Anyway, here's what I started to tell you.
Back in the dark ages, I did a lot of community theater. (I was going to be a famous actress back then and it seemed like a good way to get some acting chops.) Because of my many important community theater connections, I happened to get a gig at a dinner theater. I landed the plum roles of the maid and the female dinner guest in Blithe Spirit. It was really fun -- a good cast, a fun play, a nice director.
Seeing as how this was dinner theater on the cheap, we pretty much supplied our own costumes. As the dinner guest, I wore a lovely red velvet, empire-waist gown that I had worn to a formal dance a couple years before. The director supplied a cool necklace: a large pocket watch hanging from a chain.
The show ran on weekends for three weeks or so, then I got a phone call. The dinner theater had abruptly shut down and the building closed up tight, so no more show. Everything associated with the show -- costumes, props, sets -- was left behind.
Except the pocket watch. The director told me to take it home every night because it was valuable, so I did. He never got in touch to ask for it back; I didn't have his phone number or address. I went away to college; I ran off to the circus. Life happened.
The watch rested in my jewelry box -- close to 40 years.
When I did the flea market a few weeks ago, I toyed with the idea of selling it, but decided not to. It really didn't seem like flea market material.
I thought I might try selling it on eBay. To do that, I figured I better do a little research. I found out a lot about Elgin antique pocket watches, the most important bit being that the serial number that matters is the one on the works, not the one on the case.
I managed to pop open the back and got the serial number. I found a web site where I could look up the number, so I did.
The watch dates from 1891. There was a lot of other info that meant nothing to me, but that date was kind of exciting. A little more googling led me to a DC auction house, Weschler and Sons. I found out that they offer free auction-value appraisals the first Thursday of each month. No appointment needed; just show up with your swag.
This was last Wednesday, so that seemed to be sign.
I headed over to the shop on Thursday. The storefront for the shop was full of furniture, so I asked the guy supervising where the appraisals were.
"Next entrance, third floor. Hope you get rich!"
Another sign? Perhaps.
Up to the third floor I went. A very nice lady asked if she could help me.
"I'd like to get a free appraisal," I said.
"What have you got?" she asked, somewhat skeptically.
"I have this," I said, pulling out the watch and handing it to her.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, sounding impressed. My heart did just a little flip. "Let me call John Weschler," she said, "wait just a moment."
As I waited, I thought about all the ways I could spend my new-found fortune.
A couple minutes later, a very businesslike gentleman came out and escorted me back to his office. I handed over the watch.
He was not nearly as impressed as the lady.
"It's gold-filled, not gold," he said. He popped open the cover.
"There's some damage to the face," he said. He popped open the back and looked up the serial number.
"1891," he said.
"Condition is everything with these pieces," he said.
"Auction value is $100." He handed back the watch.
"Thank you very much," I said.
Oh well. Not gonna be rich. But the vanilla bean cupcake I treated myself to was delicious!