Five people’s treasures are an auctioneer’s trash

Five Go on a Treasure Hunt: We gave five treasure hunters €100 each and sent them off to flea markets and car-boot sales to seek bargains. So how much would the five items fetch at auction? The news is not good

Tue, Aug 5, 2014, 11:16

Why? “As I’ve grown older and my tastes have become a little more, eh, feminine, I am full of admiration for Triumph 20s. Beautiful and well-designed, they are a perfect expression of a girl’s shopping bike.”

Chosen charity: Peter McVerry Trust.

James O’Halloran’s verdict: “The saddest thing of all – it’s not a Chopper. Generally such mass-produced bikes are not particularly collectable, but it’s in good condition and new bikes are expensive”.

Estimate: €70.




What he bought: Wooden till/cash box.

How much? €100.

Where? Merchant’s Market, Dublin.

Why? “I am immediately smitten, and, after a gentle haggle, the utterly charming shop owners take my €100 and tell me that they had it valued at €180 not long ago. They assure me I am getting a good deal. I believe them.”

Chosen charity: Médecins Sans Frontières

James O’Halloran’s verdict: “This is a curiosity rather than a collectable. It has, effectively, no practical use or indeed no aesthetic or decorative attributes. Might be useful as prop in a Victorian soap-opera set in a cornershop.”

Estimate: €20.


TREASURE HUNTER 5 Catherine Cleary

What she bought: A 1950s Underwood typewriter.

How much? €60 (plus €20 for new ribbon with steel spools).

Where? A stall at the monthly Dublin Flea Market.

Why? “To my eye there was a huge neon-bulbed arrow pointing down at it from the sky that read ‘buy me’.”

Chosen charity: Headstrong.

James O’Halloran’s verdict: “A good example of early technology, but it is not particularly collectable. It does have a modicum of decorative appeal, but is more likely to be a dust collector. It too could be in demand for TV or movie sets, or indeed for communication in times of power outages.”

Estimate: €50.


So, there is no clear winner. None of the treasure hunters have managed to bag a bargain, and they would be unlikely to get their money back – let alone make a profit – if these items were put up for auction.

But then, collecting isn’t usually about making money, and, regardless of the prices paid, such items often become prized possessions to their owners. It is also worth remembering that most collectables are only ever sold following house clearances after their owners have died. Few collectors live to see their own Antiques Roadshow moment – if there is one.

All of the treasure hunters could, almost certainly, have found the item they wanted online and checked the estimated value. And many collectors do. But that would mean forgoing the pleasure of browsing, the thrills and frustrations of the hunt itself, the interesting characters, the banter, the haggling, the knowledge acquired and the pleasure of falling for something unexpected or chancing upon a long-sought-after item.

As there is no winner, the editor has decided to split the €500 prize, and any funds realised from the resale of the items, equally between all five nominated charities. Series concluded

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