We were watching Antiques Roadshow last night on PBS---yes, while we were sipping fair-trade espresso and nibbling artisan plaquettes de chocolat---when my lovely Mrs. expressed a desire to see someone come up with something that was just a piece of garbage.
"My great-grandfather bought it off the streets of Queens for a nickel in 1902."
"I'd say at auction this might fetch as much as... a dime. So it's doubled in value."
"Just a dime? Why, is it fake?"
"No, it's just a piece of crap. It's ugly, it's useless --- this may be the least collectible object we've ever had on the Roadshow."
I love the people who think that, because one of the experts have brought them over to sit in front of the cameras, the kids' college and their retirement are all set. Almost any figure the appraiser mentions is disappointing.
James Wrorthringtron, Wrorthringtron & Wrorthringtron Collectibles, Boston: When I saw you in line with this item, I simply had to have a look at it. Tell me what you have here.
Moe Schlobotnik: It's been in the family since my father bought it in the early seventies on a trip to New York. He brought it home to me and my brothers, and we kept it in the living room. When he died, I wrested it away from the jackals in the family. I've treasured it ever since.
JW: We see a lot of foam fingers in our boutique, but this is a prime example of the very first middle-finger variation, known in the trade as the Frankenham University F.U.
MS: It's pretty impressive. Great conversation piece.
JW: These were made by the Glapmurtz Novelty Company for sale on the campus starting in August 1972, and ceased in September 1972 when the college confiscated them all and Glapmurtz went bankrupt. A precious few survived the purge.
MS: Kinda... rare, then, would you say?
JW: Oh, yes, possibly no more than fifteen others around of the hundreds manufactured. And you see there's very little damage, just some cracking here around the edges, and a little discoloration. It looks like someone's had it in a barbecue smoker for a month.
MS: Nah, Dad just loved his Old Golds.
JW: That's a typical patina for this sort of thing.
MS: So, er, what...?
JW: Is it worth? Well, I have to say, the market for these is very hot right now.
MS: It is, huh? [smiling]
JW: Yes, I've seen one go at auction just a couple of months ago for forty dollars!
MS: Forty... Dollars? [not so much smiling]
JW: Yes, and who knows? Sports collectibles being what they are, it could reach a hundred within a few years.
JW: Thank you so much for bringing this in; it's a great piece of Americana.
Focus on foam finger. Across the bottom of the screen: 1970s Frankenham University Naughty Foam Finger: $40-$100.
I think there are some long, quiet drives home from the Roadshow.