Saturday, April 2, 2011

Too much of a good thing

A couple of weeks ago, Avram and I had an amazing shopping day. We bought, over the course of the day at the restore and the Goodwill, two chairs ($11 total), A desk for Avram (composed of a closet door ($5) resting on three filing cabinets ($18)), 10 record albums ($5), and a 3X5 New Zealand Wool rug ($15).

Also on the same day, I found a china set at the Goodwill. It was an epic trip at the Goodwill. We had already been to the ReStore (Habitat for Humanity - it sells used architectural elements from houses, mainly), and we didn't want to bore the girls with what was going to be a quick trip in and out. So Avram ran inside to check to see if they had any filing cabinets or chairs. A while later he came out, without those items, but with 10 records - and good ones too. He told me about three filing cabinets he had seen, so I went in to look at them - I like them and their prices, and decided to get them.

Me being myself in a thrift store, I couldn't resist just looking around for a moment or two, and saw six padded bags for china, each one labeled with a "set for $14.99." I checked inside, and being that it was nice china, and a large set, I immediately began hovering - the official process known as standing close to an item, looking proprietary, while trying to gain the attention of a goodwill employee. I knew that $14.99 for an almost complete set of china was too good to be true - so I figured it was actually $14.99 for each quilted covering, or about $90 for the whole collection. This set included six dinner plates, eight salad plates, eight bread and butter plates, eight tea cups and eight saucers, a serving bowl, and a teapot, all matching. Here is the link to see it, but I'm warning you, it will give away the later part of the post, so don't go there yet.

I finally waived down an employee, amidst darting up to ten feet away from the shelf of beautiful goods, frantically searching for a person in a blue vest, and then coming back to ensure no one was taking the opportunity to encroach on my find. The employee confirmed to my dumbfounded senses, that yes, it was the whole set, all six bags, for $14.99 - she had been there when they set the price. The same employee helped me over to the checkout (remember, I also had a cart full of three filing cabinets - two riding inside, while one precariously balanced on top). I didn't know if this employee was correct, despite having been there for the pricing, but there was no way I was going to let this opportunity for real china to get in my way. The cashier was surprised at the price being so low, but I quoted the helpful employee, and I booked it out of there, running (or walking carefully) away with my loot. I felt a small smidgen of what Butch Cassidy or Mal from Firefly must have felt when successfully completing a job - elation at having robbed a train, or held up a bank - or running away with a boatload of china. Not that I see either man going in for china, but regardless....

Fast forward to the next day (although you should know, Avram went back into the Goodwill after me, to buy a Princess Tiana little doll with stretchy plastic clothes for Elisheva for her birthday coming up, and then that night when I went to pick up the filing cabinets, I bought a $1 chair. That's right, four separate purchases at the Goodwill in one day.), when Avram and I looked up our new china online, to see what it was worth. Originally we thought it was another kind, but tonight I confirmed its' actual pattern - Corona, designed by Raymond Loewy for Rosenthal/Continental. Now you can go and look at my link (isn't it nice and timeless and classy?) Also, if you haven't goggled at it already, notice the price of these things - $34.99 for each plate! (And I own as many as they have in stock!)

I can't even add up the worth of what I have, because I own more than they do in most of the areas. But if I were to buy this pattern, it would cost me somewhere around $706, and that's not counting the serving bowl or teapot, neither of which they have currently, so I can't find a price on. And every piece I've looked at has no discernible markings or wear.

What do I do?

You need to know something about me. Avram and I started our marriage with eight dinner plates. As of a year ago, we were down to two -the other six had all been broken, in less than four years of use (this doesn't add up to our time married, but we didn't use them for a year and a half while living in Virginia and England). Last year I bought Corelle. We all have been much happier, since none have broken. Also, I would love to own fine china - to display it, sure, but really to use it, to pull out for birthdays and holidays, and even Sunday dinners.

Ever since I found out how much this China is worth, I feel frozen. I haven't used one piece, and tonight is the first time I've looked at it, since the day after I bought it - I put it downstairs in storage. I'm scared I'll break a plate by looking at it wrong. Ever heard of Jimmy Carter? He was viewed as an inept president - all politics aside, he was the first Left Handed President, and everything was set up for a right handed president - and he bumped into thing/fell a lot in public. Avram and I are both left handed, as is Lydia, and I don't know if it's attributable to that or not, but we're all klutzes. On the other hand, I don't think I could ever actually buy a nice china set on my own - at least, not one that I practically stole from Goodwill. I don't know if you've picked this up yet in my post, but I like being thrifty, and considering there was no way I was going to pay $90 for this much china, and even hesitated a bit over the $14.99 price, I could ever bring myself to afford any nicer pattern than upscale Corelle, or maybe a Walmart brand. I sob into my pillow just thinking about the lameness of my china future if I sold this set.

Because you must know, Replacement ltd, the sight I've linked to, buys china. If I email them with specifics, they'll send me an estimate (which will be confirmed once your china arrives at their warehouse). I have nothing to lose by finding out an estimate, and I suppose I'll probably get one, just to know. But at what point do I sell? For one thing, depending on demand and supply, their estimate won't be reflective of the worth of the value of my set. Writing this all out, I can give myself lots of advice; "Get the quote, it can't hurt. If it's enough, sell it. If not, enjoy it." After all, my monthly rent costs less than it would for me to buy from Replacement what I got at Goodwill. Even if they only gave half the worth, that's something.

But the real question is, at what point should I keep it? And if I keep this set, how to I ever convince myself to use it, and not just keep it on a shelf forever? And how do I not break it? Nothing in my house that we regularly use in the kitchen is worth this much. The Crystal stemware I own? From Goodwill. Our cups? All plastic. Plates? Corelle. Avram and I even registered at Walmart - I don't have delusions of grandeur. But I want to. And I want nice things. Someday I'd love a china cabinet. For a dining room. For a house. That I do not have. Right now I'm just a Grad student wife, who's supposed to be doing crazy things like washing out our plastic baggies to get maximum usage, or making a pound of ground beef stretch for a whole weeks worth of meals. Not that I've ever done these things, but I've thought of thinking of doing them, which counts for something. Is it thriftier to sell this set now, for badly needed money (for when Avram leaves me, but that's for another post), or to hold on to it, since I scored real china for so cheaply - and I do like the pattern.

Please, give me advice.