Recently in Vancouver, someone paid $100 for two paintings at a yard sale. One of those paintings is believed to be a Tom Thomson original worth $250,000. A rare find indeed.
Most of us are not quite so lucky with our garage sale or thrift store purchases, however treasures abound. Often items purchased "nearly new" are cherished not only for their monetary value, but for sentimental reasons as well.
Every Friday afternoon, I volunteer at the Nearly New Shop on Portage Avenue. People visit the store for many reasons. There are serious collectors who seek out rare pieces of jewelry, porcelain, or glassware. Vintage Sales, held twice a year, are popular events for antique hunters. Then there are those, young and old, who are searching for unique clothing pieces or gently-used housewares.
I like to imagine the stories behind some of the items that the store receives. Who hand-knitted the wool sweater embellished with a forest and a magnificent moose head?
Where did the cottage lamp, complete with mallards swimming in a little lake, originate?
Recently, a glass centrepiece was donated to the store. I admired it for weeks because it was unlike anything I had seen before. There had to be a story behind it.
One Friday afternoon, a gentleman admiring the piece filled in the details behind the centrepiece. It was a signed piece of Chalet glass. He informed me that Chalet glass is blown lead crystal that comes in a variety of unique shapes and intense colours. The glass was created by a group of Italian glass blowers from Murano, Italy who immigrated to Montreal in the 1950s.
After hearing the story, I decided to purchase the centrepiece. It is truly a part of Canadian history and a stunning piece of art. It sits on my dining room table where I admire it daily. To me, this piece is priceless, something I will pass on to my children. The best part of the transaction is that the money from the Nearly New Shop goes to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba.
An added benefit of buying goods at thrift stores and garage sales is that they play a role in keeping our world green. The principles of reduce, reuse and recycle are evident.
Next time you decide to go shopping, try an alternative to the mall and big box stores. You will be helping the environment, perhaps supporting a local charity and, if you are lucky, you may find a treasure of your own.
Joanne O’Leary is a Winnipeg-based writer.
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