(An elderly woman stands next to an old refrigerator.)
APPRAISER: What can you tell me about this refrigerator you have brought?
WOMAN: Well, I acquired this back in 1993. It was in an old warehouse that was being torn down across the street from where I was living at the time, so I took it. I’ve had it just as something to look at and store junk in ever since. I really have no idea of the value.
APPRAISER: I see. This is a W-Series Frigidaire from 1930. It’s from a time when refrigerators were still transitioning from older iceboxes. As you can see, the hardware, hinges and lock mechanism are very large, resembling the iceboxes in style. The cabinet is a beautiful white porcelain, which is set off by the curving scrollwork of the hinges. As far as value is concerned, unfortunately there were quite a few of these made, and they are rather large and cumbersome. It’s really not worth much more than the scrap metal.
WOMAN: (disappointed) Oh, I see.
APPRAISER: Fortunately for you, though, you still have this original corrugated cardboard box that contained the fridge when it was shipped from the factory. These are almost never found.
WOMAN: The fridge was in it when I nabbed it, and I just kept it in a corner all these years.
APPRAISER: It’s great that you did! The box alone is worth much more that the refrigerator. It can be used for shelter from the cold and wind since all of the structures were destroyed in the Cash for Clunkers riots. Together with a tarpaulin, it can be made waterproof for the rain and snow. And even though it isn’t ideal protection from the firestorms, this is indeed quite a find!
WOMAN: (very excited) Oh… thank you! Oh, my… wait until my husband hears about this!
APPRAISER: If only the refrigerator were large enough to crawl in, you would be very lucky indeed.
(Banner Reads: “Cardboard Shipping Box, ca. 1930s. Shelter.”)
(A middle-aged man sits across from the appraiser. On the table before them is an old book on a stand.)
APPRAISER: Tell me about your book.
MAN: This is a first printing of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, published in 1883. My great-great-great-grandfather purchased it when he was a kid, just after the book came out. It’s been in the family ever since.
APPRAISER: It is in exquisite condition, and has an interesting story associated with it. (Opens the book to the title page). Tell us about this signature here.
MAN: Well, so the family legend goes, my great-great-great-grandfather was reading this book while eating chocolate pudding. So he got some pudding on his thumb, which he accidentally smudged on the book, where it left that thumbprint you see there. So, a few weeks later, Mr. Twain was in town to promote the book, and my ancestor went to see him. After the show, he got Twain’s autograph, plus that sketch there.
APPRAISER: And here he used the smudge as the head of a little stick character, and he writes, “To Master Wilson, you Pudd’nhead. Mark Twain.” This is an extraordinary piece of historic literature. Not only, it is a first-edition Huck Finn, but it showcases a very personal moment with the author in which the humor he is known for is on display. And also, it might just be the exact moment where Twain comes up with his idea for his later work, Pudd’nhead Wilson, published in 1893, in which a very early use of fingerprinting is used to solve a crime. It’s absolutely extraordinary. Do you have any guess as to what it might be worth?
MAN: No idea.
APPRAISER: Well, conservatively speaking, this piece could be lit on fire and used to heat a whole meal, or an average sized room—that is, if it’s roofed.
MAN: (with a quiet, pleased contentment) Really! Do you think it could heat up the area of an alley surrounding a steel barrel?
APPRAISER: Yes, but probably not for very long.
(Banner reads: “First Edition Book, 1883. Heat.”)
(A young woman sits across a table from the appraiser. On the carpeted tabletop is a rotating platform holding a Greek-style vase.)
APPRAISER: Tell me how you acquired this piece.
WOMAN: I was working at a rummage sale a few years ago, and I found it in one of the boxes that someone had donated. Paid five dollars for it.
APPRAISER: I see. What do you know about this vase?
WOMAN: Well, I think it’s Greek, and the pictures around the sides kind of tell a story.
APPRAISER: Well, yes, it is Greek; it’s called a Loutrophoros, which means “carrier of wash water.” It was used in ceremonies. Often they would have scenes of wedding processions, but this one is a bit different. It depicts one of Aesop’s fables, “The Crow and the Pitcher.” If we start here, we see a crow standing next to a likeness of this same water vessel. It is thirsty and trying to get a drink of the water inside, but the pitcher is too narrow. The next picture shows the crow dropping objects into the pitcher from a nearby box. It appears that it is using small coins and gems. I’m not sure what the reason for that is. In the traditional fable pebbles are used.
WOMAN: Very strange.
APPRAISER: In the last frame the water level has risen high enough so that the crow can get a lifesaving drink with its beak.
APPRAISER: I would date it as being made sometime between 500 and 200 B.C. The artwork is stunning, both the glazing and the clay-work. The condition is superb. As to the value—I have discussed it with a few other appraisers, and we think that, in this market, it’s suited perfectly for repelling the zombies. The long neck is an ideal handle, and the bottom can be struck against a solid object to smash it. This would create a very irregular and sharp surface, given the density and cleaving properties of the clay. It could then be used to stab at their heads, which, according to the public service announcements, is the only way to take the zombies out. It’s absolutely wonderful!
WOMAN: (thrilled, near tears) Oh my gosh!
APPRAISER: It’s a tremendous find. Any museum would be glad to have it. They could use it to arm a guard or to kill zombie guards. And on the other side of the coin, I, for one, would be thrilled if the last thing I saw in this life was this beautiful artwork as it sliced into my rotting flesh.
(Banner Reads: “Greek Water Vessel, 500-200 B.C. Weapon.”)