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A true story of a garage sale treasure

Sometimes among the assorted discarded items left over from a garage sale, there lies a treasure. Wherever you have a community hall, you will find them - in the kitchen, above the sink, random plates and dishes, different sizes, different shapes, different patterns.

This true story is part of my own experience. A community hall not far from Mercury Bay had such a motley collection. The plates were used for morning teas on Sundays, afterschool clubs, Friday youth group, mid-week community groups and for celebrations with large numbers. Every plate was forced into service. No one really remembers the source of the plates in these halls, but generally they are the ones left over from the annual fair or brought in from the at-home garage sales.

But in this array of leftover plates, one plate was different. Its bright colours made it popular with children and they would often ask for their serving to be put on the beautiful plate. Because of a slight surface crack, the plate became seldom used. It would still catch the eye of the community hall users and so despite the crack, its beauty and popularity saved it from the rubbish bin.

No one knew how this plate arrived in the kitchen. It had just always been there. The last time I saw the plate, it was arranged with pikelets in such a way as to cover up the crack.

One woman had been looking at the plate for some time. She had always liked it since she was a child, enjoying morning teas with it on her lap. The colours never seemed to fade. In adult years, she had reached the conclusion that this was no ordinary plate. What had caused her to give this thought more attention, was the need to upgrade the community hall kitchen. It needed a makeover and funds had to be raised and this person had been asked to lead the project.

So the woman decided to test her hunch. She wrapped the plate carefully and took it to Auckland to an antique dealer of good reputation. For several minutes he studied the plate. Then with plate in hand, he adjourned to a back room. When he reappeared, he said, “I have a proposition for you. If you leave this plate with me now, I will give you a cheque for $2,500.”

The dealer went on to explain that the plate was hand painted by famous English artist, Claris Cliff (1899 - 1940), renowned for her beautiful and bright art deco design on pottery and porcelain.

The cheque was duly accepted and applied to the much-needed kitchen improvement. The $2,500 was a large portion of the money required for the kitchen upgrade at the time.

Who could believe it - one small plate!

The moral to this true story - never take a garage sale lightly. What are you looking at, trash or treasure? Sometimes the treasure is monetary. However, I guess more often, it is treasure to the heart and spirit, a kind of falling in love with a random something that becomes meaningful to the beholder.

In Whitianga last weekend, many had a very happy time browsing at various garage sales. Thanks to those who prepared their garages and front patios for the buyers, deciding what to sell, setting up, offering a deal and packing up. Thank you to all the canny buyers.

Good luck to all and watch out for plates with bright, colourful, distinctive patterns!

Pictured is the Claris Cliff plate that spent many years in a community hall not far from Mercury Bay before it was purchased by an antique dealer for $2,500.


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