The dealers poured in and pored over a table full of costume jewelry and the contents of the house. The southern July heat was blasting early on and a friend who had come to help me, and I sat in a shady spot eying them.
They knew what things were worth. I did not. They knew that too. As the cicadas hummed, I broke a sweat.
A man got out of his truck and my friend and I exchanged glances.
"It's Earnest Hemingway."
"He looks exactly like him! He could win that contest they have in Key West every year!"
He was even wearing a captain's cap.
We watched him look over the jewelry table carefully then go into the house. A scant few moments later he leaned out and said to me in a stern voice "I need to see you."
My friend gave me a worried glance.
He took me to where this piece stood. He pointed to the price.
"I don't think you know what you have here."
I'm sure I looked bewildered.
He then went back out to look over the jewelry table again. He took out his loop and studied each piece. Mostly it was junk but every so often he would walk over and motion for me to hold out my hand.
"This is a little piece of sterling silver. This is a tiny piece of 14 K gold."
He did this until he was sure all that was left on the table were pieces of rhinestone and paste.
He didn't buy anything and I asked him why he told me about the bookcase.
"You could have paid me what I had on it and I would have been happy to get it, then you could have sold it for a tidy profit. I'd never have known."
He explained to me that he'd lost half a million dollars when a big downtown antique store went out of business and the woman who ran it had bilked many dealers out of their merchandise. He got in his car and drove off.
Later when I told my son the story he said "Wow, it's almost enough to restore my faith in humanity."
Mine too...and you can't put a price on that.