As we came around a corner, my sister Deb immediately made a bee-line for a booth. Sitting on the back shelf, tucked away with other memorabilia from the last century was a yellow, McCoy vase. She had started her collection a few months earlier, and one of her goals for the day was to add to the expanding assemblage of yellow pottery on her wooden sideboard at home. Earlier, she had come across a bargain, finding a beautiful pitcher in exquisite condition. But this item was special…it had birds on it, and birds are one of her favorite things.
She gently picked the vase up, checking the bottom for a “mark” and then carefully examined it for cracks, chips or other blemishes. It seemed perfect. And then she saw the price…$45. Our eyes met as I could see the wheels in her mind turning. Forty-five dollars was a lot of money for the item, even in the condition that she found it.
A moment later, a woman who appeared to be in her early fifties walked over and asked if we needed any help. Deb had learned well from me throughout the day as I haggled with the different vendors to get the best price possible for an item. I had been an antiquer long enough to know that it was usually expected.
“What’s your best price?” Deb asked, holding the yellow treasure lovingly in her hands.
“I’ve already marked all of my pieces down as far as I can go,” the owner responded. “That’s a beautiful piece. I had it in my home for years and the way it’s tapered really allows for a perfect arrangement of flowers.” In my mind, I thought "of course it's beautiful, lady. That's why my sister wants it", but the I kept my thoughts to myself.
I could see the disappointment on my sister’s face as she looked at the vase one last time, setting it back on the shelf. She thanked the woman and we continued on our way down the bustling aisles.
“If she would have come down five dollars, I would have bought it”, she said. “Why would she mark items down before the show?” I didn’t have a good response for her.
The last several aisles of booths held no more treasures for us, and as we began to walk toward the exit, we once again passed the booth holding the McCoy. My sister slowed and once again walked over and picked up the vase. No, the price hadn’t miraculously gone down in the past 45 minutes. The rest rooms were nearby and I silently hoped that Deb would excuse herself to use them. My plan was to secretly buy her the vase while she was gone. But she was “fine” and we decided to call it a day.
As we walked out into the hot afternoon sun, there were a few rows of outside booths that we hadn’t checked out on our way in.
“Do you want walk through before we leave?" I asked.
“We might as well. You never know what we might find.”
We hadn’t passed more than a half a dozen vendors when Deb’s pace quickened and she veered to the right to one of the many, white-tented booths that lined the hot asphalt. There, on the top shelf was a yellow vase that looked the same as the one she had so carefully examined inside the exhibition hall. Checking the bottom she saw the familiar “McCoy” stamp. Her hands nearly trembled as she turned to me.
“It’s identical to the one inside,” she said, her voice quaking just a little bit.
She turned the vase gently in her hands, checking once again for cracks or chips…and for a price tag. The item was perfect, but there was no tag in sight. She carried the beautiful, yellow vase to the man sitting casually in the corner engaged in conversation with another gentleman.
“I’m sure you’re probably not giving this away today,” Deb said with a laughter in her voice. “This one doesn’t have a price on it.” The man gently took the vase from my sister’s hands and quickly looked it over.
“How does $20 sound?” he asked.
Forgetting all about the “haggling” nature of buying antiques, Deb quickly blurted out, “you don’t know how good that sounds! I’ll take it.”
The man took the vase and began to wrap it carefully in paper as my sister fumbled in her purse looking for the money. As she handed it over and we walked from the booth, we both realized what an incredible treasure we had been given this day. The treasure wasn’t only this “God-gift” of a $25 savings on a vase my sister wanted. The greater treasure was the day we had spent together…enjoying each other’s company. Discovering new antique pieces and learning new things about items we had seen before. And most of all…the treasure of the love between a brother and his sister.