If you want to hear good stories from collectors, if you want pregnant pauses, if you want to start an interesting conversation, ask someone this question. So, I asked it of myself. It is quiet Sunday morning and I am going to answer it by using a thought experiment. (Well, if Einstein can do so, why not me?) The experiment goes as follows: I have 30 minutes to pack up and leave my house – forest fires, hurricane, tornado on its way – what antique do I take with me? Of course, whichever piece I choose magically will fit my vehicle and somehow, I will be able to pack it in the bed of the truck or the backseat of my Mini Cooper. The assumption is that the home and its contents will be destroyed. It is a thought experiment after all. I have no idea what I will find. Come walk the house with me. What is my favorite piece in the collection?
I discover that rarity is not necessarily a good criterion. I love our drop front desk (pictured on the front of my book, Come Collect with Me). But I could find another, perhaps better. The same is true for most of our antique high-country furniture, and homespun blankets, and accessories. The Pan Am poster (Across the Pacific in Five Days Via Pan American), never folded, perfect condition. I have never seen another on the market. No, it stays. I can appreciate it but do not adore it. I own no weathervane so special that it will come with. I find that good stories, powerful memories, and love are better criteria. I walk on.
One of my wife’s Black dolls is a possibility. The story of how not to negotiate, the one she fell in love with. The first “expensive” purchase we ever made – our Rogers’ tallcase wooden works clock (the works just this week returned from being repaired). The most powerful reminder we have of our (now deceased) dealer friends, Jim and Bernice Miller. It is in the running. A Bachelder print of the Battle of Gettysburg – a gift to our younger son as a college graduation present, whose tastes have moved on. Others enter the market but still . . .
I find I am drawn to a silver teapot I purchased at Harrod’s Silver Room (no longer in existence) in London – British no less. It is my best reminder of several trips to Europe.
I end my thought experiment undecided. After collecting all these years, the feeling is somewhat disconcerting. If you absolutely forced me to make a decision, I think the Rogers’ clock would be the one. But there are other pieces I would sorely miss. Fascinatingly, and I would love to hear from other collectors about this, I would not be devastated about losing most other items in our collection. I think that is because it would be great fun to have an empty house again, and refill it.
What is your favorite piece and why? And do you struggle like I do to identify it (them)?