Tuesday, February 16, 2010

$89.00 With No Provincials

[An explanation for some of you: Willow, of the wonderful blog 'Life at Willow Manor' Magpie Tales, posed a challenge to her readers. She posted a picture of what I think is a Pewter Creamer and requested that those interested write a fiction story or a poem using the picture as inspiration. I would post the picture here, but that is advanced blogography , which I don’t understand and have little interest in. We had to sign up for this through something called ’Mr. Linky’ (more advanced blog stuff I guess) and we are to publish our prose on Tuesday on our personal blogs. I know – it makes no sense to me either. I guess by some magical process something is going to link with something and my story will be entered in the challenge. That, or I misunderstood the whole thing and screwed everything up. But it is now Tuesday and here is my entry.]

[Second explanation: After I entered I discovered that my fellow participants are for the most part professional writers. I couldn’t figure out how to meekly withdraw. As Marilyn put it, “You’re in deep doo doo now!”]


I would like to thank my new publisher…what’s their name? You know? That outfit from Abilene, Texas. And I want to thank my future editors in advance. All I did was write that offhand article about that stupid urn…oh, excuse me, ‘historic creamer’ that Marilyn bought on Ebay. And now I’m expected to write a whole book of essays. Wow.

I admit to my reluctance to the whole episode.

“Look, here it is,” she sputtered as she flung the wrapping from that silver thing.

I was practical in my assessment. “How much?”

“It was a steal. I got for only $89.00.”

“$89.00 for a stupid teapot? I could’ve got you one for $2.49 at that Goodwill place on I-10.”

She glared at me for a moment. “It’s A Creamer…pewter. I think it may be French. Look at how the handle is shaped and textured curve of the top. I think I may have something really valuable.”

I muttered something about burnished tin and the fact it would it be valuable only if Joe DiMaggio drank beer from it and went back to the computer to figure out something to write on my blog.

It was only two weeks later. Maybe you saw us on the Antiques Roadshow. Yeah, I ignored my wife’s advice to wear dark slacks ‘in case we are on TV’. But I stood there in my faded blue jeans trying to keep my stomach sucked in as that appraiser with the weird accent positioned my wife at that table in front of the camera.

“We were interested in what was in your hands when we saw you walk in,” the weird accented guy gushed to my wife.

I cut to the chase. “How much?”

Why did he ignore me? “My colleagues determined that this is in fact the same style as the écrémeuse depicted in a drawing by the Ribeddi of Byblos in one of his famous letters back around 1400 BC.”

I chimed in. “A ecre-whatever? I thought it was A Creamer. My wife said it was A Creamer. 1400 BC? It must be worth thousands…hundreds of thousands..”

Aucun monsieur, the sketch depicted a versement du vaisseau, er pouring vessel which in later incarnations evolved into a creamer. It was only after Italian composer Paolo Ballasio received a vessel such as this from the Pope when the title ‘Knight of the Golden Spur’ was bestowed upon him that we have come to know of it. Until that point it was just a sketch. Then we find that a vessel of the same type had actually been created.”

My wife jumped with glee. “You mean this was the Pope’s creamer?”

Peut-être. At least we know a pewter vessel such as this was in his possession, at least in the sixteenth century. After that the provenance becomes somewhat murky. Our records indicate that it next may have made its appearance as part of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s collection in the late nineteenth century. There are no records to indicate how it fell into Dick Fagan’s hands.”

Intrigued I asked, “Dick Fagan? Wasn't he a famous senator or orator or something?”

“Well actually, he was the founder of the smallest park in history.”

Both of us: “Huh?”

Oui. It is named Miles End Park in Portland, Oregon. The little park is only a few feet square. Sometime after Monsieur Fegan passed, the community even created a tiny swimming pool in the park for butterflies. It is really quite interesting.”

“Butterfly swimming pool,” I exclaimed. “What does this have to do with this wonderfully decorated French creamer?”

“Actually Monsieur, the vessel is Italien. And Mike Fagon used this creamer to water the little garden he had in his little park.”

