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The Estate - Continued

So last time I had us at my parents’ Estate Sale. This was back in 2015, but in my story, we had walked down from what was then our house to theirs and joined the long line of people waiting to get in. The door opened promptly on time and there was a bit of rush as the Pros (the people who buy things at estate sales and then resell them for more later) hurried in to get first crack at any of the good stuff.

We, who already knew what was on sale, drifted at more leisurely pace. We noticed that everything had been neatly tagged and sorted, and that a cash register and change box were at a desk at the front of the house. Two of the women who had helped prep for the sale were on duty. We greeted them and they smiled back at us.

I watched the shoppers around us. It was ... interesting. I suppose that was the best way to put it. Here were all my parents’ possessions, some of them important parts of my childhood memories, now up for sale. I watched while while toys from my youth, some now considered antiques, vanished quickly, almost in minutes. Home furnishings, things my parents had gotten here and there, were also big sellers.

About the photos: Just two today. I realized I didn’t have any photos of my parents’ house during the sale. (Yikes.) So I thought instead I would use a couple of other shots that had only marginal connections to the story. First, a photo of one of the wonderful clouds for which New Mexico is famed.

My father’s computers, which he set up so carefully in his office, and which I had so carefully prepared for resale--blanking all the hard drives and removing data wherever I found it -- did not move rapidly. And, well, I understood that. Unless people really know what they’re doing, they’re actually better off not buying used computers from a stranger at a yard/estate sale. You never know what you’re getting, or if it really works, or how well it works, or how many viruses might be on it. (Naturally, I’d blanked all the hard drives, but even be cautious.)

Also slow moving (alas) was much of the art. We did end up selling much, but it took forever. Again, art...even when it is very good and is from recognized artists...tends to be difficult to be sell. You really need to do it in a gallery, and a gallery owned by someone who has contacts in the world of collectors--which, btw, is why “art as an investment” is a complicated business. Yes, at the very top of the food chain, where you have important galleries in places like New York and Paris, and where you have big name buyers, who fund non-profit museums (1) and store their purchases at some secure repository where it will be crated and stored in a climate controlled safe as a caterpillar in a silk cocoon. Just as safe. And just as invisible. (2)

Well, that’s one thing. In that world, you can buy a work of art as an investment, because you know that should you wish to sell it, you will probably find a buyer with the necessary funds and in relatively short order.

But, the crowd that was coming to my parents’ estate sale, that’s another story entirely. They don’t buy art as an investment. If they buy art at all, they buy what they like and what they want to see on their walls. And, well, frankly, I guess my sympathies are with them in that. I own a lot of art--paintings, photography, prints, framed cartoons, even postage stamps that I’ve mounted and placed on my walls. In fact, I’ve got more art than I’ve got walls to display it on.

But, if I own it, I want to display it. I want it out with us, where we can see it. I do not want it sitting in crate, in an air-conditioned warehouse, no matter how secure, where it is invisible and unknown. Frankly, treating art in such a way strikes me as a little...well, for lack of a better term...blasphemous. Maybe not blasphemous to Jehovah or whoever...but definitely to the Muses.

So...well...I really wasn’t too surprised, nor was I particularly offended, when most of my parents’ collection of art didn’t sell. Fortunately, Connie was willing to take some of it to her own shop, and some of it sold there. I placed a bit of it privately. We found a dealer here in Texas who handled some of it for us. Much of the rest, I donated to a small local organization that auctions off art and transfers the funds to families in need. My parents would have liked that.


Connie showed up at my parents’ house around mid-morning. She greeted us and we chatted with her. Yes, she said, the sale was going well. My father’s tools went quickly. My mother’s paperbacks -- she was a great fan of mysteries--were moving nicely, though her academic books, the stuff she used for her Ph.D., weren’t. (I ended up taking most of them to used book stores.) Their art books, and their collection of Dickens, were also a little slow, but they were in motion. And the knick knacks? These were flowing out the door in a great stream.

They had, for instance, bought someplace an animatronic Chihuahua. When you flipped it on, it would a perfectly ghastly falsetto... “Mamacita, donde esta Santa Claus? / Donde esta Santa Claus? / And the toys that he will leave / Mamacita, oh, where is Santa Claus? / I look for him because it's a Christmas Eve.” (3)

Honestly, truth be told, and all kidding aside...I hated it. But, it was one of the first things sold that day...maybe it was the first thing sold. a perfectly adorable little girl who snatched it up off a table, took it her daddy, and asked “please, please, please...” And, after a moment, he relented. And, a few minutes later, she left, the singing dog clutched under her arm, while she beamed delightedly...

And we were a whole 50¢ richer.

Who was I to object?

More to come.


1. This is, actually, a bit of a scandal. The law says that people who buy expensive art works and donate or loan them to non-profit museums can get serious tax breaks. The kicker? The law says that museums must be open to the public, but it doesn’t when they have to be open. So, a zillionaire can buy expensive masterpieces, found a museum at which they are on display, but then open them to the public only between 3 and 4 am on even numbered Tuesdays  every other leap-year. See “How the Ultrawealthy Use Private Foundations to Bank Millions in Tax Deductions While Giving the Public Little in Return,” by Jeff Ernsthausen, ProPublica, July 26, 2023.

2.  I’m told that the most important such Art Repository in the United States is The Delaware Freeport. It is an ultra-safe, high-end, storage facility for art and other works. It is also a Foreign Trade Zone (hence, “Freeport”). As I understand it, Freeports, and there are several around the world, provide significant tax and other advantages for collectors. The art is protected there from such scourges as fire and theft, and since it is a Foreign Trade Zone, the artworks’ owners don’t have to pay import duties on art brought in from, say, Europe or Asia until it are taken out of the Zone. It is also wonderfully private, which means no one knows that you’ve got that Rembrandt or Warhol tucked away in a vault--something that is genuinely quite useful for high-end collectors.

For The Delaware Freeport’s webpage, to here:

For an article on Freeports and Free Trade Zones in general, see this article: and this helpful webpage from the U.S. Customs and Boarder Patrol:

3. I actually found a video of a similar singing dog, probably the same product, on Youtube. If it is still online, you can see it here:

But don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

Second, just because I like the photo, this is Martha at breakfast at the Rivery Cafe here in Georgetown. This was Sunday before last. 

Copyright©2024 Michael Jay Tucker


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