Priced Less

Richard Quinn

I REMEMBER GOING to my grandparents on holidays. At each place at the dinner table was a cloth napkin in a sterling silver napkin ring. It was the thing to do at the time. Each napkin ring was unique and quite old. I still have mine.

When my wife and I were married in 1968, two things she wanted were sterling silver flatware and Lenox china. We got the silver as a wedding present and eventually built up enough Lenox china to serve 12.

On our first trip to Ireland, a must stop was the Waterford crystal factory. I remember it well. They gave you a clipboard to roam the showroom and check off your purchases. You were assigned a counselor to help you decide. My wife was good at deciding. A few weeks after we arrived home, we received two large boxes of crystal. Our new prized possessions, including water and wine glasses, cost $80 each—and that was more than 15 years ago.

On trips to Europe, we gained more treasures from Meissen, Lladro, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. Sadly, Royal Doulton stopped making the teacups with hand-painted Periwinkles.

On my wife’s 40th birthday, I gave her a limited addition Lenox decorative bowl. It had great emotional value. Four children running around a dining room table waving a box of cereal managed to shatter that dream. We glued it together and, after a long search, found a replacement—for the bowl, not the children.

Where is all that stuff today?

Most is packed away in cabinets and closets. If we use the china and sterling once a year, it’s a lot. About the same for the Waterford. The treasured pieces of Lladro and such are carefully displayed in a curio cabinet.

What is it all worth? In terms of memories, priceless. In terms of cash, I’m not sure. It seems such unnecessary niceties have fallen out of favor. I recently found glasses in our Waterford pattern at a local thrift shop. When we downsized, we asked our children what they wanted, and got blank stares and no interest. Is fine dining at home a thing of the past?

It’s a good thing our treasures weren’t an investment. I would have done better with Beanie Babies. Last April, Hippity the Rabbit sold for $20,000.

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