Monday, April 16, 2012


“Richard Mirau.” I’d seen that name pop up on my cell phone more than a hundred times in the past year and a half. Whenever I see it, I get a little excited inside because it means that I’m getting a cal from the antique mall where I’ve had a dealer space since 2010. A call usually means that someone is interested in one of my antique pieces and they are calling to try to get a better price. I actually look forward to the opportunity to give a buyer a break and haggle over the price a little bit. It’s one of the features of the antique business that separates it from many others these days.

As I answered the phone, it wasn’t Dan or Wayne or one of the ladies on the other end…it was Rich himself, the owner of the mall. I could tell immediately from the tone of his voice that something was wrong.

“When they were making their rounds this morning, one of the mall workers noticed that your small case had been broken into. I’m not sure what all they took, but all of the sterling on the top shelf is gone.”

I sat at my desk for a moment…silent, trying to sort out what I just heard from Rich. It felt as though I had been punched in the gut…right in the solar plexus – the air knocked out of me. “All of the sterling gone.” I wracked my brain trying to sort out exactly what that meant. By then Rich was speaking again, telling me how sorry he was that it had happened. He offered to let my move the rest of my sterling in my large case into a display case by the front desk at no charge. I thanked him for his offer and for letting me know about the theft and set the phone back in its cradle.

Like most people, I often wonder why things happen the way they do. It’s not like I can afford to have more than $500 worth of antiques stolen from me. The antique business is not one where it is fiscally practical to take out insurance on your inventory. I’d looked into it when I opened the business, but it is difficult to assign an accurate appraisal and the inventory is constantly turning over. As a result, there is no insurance check coming in the mail. It will take a lot of sales to make up for the loss.

But it’s not only the loss of the money value of the antiques that knocked me for a loop. It was the items themselves. When I buy antiques, I look for the most beautiful and unique items I can find. And I love to buy antiques with an angel or cherub motif. The items lost included a cherub perfume, cherub grape shears and cherub match safe among the sterling pieces. I can’t just go to the mall or a warehouse and replace them. They are antiques and no longer made. And the saddest part is that most likely, they will be sold for scrap value and melted down and lost forever. I would have rather been robbed at gunpoint of $1,000 than lost the irreplaceable.

The longer I work in the antique business, the greater my passion for antiques grows. It’s not only their beauty and their uniqueness, but the fact that they are a part of a past that is no more. Maybe it’s a result of my own years that seem to pass by at a much more rapid pace that before. Or perhaps it’s a result of living in a “mass market” society where much of what we buy is designed to thrown away after a few uses.

I’ll recover from this loss and do business a little different to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Just as it did when I was a boy in junior high school and got the wind knocked out of me when an older student punched me, I got my breath back. Life goes on. Another memory is imbedded. Another question in my mind unanswered. Why?
Photos by Mark