Five Go on a Treasure Hunt: A day of panic, a haggle and the cash box is mine

In a quiet little shop in the corner of the Merchant’s Market warehouse, the owners take my €100 and assure me I am getting a good deal. I believe them

Conor Pope with his ‘old but perfectly functioning cash box, which would have been common before cash registers’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Conor Pope with his ‘old but perfectly functioning cash box, which would have been common before cash registers’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 13:02

We gave five treasure hunters €100 each and sent them off to bag bargains. At the end of the series, James O’Halloran of Adam’s Auctioneers will value the items and the winner will get €500 for the charity of his or her choice. Conor Pope’s chosen charity is Médecins Sans Frontières.

It’s late on a sunny Sunday evening and my head is frazzled. I’ve an hour left to find my fortune and I’m all over the shop or, to be more precise, I’m all over the shops.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. What seems like months ago I was given the simple-sounding task of unearthing a wondrous gem sitting lost and unloved on the shelves of Dublin’s higgledy-piggledy antique shops or in one of the shabby, sprawling markets or car boot sales that pop up randomly around the city every weekend.

My deadline was so far into the future that I did what I always do in such situations and completely forgot about it. This was a mistake. If I had approached my challenge in a timely fashion, I would be watching the telly right now, casting the occasional pride-filled glance at something that would surely elicit murmurs of approval on The Antiques Roadshow and cause a bidding frenzy when I eventually agreed to put it up for sale.

But instead, I am panicking as the deadline looms and my treasure chest is still bare. Yesterday was spent fretfully wandering up and down Francis Street failing to find inspiration. The antique shops in Dublin 8 are lovely places to pass the time and are filled with old-world charms and pleasingly musty and dusty smells.

But the chances of me finding a Ming teapot selling for the price of a Rialto batter burger are always going to be remote, although not as remote as the likelihood of me recognising anything Ming-related unless it has a pointy beard, a hemp coat and is on its way to Brussels via an Amsterdam coffee shop.

After my fruitless adventures in the fancy-dan antique shops, I go downmarket and rub shoulders with northside pawn brokers in an effort to profit from the misery of others. These shops are too depressing and too dear.

And so I frantically look through the bric-a-brac in the sprawling Dublin Flea Market, also in Dublin 8. I fall in love with a set of chipped cups and saucers ringed in various shades of horrible brown, but only because they are identical to the ones my parents had when I was a child. Their resale value will not be much, I decide, so I let them go.

I flirt with a beautiful-looking but weather-beaten barometer that is out of my price range and leave a second-hand bookshop ashen-faced after seeing the prices pencilled on some of the early editions of books by difficult Irish authors from the early part of the last century.


Another change of scene

In desperation I hop on the Luas and find myself in the Merchant’s Market, behind the O2. It seems like a wasted journey. A man is selling a drum kit with no cymbals and a broken stool for €150. The people at the stall next to him want the same for some drawers that appear to have been painted pink by a small – and not particularly skilled – child.

I fear there is nothing here that will endear me to the auctioneer. I wander into the warehouse and am confronted by more furniture, a mountain of electronic equipment that was cutting edge when the Bay City Rollers sang bye bye to their baby and a lot of brass fixtures and fittings that someone somewhere could probably find a use for.

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