A yard sale customer who bought a small bowl for $35 found out it's worth up to $500,000

Originally published at: A yard sale customer who bought a small bowl for $35 found out it's worth up to $500,000 | Boing Boing


I would hope the lucky dude would split the profit with the previous owner.


Is it microwavable safe?


No, but it’ll be fine in the dishwasher, I’m sure.


This reminds me of when Michael Disfarmer’s photographs became revered objects in the art world a decade or so ago. My dad’s family lived in the small Arkansas town where and when Disfarmer worked. I tried to be sly about asking to look at old family photos to see if our family might be in possession of a work unknowingly worth several thousand dollars. As it happens my aunt has possession of most of my grandparents’ photos, what few there are, and my dad insists that they were too poor to spend the 25¢ the photo would have cost, anyway. Still when I found a photo of my dad’s parents as newlyweds mixed in with a box of my mom’s old family photos, I found out there’s been some family tension from my aunt who thinks my dad has been holding onto old family photos instead of sharing them. I have my suspicions that she also thinks there’s a Disfarmer in a box or a photo album stashed away in the bottom of someone’s china cabinet somewhere.


I would’ve been bowled over.


This is sad, as it really shows how little information is passed down between generations. I saw this helping my mother and uncle sort out my grandmother’s effects after she died. There was a lot of “What is this?” “I don’t know, let’s give it away.” There were some objects passed down by the family for generations, but none of them could be identified/distinguished from various bits of random junk, so none of it had any emotional value, either - the hope was, if anything was historically/monetarily valuable, subsequent owners would recognize that and treat them appropriately, because the family couldn’t be bothered. But there also definitely weren’t any half-million dollar bowls.


As a fan of blue and white stuff, it’s really a lovely little thing on its own merits. As a “yard sailor,” I might’ve offered $25, though, and would never have thought to have it appraised. Good on the buyer for the hunch.


Previous owners had no idea they were eating Count Chocula out of a $500k dish!


“That little bowl that I bought, where is it?”
“In the dishwasher, why?”


I wonder how many millions of dollars change hands at garage sales every year for 35¢ Chinatown souvenirs in dreams of making one of these scores.


I have 2 collections of fairly esoteric items (meteorites and NA pottery). I try to document all of it with provenance as far as I can, but I predict it will take a fairly dedicated seller to figure out the value of that credit-card sized slice of Esquel, or the the Maria Martinez blackware pot.


OK, I gotta take a moment for editorial intervention here. Why is “6-inches” hyphenated? “6” is a modifier for “inches,” effectively an adjective by middle-school-grammar reckoning. There is zero-reason (see what I did there?) for “6” to form a compound word with “inches”.

This reminds me of another recent wrongheaded editorial convention when people are giving ages. “He was 11-years-old.” This is just kooky. There is no reason those terms should be compounded together – a hyphen compound implies some sort of intrinsic atomicity to the whole phrase that’s simply not present.


There can be very innocent reasons for holding on to photos. My mom, for instance, is also very cagey when it comes to sharing — and even showing – family photos. Her side of the family have no early pics of her, her parents, and her siblings since all those pics were destroyed in a fire. (The oldest photo she has is of herself at 14 years old, when she [against her father’s orders] and her best female friend, Cha-Chi, stole away to an upstate NY lake for a couple of days; that pic was buried deep and I only learned of it a few years ago.) And many other photos were destroyed when the basement of the house she was renting to my baby sister and her husband got flooded from frozen-to-broken plumbing. Being now distrustful, she’s made herself the de facto archivist for her side of the family. Occasionally she’ll let a visiting family member walk away with one or two pics, but only if she knows she has the negatives. She believes that others are too careless to be trusted with her precious pics. Oh, well.

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I’m sick of hearing about these kinds of stories.

Because it’s not me with the big score.

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This cuts the other way too. Sometimes people hold on to worthless junk for no other reason than it belonged to Grandma Ginny or Uncle Fred.

My aunt(s) have this problem where they absolutely will not throw anything away or donate stuff because they are obsessed with keeping the memory alive. My aunt wanted to keep the barn door off the family farm because my great grandpa built it. There are literal storage rooms filled to the rafters with boxes and boxes of old financial records, receipts and random bits of hardware consolidated from various households which have absolutely no value whatsoever.

It would take years to sort through it all and try to discern any meaning or historical value to any of it. Afraid to say but it is pretty much destined for the landfill once my mother’s generation passes on.


Nothing wrong with holding onto things for sentimental reasons. (The problem is that the items end up in the hands, eventually, of those who have no sentimental attachment to them, and have to start distinguishing between things kept purely for those reasons, and those kept for reasons that are meaningful to others as well.) To complicate matters, some things initially kept purely for sentimental reasons will eventually have historical worth, too…


“Well, it won’t bring much cash; but, its sentimental value is thru the roof.”

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Or perhaps could be used again? A co-worker friend at my first employer filled me in month before last on the latest doings of an infamous technician there known to hoard “found” equipment on-site. (ex: During a department move, electronic equipment and devices of all sorts were discovered under the diamond-plated section of flooring near his work station. He was not fired or reprimanded.) The latest news? An anonymous phone call to his employer led to the police gaining access to his garage: It was filled almost to the brim with computer and electronic measurement devices. There was no room to walk in the garage. “Packed solid” was what I was told. Also there were a couple of toaster ovens, apparently swiped from other departments’ employee dining areas. That finally got him fired. No word on the disposition of the loot.