I got a call the other day from a local woman who was interested in having me do an appraisal. The lady, who was elderly and spoke very politely, told me that she was downsizing and it was time for her to let go of a special item that she had inherited from her grandmother. Something she cherished but had no further use for. An item that reportedly her Grandmother had turned down an offer of $3000 some years ago. “Sounds interesting. What do you have?”. “Well it’s a collection of playbills and related records collected from all over the world.”
Playbills and related records that she turned down $3000 for. Hmmm. I began to imagine that perhaps she was a regular theater goer and had built up a collection from plays she had seen. Perhaps it included rare autographed pictures of past stars, or was so comprehensive in nature that someone would offer such a sum. If this was the case, I would suggest to her that she get in touch with someone who would be more familiar with such an item. Someone like Ed Locke for instance who deals in nostalgia. My imagination kicked in and I started to get a bit excited.
“O.K. Mam, you may have something here. Is the portfolio handy, so that you can give me more details?” “Yes, I will go and get it. ”Grandma was very meticulous. It’s always been kept in a dry closet and it is in perfect condition.” More reason to be encouraged. A few moments passed and she was back. “As I said, this was her prized possession and she once turned down $3000 once from a person who was very interested in acquiring it.” Evidently, I thought. That’s a lot of money to offer for a collection way back when. I was now imagining letters from the authors and composers, perhaps some personal photographs. The excitement was mounting. She had the book in front of her.
“So please describe it for me.” “Well it is in a box and there are over a dozen records, and a booklet that tells you all about each piece of music.” What! I thought it was a personal collection. This doesn’t sound good. She went on and my heart sank, “The title on the cover is Webster’s Basic Library of the World’s Greatest music.” All the records and the book are in excellent condition. “But Mam, what about the playbills? I thought we were talking about something your grandmother has collected, but what you are describing is a commercial product.” “Oh well I haven’t looked at it for years and I guess I remembered incorrectly as there are no playbills. However, it is full there of information on every piece of music.”
I was on-line as we spoke so I googled Webster’s Basic library of the World’s Greatest music, and up popped a dozen examples. E-Bay listings, and otherwise. I went to the first E-Bay listing. So there are 24 records, correct? The first record is Bach, the next four Beethoven. The sleeves have several pages of documentation included of the recordings called “The Listener’s Guide to Album 1” then in Volume 2 “The Listener’s Guide to Album 2″…and so on. “Yes, that’s exactly right.” That’s it exactly.
“Ah, and this boxed set was released in 1958” It states here that there were several editions produced over a few decades, and you say you have volumes one and two.” “Yes, that’s what I have.” And there is no additional material. No collected photos or playbills, or anything else.” “That is correct.” “Well, then I’m afraid I have some bad news for you Mam because the copy I am looking at here on E-Bay which is in excellent condition just like yours, is being offered for $62.99 plus shipping.” The mood turned suddenly ugly. “Well that just can’t be. You don’t know what you are talking about. My Grandmother was nobody’s fool and she turned down $3,000 back then so it has to be worth a lot more now.” “I’m sorry to give you this news, but unless there is something else with that box of records, what I am looking at right now in front of me suggests your Grandmother should have taken the $3,000 when she had the chance.” “No. that’s just wrong. It’s worth at least $3,000, and you can’t fool me.” I tried to reassure her that I had no interest in trying to fool her, or in acquiring her grandmother’s treasure. I was simply trying to let her know that as it so often happens in families, myths get started and can easily be perpetuated until someone comes along and bursts the bubble. Nobody likes to have their hopes dashed, and having to do so in all honesty is the worst part of the job, but the truth must come out eventually. I apologized once more, wished her luck, and hung up the phone.