Sunday, June 28, 2009


PBS’s Antiques Roadshow came to Raleigh yesterday and broke a couple of their own records.  First, 34,000 tickets were requested.  (Previous high:  29,000 in San Jose.)  Second, offered for appraisal was a set of jade pieces from the mid-1700’s valued “conservatively” at $1.07 million. 

Fellow mystery writer Sarah Shaber (Simon Says) and I were lucky enough to score two of the 6,000 tickets.   Although we both had items for the Asian table, neither of ours broke the thousand-dollar mark.

The line moved quickly, yet we made friends with the people on either side and enjoyed seeing their treasures.  I’m sure that some hoped to match the jade owners, but most were like Sarah and me:  curious to know exactly what it was that we had.  She learned who had made her bird prints and I learned that my husband’s Japanese mask was a couple of hundred years older and a couple of hundred dollars more valuable than we had thought.  No windfalls.  No trips around the world.  Just one more detail to add to my “What Things Are” list that I’ve begun to compile for our son.

I’ve gone room by room in our house itemizing each object of monetary or sentimental value, where it came from, how we acquired it, and why we’ve kept it.  Nothing is of much value individually.  No antiques here—too many house fires in our family!—but some of the things may mean more to him as he grows older.

When I mentioned this to the woman in line ahead of us, she immediately decided this was something she was going to do for her children.  “I’ve told them what these things are, but they’re totally uninterested right now,” she said, and vowed to start her own list.

It’s easy with one child but Sarah has two siblings.  Her mother’s had them go through her house and say what they want, but warned them that just because they want something doesn’t mean that’s whose name will wind up on it.

What about you?  Do your heirs know the provenance of what they’ll eventually find in your dwelling? Wouldn’t you hate it if they used as a dust rag the apron you’ve kept from your favorite cookie-baking grandmother?

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