THE SONIC BOOMER
Have you ever watched that TV show, Hoarders? It’s about people with a driving need to keep everything, even if it’s old, broken or bug-infested. Hoarding is a mental illness, usually triggered by a feeling of loss. The show focuses on getting hoarders the help they need. But, before they help, they tour the home. And seeing how these people live can make a non-hoarder’s skin crawl.
But we antiquers love that show. We understand why they keep stuff. We share many of the same obsessions. So, while the camera zooms in to focus on the emotional struggle, we antiquers are scanning the background for things that have value. Was that a Pez collection in that dust-encrusted case? How old is that chair they’ve uncovered from the stack of newspapers? What is the actual extent of damage to the 56 cars abandoned out back?
Let’s be clear — I’m not a hoarder. My house is neat as a pin. My two antiques stores are well-organized. But, when I got a call in late October asking if I’d pay $1,500 for the contents of a deceased hoarder’s home, the answer was, “Yes!”
By court order, I was given eight weeks to do this, and you can bet I was there10 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to make my money back. The power had been shut off, so it was cold and dark, but I didn’t care. Using the flashlight on my phone, I cleared a path into one room and got started. When that room was done, I had somewhere to put the trash (which ended up taking three rooms) and continued on as fast as I could.
I methodically went through every single item in the house — whether it had been thrown into closets, drawers, tubs, boxes or just left lying around. I called it “The Nightmare Before Christmas” because, in among the tattered magazines and empty food containers, there was a seemingly unending supply of valuable and quirky antiques. Sure, they were covered in dust and grime, but (silver lining) I only came across one dead rat!
By pulling out the 1950s Christmas stuff, cleaning it, pricing it and getting it onto the shelves of my store ASAP, I broke even on my $1,500 before the eight weeks was even up. From here on in, it’s pure profit.
And I’m not the only one making money. My grandson Skippy asked if he could have a jar of clear blue marbles (the kind you put in the bottom of vases), and I handed them over. When I got home later that evening, Skippy was set up in my driveway and, under Grandpa Mark’s watchful eye, had already made $60.
“Selling marbles?” I asked.
“No,” Mark said. “For selling $1 chances to ‘Guess How Many Marbles in the Jar.’ The last guy was one marble off at 937 and Skippy told him, ‘Sorry.’”
Meanwhile, the salesman of the century was dancing around on one foot because another victim — er, customer — was approaching. I watched in astonishment as he conned this innocent out of three bucks with “Five Guesses for $3!”
“Skippy!” I yelled. “What do they get if they win?”
And, without batting an eye, the little entrepreneur gone bad yelled back, “A marble every day for a month!”
It took me a minute. “But I don’t want a stranger coming to my door at 7:30 every morning to claim a marble!” I whined, adding poutily, “For 30 days in a row…”
“31,” Skippy corrected. “March has 31 days, Grandma.”