Finding what has been lost (WordPress Writing 101 Prompt #16)

Today’s prompt was about going through a lost and found, or discovering someone’s lost possessions. Believe it or not, I have some experience with that. My first job out of college was at a small auction house. The company purchased entire estates and curated their auctions from those acquisitions. As it turns out, you often have to buy eight or ten items in order to get just one good one. My job was to sell all the lower-end items that came along with the desirable ones – writing descriptions, figuring out how much they were worth, and listing them for sale on eBay. Most of the pieces I dealt with were collectibles with some degree of value and a definite market of aficionados, such as figurines, costume jewelry, small antiques, orphaned pieces of quality porcelain and glassware, old-fashioned silver sets, and used designer handbags. Every time the auction house purchased an estate, I would get a delivery of cardboard boxes and large Rubbermaids full of items. Opening those boxes and unpacking the contents was often a lot like going through a lost and found, though I was much more likely to find Limoges boxes than matchboxes, so to speak.

I never knew much about the people who used to own the stuff I worked with. Many of these items had been in our warehouse for quite some time before they ended up in my little office, their higher-priced cousins having been sold off long ago. On the rare occasions that I asked, my bosses didn’t remember exactly where individual pieces had come from, even though they were familiar with each estate’s basic story. Items arriving in the same box didn’t necessarily mean they came from the same source, since they were re-packed at the warehouse, but it was sometimes obvious what was from the same collection. For example, there was a huge grouping of designer clothing, accessories, and handbags that clearly came from the same person. This was unusual inventory for us, so details about the former owner were easier to come by in this particular case.

Every once in a while, I would find personal stuff inside the items I sold. Most of the time, it was receipts in pockets, old compacts inside purses, and other things of that nature. Once, I found someone’s old medication; it was disgusting. Another time, I opened a cute little decorative box with an owl on the lid. Inside, I found an entire collection of old decorative pins and little sports medals, including two vintage ice skating medals. Unfortunately, no one had the slightest idea who used to own them, since the auction house had acquired the box quite a while before. There was absolutely no market for them, even on eBay, so my bosses gave me the skating medals. I really love them. The two are identical, depicting an old-fashioned pair team in a style that was probably from the 1920s. I like to think that a sister and brother won them as kids, and one sibling kept them in that little box for many years, but I really have no idea. Sometimes, you can find pretty fascinating stuff in a lost and found.

The medals.

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