As I looked at this box at the Hershey Museum, I couldn’t help but be amused. At what? Well, at how perceptions taint things.
My father was born in 1928 right at the beginning of the Depression. Like many people from that time period he developed what could be considered most likely a form of OCD. He became a hoarder, a packrat. Somebody who if he could find some value in something would not throw it away, because that was wasteful.
Right up until his passing, it drove my mother absolutely bonkers. She couldn’t understand why he needed to keep so much “junk” in the house. Admittedly I have picked up on some of those frugal tendencies from him, but TheWife never really lets it get quite out of hand the way my mother did. Cleaning up and clearing out some of this old “junk” is still going on now, a little more than two years after his death. There was that much to go through.
You may have noticed, I have put “junk” in quotes each time. Now of course the old adage goes, “One man’s junk, is another man’s treasure.” But I have always thought of that as meaning, what is useless to one person is a valuable item to another. But as I looked at this box in the museum, I realized that it is more than that. That junk/treasure line can be quite blurry, and in some cases downright non-existant when you take perceptions into account.
Now, allow me a quick example. Every year throughout this country, there are millions of garage sales. At those sales are millions (if not billions) of pieces of stemware, glassware, etc. that people try to sell. Usually fairly unsucessfully, because “who wants that junk?” But allow those glasses to get a bit older, and put them on sale as techniques, those glasses that you couldn’t sell for a dime a piece at a garage sale, are now hunted after treasures selling for good money. Sure you will say, “But that is because they are old. Antiques. From a gone by era.” And you would be correct. However, to reach that stage, they were the ‘junk” that somebody just never rid themselves of.
Now to a certain extent money plays a role as well. At least that is what I was thinking as I strolled through the museum. As I looked at old boxes, original chocolate molds, tattered briefcases, and such, I couldn’t help but draw some comparisons. I saw, Mr. Hershey much like my father, never throwing anything out. He kept those old molds, and such because he couldn’t see the point in throwing them out. Now, one day Mrs. Hershey demands that he start to clear out some space and get rid of that old “junk,” but instead of throwing it out, he buys a building, puts it on display, and calls it a museum. People come then (and now) from all over to see Mr. Hershey’s old “junk” because now it is not “junk” but “a piece of history preserved in a museum.” So how does money come into play? Well, my father certainly could have taken his old stuff and put it on display. But without the notoriaty of being a weathly man like Mr. Hershey, who is going to come see, “some guys pile of junk.” In this case, the perception of the value of the items on display, is directly attributable to the affluence of the person that owns them.
The opposite of course also is at play at times, and it is the affluence of the buyer that give the item its perceived value. Case in point, clothing. Go to a Salvation Army, Goodwill Store or other thrift shop. You can find things like 1980’s style designer jeans, and maybe a suit or two from the 1950’s that was donated when somebody passed away (or in the case of my father, 1970’s sport jackets). Tags on these items will offer you to purchase them at prices ranging from a quarter to maybe, just maybe $5 (if it is a particularly good item). Now go to a “vintage clothing” store and look for those same items. “Rare, hard to find, 80’s Pop Era Jeans” will sell for $50 or more.
As I thought about this, besides amusing in a way, I found it comforting. Because, as we sorted through that old stuff that my father kept all those years, some of… yes was junk. Not even close to that junk/antique line. But some of it. Some of it without any real “value” are like bits and pieces of his life. In a way, a sort of museum piece dedicated and always linked to him. And for me, that perception, makes them completely priceless.