"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, May 23, 2011

Value


At the auction preview both Mark and I noticed the miniature castle, complete with drawbridge, pennants in the turrets,  and dozens of tiny medieval figures. Although we usually don't buy toys, this one was tempting for its intricacy and for that Christmas morning feeling it evoked as we stood admiring it through the glass case. My fingers reached of their own accord for the little knights and I might have left a nose print in my efforts to get closer than the glass allowed.

When that lot came up for sale, Joe, the auctioneer, mentioned it belonged to a ninety year old man who'd had the set since childhood. He was giving it up as part of his move to assisted living. I imagined him coming downstairs on a cold December morning eighty years before, exclaiming in joy that Santa had left the one thing he wanted more than anything. I imagined the endless pleasurable hours of play he enjoyed protecting his castle from marauding invaders. I imagined what it must have been like in adulthood for him to be able to reclaim those happiest of childhood memories whenever he looked at his treasure.

The bidding for the castle was intense and it sold for about the same price as a beautiful deco era wardrobe brought later in the auction. Clearly the old man wasn't the only one who found value in that toy.

I'd like to think that the love he had for the castle and its knights, the depth of his value for it, soaked into the set, and that was at least in part what made it so attractive to all of us there that night.

I often find myself wondering at these auctions what it is that makes an item valuable. Clearly it's not appraised value, since art work often goes for a small fraction of that. It's not size - I've seen a baby grand piano sell for less than an original Coca Cola tray. It's not even about aesthetics - WWII paraphernalia consistently brings far more than the most delicate crystal or most ornate silver.

For the original owner of the castle, I would guess there is no amount of money that can replace the value of his childhood toy. I wonder if he'll mourn the loss, or if he's refocused and found value in different things. Maybe both. I wonder if he got so much value from the castle during the time it was his, that he no longer needs its presence. As he approaches the end of his days, I wonder what does hold value for him - if it's memories, or his family, or the great mystery that awaits him.

Photo from Google Images

15 comments:

yaya said...

I know "things" are just that...things, and they can't be taken with us at the end of life and they're not the important "things" of life..or are they? I get great pleasure out of vintage tablecloths. Even the ones with holes! I often wonder who sat there first, what conversations were had over a cup of tea. I think what brings us joy is also part of who we are. Perhaps how we were raised, or our artistic ability forms what it is that makes us happy, makes us dream, makes us cry or laugh, or what we collect. I'll bet whoever bought the toy you've described won't play with it as much as the original owner. Maybe I'm wrong and it will be given to a child. However, it seems today that most kids want "things" that will do the entertaining, not ones that require imagination.

Amber said...

Lovely. I'm happy it went for a good price.

:)

Stacy Crawford said...

I really can imagine that man with his beloved toy. I'm with Yaya, kids don't have much imagination today. They want entertained instead of working for the entertainment. (mine included) I think that our memories and knowledge are what brings joy. Sometimes those memories come from the joy of playing with toys. Like that castle set.

Pam said...

I found this sad Deb. I guess ultimately we must all live by the reality of "you can't take it with you", which means of course that we don't ever really own anything in this life, just use it until it can be passed on.
Once we realize, along with Buddhist sentiments that life is about loss, and accept that, stories like this will continue to tug at the heart strings.
I hope the old man now lives off happy memories, and still has the ability to create them. I guess the castle and figures had an excellent run of time with him!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Wanted to stop by and say hello - and thinking of you right this moment!

*smiling warmly*

DJan said...

I've never been to an auction like that, but your description made me feel like I am missing out! I'm so glad it when for a good price, and apparently not to you, Deb. Well told!

Teresa aka JW said...

Sometimes things are coveted (and purchased for high prices) because of the feeling we get from it.

PS Auctions make me nervous. I can never be sure I'll go home with what I desire. :)

Desiree said...

This is just so you, Deb! I love the way your mind works and all the feeling you evoke through your words. Your post has done a great service to that elderly gentleman and his treasured childhood toy. I am left feeling both in awe and very sad. Your are an exceedingly gifted writer due in large part to the fact that you care and feel so deeply about each of your subjects and convey these emotions so delicately and thoughtfully.

Wanda said...

Might have left a nose print? Wonderful. I felt that one.

Cheryl said...

How wonderful that he kept that toy for so long and in such wonderful condition. I think I would have paid a lot for it too as it sounded like a true treasure - both as an item, but also as it was so obviously infused with love. Thanks for your lovely comments about Merrilyn's story. I am so glad you're enjoying it.

Barb said...

Going from the knights to the elderly man who is in his own night of life is masterful, Deb. Is it the nostalgia that remains in an item what gives it value? I have some very old crockery, and I like to think about its former (more useful rather than decorative) life and wonder about the people who handled it many years ago.

Wanda..... said...

Such a powerful, but gentle story to stir ones thoughts, Deb. I so agree with Desiree's comment!

kario said...

I would venture to say that, had the auctioneer not told the story of the man selling the castle and his move into assisted living, the set wouldn't have gone for quite as much. I believe it is the stories and feelings we attach to things that give them value. And you just upped the ante on this one!

Terri Tiffany said...

I love your thoughts on the things we value-- I like looking at an item for more than it is and for what it did for someone--maybe that is why certain items speak to me.

Terry said...

Deb, this post rang so true. I work with Geriatrc patients, many who've had to move into ALF's or nursing homes. The things they part with are part of their history.

I love looking at old things, toys, cards, pictures of times gone by and, like you, wonder about the story behind it.

I hope the beautiful castle went to someone who will treasure it as much as the old man did ( he must have to have half onto it for 80 years). I hope the old man will find comfort in his memoriesnof times gone by. Lovely post.