“He used this to water his flowers?”


My wife mused. “Let’s see. Some guy in 1400 BC drew a sketch of a creamer…or vessel. And the Pope ended up with something that looked like it in the sixteenth century and gave it to a composer. Then this creamer, or something like it ended up in Vanderbilt’s hands. Then it disappeared until this Fegan guy used it to water his plants?”

Vous êtes aussi perspicaces que vous êtes beaux, la Madame.”

I forgot about holding my stomach in and it ballooned out aggressively as I blurted, “Watch it there, buddy!”

“Forgive me. I was explaining how insightful your wife is.”

“Well,” sucking my stomach back in before standing in profile before the camera, “with all the provincials, this thing must be worth a lot, huh?”

My wife quickly explained, “He means provenance.”

“Okay, let’s get this over with. How much?” At the very least we could pay off the house and take that trip to Europe. “I don’t want no auction value or insurance value or stuff. What would you give us for this right now” I mentally calculated that it would be worth 25% more than he would quote. The sneaky bugger would turn around and resell it.

“Jerry,” my wife grabbed my arm. “You don’t understand. It has no provenance.”

He looked me in the eye. “The écrémeuse is worth between $50 and $75.”

I hope that you will look for my book coming out in the Spring. It is:
Antiques Roadshow Expose: Expectations Dashed and Other Humiliations on the American Citizen”.


  1. Jerry after all that explaining and qualifying, you come out with an entertaining and well-paced story. I love your irreverent tone. Well done!

  2. Oh, Jerry, no deep doo doo here ... this is a real gem. I absolutely loved it. I can't wait to read more of your stuff!

  3. Laughing! I rather like watching the Roadshow, but often have sneaky thoughts that people's hopes are often dashed in very similar ways to your wonderful story!

  4. Loved it! You are a very good story teller.
    I did have a simular experience with the Antiques Roadshow. So yeah, it was dead on.

  5. You didn't misunderstand the entry process Jerry. You did it just right and, Tah Dah, We have a winner!

  6. Oh, everyone's Antiques Roadshow nightmare! Fast paced, well done! Cass

  7. Hahaha. That would be my husband! Very very entertaining Jerry! Those other writers better watch their stuff, there's a new guy in town!!


  8. Jerry.
    This piece is great!No professional writer (which I am not) has anything on you.

  9. What a story! Great fun! And you need to read Willow's latest post about not apologizing! ;-)

  10. I think I saw your piece of Peut-être on the mantel at the Biltmore, before you got a hold of it!

    NEVer apologize.

  11. Good read -- witty & clever piece for a time there you did have me thinking it was going to worth a whole lot . . .it would make an interesting episode on some TV sitcom
    Your humor has the strong underpinnings of what happens to people in real life experiences...

    the dowsers daughter

  12. So entertaining and captivating - great writing! Been there, done that with the appraisers... such a let down sometimes! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Oh my God...this. was. hilarious!

    I'm sitting here...with my hand over my mouth...giggling like a little kid. And I'm saying, "How much? Just tell us HOW FREAKIN' MUCH?!" (Okay...not so much like a kid anymore)

    Excellent job, Jerry! I give this an A+++.
    Bring on the publishers!!

  14. Hiya Jerry,
    Since you took a creative risk and went for it with this story - I'm passing on a Beautiful Blogger award to you.

    Check out my latest post for my reasons why (http://www.jensrealia.typepad.com) and the picture of the award for you to lift. And a great big WAY TO GO from me.

  15. Well, thank you, that was fun. I have a suspicion you could do a whole 'nother story about the Pope's Creamer, too.

    I salute you from my home five miles from the smallest park in the world.

  16. Jerry: Hahahah! Hilarious! I love the way you use the "French" vernacular! Without provincials were just not in this year! Love your style! Ah-hem "provenance". All those discarded newspaper articles and pieces of old vellum paper discarded over the years; what a shame! Maybe hoarders had something there, just when it's time for spring cleaning too! Forget fengshui this year, I got provenance in that junk (hopefully?). Hahahah!