Monday, February 7, 2011

'Deceased' Estate Sale???

It was the title that first caught my eye on this one. A 'deceased' estate sale? That seemed an odd way to phrase it but it was near my friend Duane's house so I quickly emailed her to see if she was interested. She was and we had plenty of time to get there because, unlike most sales, this one didn't start until 10 a.m. We love to hit the ones that start on Friday because you don't get the weekend people.

We hit a snag due to a weird address. I had never heard of the street but I don't know the city like Duane does so we headed off in my trusty Mini, Mrs. Peel, with Duane at the wheel and me (sort of) navigating. When we reached the street (according to the map from the Internet) we quickly realized that the street numbers were completely off. There was no other contact info on the ad so we headed back to a sale even closer to Duane's house that we had noticed on the way. Bingo! This was the 'deceased' sale we were looking for.

The lady giving the sale had flown in from Australia two days before after her 85-year old aunt, the 'deceased' owner of the house in question, had suddenly died. (Maybe that's what they call these sales in Australia.) This lady was in the habit of calling her aunt 'every fortnight' and when she couldn't reach her, she searched the Internet for the local police number and asked them to do a 'wellness' check on her aunt. Apparently, the aunt still drove, etc., and had been in good health. The police were unable to get anyone to come to the door and since her car was there, the Aussie lady asked them to break in. They did and found that the aunt had simply gone to bed one night and died in her sleep. Her niece in Australia, along with a nephew there, were the lady's only living relatives so they hopped the next flight to the U.S.

The first thing the Aussie lady, who was a very friendly person, did was ask us how we found the sale. She apologized for mangling the name of the street but if I had been traveling for two days to another country after that kind of news, the ad would probably have been much worse. The second thing she did was to tell us to be very careful walking on the floor. It was wood parquet that was an unbelievable mess. Apparently, her aunt had carpeting over it and when it was pulled up as the house was being cleaned out, they discovered that termites had been very busy. According to Duane, the street this house is on has a bad habit of flooding every time we have torrential (is there any other kind in Florida?) rains so it had probably been flooded, too.

Stepping over the huge chunks of wood sticking up everywhere, we gingerly made our way around the furniture and tables with items placed on them. Both of us noticed the condition of the door leading in from the garage where the police had broken in. The Aussie lady told us how nice everyone in the neighborhood had been to her and her brother when they arrived. One man was still there working and carrying stuff to a dumpster that had been placed in the front yard. She said he had worked like that ever since he first offered to help. The other man helping was 'handling' the estate sale. Uh oh. He talked his head off and followed us from room to room. That would explain the mark-up on items that made some of them way too high for an estate sale in a modest neighborhood. He said that he checked the prices on eBay, etc. Well, people don't go to estate sales to pay eBay prices. We know this because both Duane and I have sold items on eBay that we've found at estate sales. His pricing probably explained why his estate sale 'business' (according to him) hadn't been doing that well. Odd, because most of the sales we've been to seemed to be selling stuff pretty easily even with a 'handler' pricing the items.

I still managed to find a few items. The aunt had led a colorful life. She had been a barmaid for years -- her name tag with 'Shelia' on it -- was among the liquor items and home bar with stools. Her niece said that she was always trying to 'shock' her aunt during their phone conversations but never could. I guess being a barmaid meant she had pretty much seen it all. She had a lot of great costume jewelry -- I found the cutest little pin of two terriers, a white one and a black one, that had an old 'c' type clasp on the back along with 'Made in Great Britain' carved into it. Also, an old Sheaffer's pen and pencil set and a really retro looking orange ceramic bowl, probably dating from the '60's.

Duane found one of those styrofoam heads used for wigs. The Aussie niece was telling her how great it would be for any hair pieces she had. Duane told her that she planned to decoupage it. The niece looked surprised but interested.

After our purchases, Duane and I immediately compared notes in the car. We were both bummed about the prices and Duane hoped that this 'estate sale' guy wasn't going to take advantage of this lady. She wasn't getting the bang for her buck from that sale and we hoped he wouldn't just offer her a lump sum for everything since he knew she and her brother would have to get back to Oz soon. We also both agreed that we'd prefer to 'go out' the way the 85 year old aunt had. No illness, still able to drive and dying in your sleep in your own bed. Not a bad way to go.

P.S. Oh, and 'virtual' points to anyone who might know what this is. I bought it at a different estate sale and I've decided to consider it an 'artifact' since the sellers and my friends and I can't figure out what it was part of. I say 'part of' because of the screw on the top. Seems to be solid metal -- maybe cast iron.


  1. Hmmm...the screw is on top of the elephants so it looks more like something would have gone there. Plus the bottom of the piece is completely flat.

    A mystery...

  2. BTW, if you click on the photo, you can blow the elephant artifact up to get a better look.

  3. It has something to do with Laos. The flag of Laos has a 3-headed elephant. (When you've worked in libraries for 52 years, you learn lots of useless crap). Go here for a picture:

  4. Here is more about it. The 3-headed elephant is part of their religion. Maybe this piece was a souvenir from a visit many years ago. I can't figure out a utilitarian use for it, however...but I will keep "studyin'" on it!

  5. After more reading at that first site I posted, it is possible the screw held a nine-folded umbrella which is a royal symbol, originating from Mt. Meru in the Buddhist cosmology. The elephant is a common royal symbol in Southeast Asia, the three heads referred to the three former kingdoms Vientiane, Luangprabang, and Champasak which made up the country. Geez....I wish I lived in Tampa so I could go with you guys!!!

  6. I wish you could, too!

    Shirley wins the 'virtual' prize which I will be sending through cyberspace! :D