In the past few weeks I’ve been attempting to produce a catalogue of some of my collections.  This is mainly due to promptings by Frances, whose argument I paraphrase crudely as follows:  what’s going to happen about all your stuff when you kick the bucket? How will I or the children be able to tell what things should be sent to the charity shop and what should go to auction?

Perfectly fair questions, and it’s true that (a) the amount of stuff has increased alarmingly in the years since I retired from regular work; (b) I’m not getting any younger; and (c) in spite of possible appearances to the contrary, it isn’t all valueless junk.

There’s also a (d), which is that my heirs and executors can’t necessarily assume that professional help will be on hand when the time comes to sort what I leave behind and separate out the wheat from the chaff.  That lack of competent advice is most often the means by which Random Treasure is generated:  by valuable items reaching the retail market unrecognised for what they are. It’s something I like to happen to other people’s stuff, because it gives me a chance to find lovely and valuable things.

But it isn’t something that I want to happen to my own stuff or to stuff belonging to my friends and neighbours.  Hence my willingness to help Anne and Bill (see yesterday’s post), and hence my eventual agreement to Frances’s reasonable request that I identify any objects in the house that have some value.

How to do it?  The obvious way is to stick a descriptive label onto all items that merit describing.  Then all that’s needed is for everything with a label on it to be packed in the auction box, and everything without a label to go into the charity box.  Simple.  But problematic.  Many pottery items have rough unglazed bases to which sticky paper labels won’t adhere.  Some dishes, even some with significant value, we use regularly on the dining table, and require to wash up.  Other items such as wood carvings and rugs and textiles could be difficult to stick labels on without damage to their delicate fabric.

This bowl made by the late Emmanuel Cooper was bought for £3.00 in an auction in Edinburgh. If I re-sold it in one of the more upmarket local salerooms I’d get a lot more for it, but to realise its full current value it would need to be sold by a studio pottery specialist.

For some objects it’s important to identify and document them with much more information than can be got onto a single unobtrusive sticky label.  And for some, a local auctioneer would not be suitable because specific selling expertise is required.  For example many of my modern studio ceramics could only realise their full market value by being sold through one of a small number of specialist auctions, none of which are here in Scotland or anywhere near.

So the sticky label solution for identifying objects of value is a non-starter.  Time to think again.

More about what I did and how I did it in the next post.

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