me to whom i was going to sell it. i told him i didn’t have a buyer and i didn’t want to sell it. that’s when he explained to me that, in cases like mine, my card wasn’t actually worth 10 bucks.

    but sometimes worth is not calcualated by supply and demand. instead worth is derived from the price paid by the gifter — as is the case with your matte dish, katdish.

    and as is the case with our lives: “you are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 cor 6)

    thanks for a great post. i’m new to your blog, and am really enjoying it so far. came here by way of larry hehn…

    • katdish April 5, 2011 at 10:17 am #

      Thanks, James. I clicked over to your blog. Amazing pics of your mountain run in Tanzania.

  2. Jason April 5, 2011 at 2:08 am #

    Awesome story Kat.

  3. Russell Holloway April 5, 2011 at 5:57 am #

    Hey Katdish – Items that remind us of people and places are beautiful treasures. Thanks.

  4. Glynn April 5, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    Our youngest (now 23) went through the Beanie Baby craze, and was completely distraught when the dog ate the name tags off of about half of them. “They’ll lose alltheir value!” he wailed. Well, yes.

    Then we have a jar of seashells collected during a vacation to Gulf Shores. Totally worthless. Except the youngest and I collected them together. Still one of my favorite vacation souvenirs.

  5. Frank April 5, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    I have comic books. Lots, and lots of comic books. It didn’t take long to learn that they are only worth what someone is willing to pay. Just because I have that first issue with the stamped foil cover in a bag that’s never been opened (that still has the trading card in it!) doesn’t mean squat. Because every other kid in the country who read Spider Man at the time had the same issue.

    Time to clean out my garage, me thinks.

  6. Annie K April 5, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    I don’t collect anything. Not sure what that says about me except I can’t stand stuff and clutter. (I dig that jar though. It would look awesome on my mantel with my lasso and stars of Texas.)

    • Marni April 5, 2011 at 9:04 am #

      Oh good! I thought I was the only one here coveting the cool jar.

  7. Marni April 5, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    Yeah, the boneheads who kept marketing Beanie Babies to my 9 year old kept swearing they’d put her through college. She’s 20 now. Her dad and I are putting her through college. Glad I didn’t listen.

    My retirement plan is based on Acai juice. I’m gonna be living large on my yacht thanks to this super fruit!

  8. Helen April 5, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    It is the stories behind them that make my things valuable. I’m afraid that if I give them away, I won’t have the opportunity to think of the stories and enjoy the memories again.

  9. Simply Darlene April 5, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    As a college student I used to stand in line, sometimes for days and nights, to purchase country music concert tickets. Inadvertently I ended up with a collection of t-shirts (and even one sweatshirt) and ball caps from said concerts because the folks I bought the tickets for always felt indebted to buy me something — as they rightly should have cause I put up with a lot of cold nights and weirdoes in line. And I remember that gal in front of me who let her friend cut just moments before the tickets went on sale (after we had spent two nights in sub-freezing temps). I charged that duo like a bull seeing red. Needless to say little miss friendly cutter fled the scene and I still got my front row tickets to Garth. By the way, he shook my hand and gave me a guitar pick. Oh yes, those were the daze.

    Where was I? Oh yes, thanks for that little stroll down memory lane, seems I got off on my own thang.

  10. David Rupert April 5, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    Tozer said that your spiritual condition is reflected by what you treasure. Of course, Jesus said that first.

    Family, friends, possessions…what comes first?

    Of my possessions, what mean the most to me? I have some pictures and some books. The rest…let it burn!

  11. Lisa notes... April 5, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    “Who or what determines something’s worth?” Exactly. I’m not into collecting knick-knacks either – it just gives you more to dust. The valuable things are the things related to people. (So I should be inspired to go clean out a closet right now and get rid of some junk! ha)

  12. Alise April 5, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    I definitely find a lot more value in the memories attached to things than the things themselves. So my favorite items tend to be gifts that have a story attached. Those are the real treasures!

  13. jasonS April 5, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    I love that story. Wonderful! Thank you, Kat.

  14. Jake April 5, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    I was in a similar situation in Kenya. On our day off after literally working twelve days straight at the clinic, a bunch of us went to the market to get souvenirs for our friends and family. The money exchange was difficult because we had shillings and dollars and some places took both or whatever. Anyway, if you ever try to buy something in a third-world country, they’ll tell you that their kids, parents, spouse and neighbors are all starving to death and try to get more out of ya. It’s just an interesting scenario no matter how you look at it….

  15. Candy April 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    My elephant collection? Elephant crap. It will be sold/given away at an upcoming garage sale with all of those stupid beanie babies.

    Now about that jar….love it.

  16. Hazel Moon April 5, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I learned to be frugal from my mother, and our collectibles were things we made at school and placed in a cardboard box. While my girl friends collected “Story Book Dolls” and angora sweaters, I was fortunate to even have a doll and a sweater.
    As I grew older my mother taught me to bargain shop, and some of my most cherished purchases were those while bargain hunting.
    Your covered dish story has an amazing metaphor of how we should value a generous attitude. What a treasure your mother and Dad-in-laws are!

  17. Peter P April 5, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Would it be showing off to say I’ve been to the Wedgewood factory….?

    Great story.

    I would have taken it back… $900! I hope they got some nice stuff for that!

  18. Berniece Richards April 6, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Yes, Peter, we did get some unusual & nice ‘stuff’! $900 worth??? Ummm?! Not sure, but how does one put a monetary value to memories and laughs? You can’t! We have had lots of laughs, at ourselves, about the expensive and improperly placed decimal point! One lesson we did learn was to ask “How much in American dollars”?

  19. Loni April 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Ohhh loved your stories and pictures! Indeed our treasures are not all the same, but we are sure treasures of our Heavenly Father!

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