This was not just any old estate sale. This estate sale notice made the local news and I was told even the national news. A gentleman in his 50s had made a decision that after an early retirement he wanted to open and operate a gift shop. With this goal in mind, he had purchased an estimated million dollars worth of merchandise. But then he got cancer and he died. Now all that merchandise was for sale. Thousands of unopened boxes of stuff. The news showed a few opened boxes of Barbie dolls, Lionel train cars, Star Wars figures and all sorts of diecast vehicles, Matchbox and Hot Wheel cars on the cards, and spectator sports items.
This scenario raises a couple issues. Let's deal with the weighiest issue first. Actually this is an issue which consists of mostly questions. It regards retirement and dealing with what you are going to do after retirement, when to retire, and how long should one wait to do the thing one loves and wants to do. Here this poor gentleman planned and prepared to open a shop that he no doubt would love to manage. He made these plans for at least 8 years if not longer (I know because one of the things I bought was a Duke University Blue Devils logo diecast metal motorcoach in commemoration of the 2001 NCAA Basketball Championship.) He sacrificed his house to store all these items. After seeing the house, I really don't know how he lived there with all these boxes of stuff. But fate dealt him a losing hand and he never made it to operate his store. As a physician I had the occasional patient who looked forward to retiring when he could travel and do other things that he had been looking forward to, only to retire and become ill, seriously ill within the first year, and never get to do those things. The recent movie, The Bucket List, also considers these issues. In the movie, these two guys both know they have limited time left and decide to do a list of adventurous things before they die. The story is funny, poignant, and sad in the end because they both do die. But it is also fulfilling because they did accomplish their list, or at least most of it. I think the answer is to live each day as though there was no time left. Then there will be no reason to be sad. You will have lived each day and done your list of adventurous things, and you will not have left an estate full of thousands of items to be pawed over by the masses of people coming to a sale, all of them wondering why such a thing could have happened.
Above to the left is a cast iron horse drawn dumpwagon circa 1920s that belonged to my father. Below and to the right is Hubley-like cast iron tractor that also belonged to my father, from 1920s also.
The cast iron circus wagon above was not owned in my family. I picked it up at a second hand store. It has been repainted as you can tell from the photo. Though this makes for an attractive item, for collectability and maximum monetary value, a toy should not be restored in such a way unless it is in very very rusty and bad condition. If restoration is done, it should be done by a professional. In that case, the cast iron toy will be taken apart and each part will be painted separately as was done when the toy was made. It then will be put back together.
The toy in the photo below is a pressed steel steam shovel like that made by Buddy L. I was owned also by my father and is circa 1920s. It needs some repair but is otherwise in very good shape. .
The above three photos show my sons' collection of Matchbox and HotWheel cars They are in "played with" conditon. True collectors want these more modern day collectibles to be "mint on the card".
At the sale, I managed to put together 8 large commemorative sports diecast vehicles, about a dozen Hotwheels and Matchbox vehicles on the card, 3 childrens' Mickey Mouse caps, and a pink baseball cap U Wisconsin, with the logo W on it all for a little over $40. I lugged these through the long and slow check out line, establishing very brief camaraderie friendships with those near me in line. These are all really not antique toys; they are new in the box. So no doubt they will be left for my children to decide what to do with as much of my toy collection will be. I have oft pondered what will happen to all my toys that I love so much. I have a catalog of most of my collection with possible value, obtained from researching ebay. Only a few of my toys are worth values in the double digits, but I love them all, even the little Pokey and Gumby rubber figures. In my catalog, toys that belonged to family members are identified as having high levels of sentimental values. But I know that when something happens to me, my children will only have time to get an estate sale company in here and these antigue toys that I so love will be stacked up and pawed over by lines of people , just as I saw in the Kettle Morraine ranch house and my toys will be distributed far and wide. I have contemplated putting little red sticker dots on the toys that do have sentimental value so that my children can identify them in case they do want to keep those toys that have been in the family for 3 or 4 generations--at least they could make this choice. I have even comtemplated opening a toy museum where all these toys would be kept together. It is interesting that I may find myself in the same position as this gentleman out in Mukwonago. I just hope that the people waiting in the line to get in and the people pawing through all the stuff form some short friendships while they discuss the owner of all this stuff -- me.
These model vehicles above are modern collectibles tht I have owned for some years. The historic Coca Cola truck was purchased. The other two were gifts from pharmaceutical companies before it was politically incorrect to accept such gifts.
And here is a photo of one the more lovable toys in my collection, flexable rubber figures, Gumby and Pokey, circa 1960s. These characters were featured in TV series for 35 years. The original videos were made with animated clay figures of the star characters.