Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Tales from the Downsizing Front

Okay, now that I’ve finished selling off a collection of my husband’s that I didn’t want to talk about publicly until every last piece was out of the house I can finally announce that I've add another notch to my downsizing belt. It took me eight weeks of researching and sending off batches of coins and paper money to various places to sell, but I finally made it all disappear. Give me a “Hip, hip hooray!” Some went to e-Bay, some to the local auction house but the majority went to a coin shop. I could have made more money if I’d e-Bayed more and sold less to the coin shop but I’m so burned out on e-Baying, that I had to make a decision: Less money with quick, easy sales vs. e-Baying and shipping for another six-nine months.

The coin shop guy got some great deals and I’m okay with that. For example one $10 banknote I sold to him for $500 he’ll be able to turn for $1,000-$1,500 but he’ll work for it---grading it, babysitting listings and taking the risk that someone will buy it then send him back a photocopy while a refund is issued with the no questions asked return policy most online auctions have these days. He can also get banknotes certified and encased in plastic so the bait-and-switch scam is harder to pull off. He, of course, doesn’t mess around with e-Bay. There are better, specialties auctions to use and I wasn’t willing to spend the rest of my life learning my way around them. I'd researched the two best known international money auction houses, followed some of their auctions for weeks, sent them some photos of what I had and learned the turn-around was over a year from the time you send them stuff and you get paid. A lot can go wrong in a year.

I only kept one banknote, an 1857 $2 bill from a town along Lake Michigan that no longer exists called Singapore. Yup, at one time many towns had a bank that issued their own paper money. I kept this one because some of my husband’s ashes are spread in the dunes where the town once stood. Singapore Michigan was once a port town that Wikipedia says the founder has hoped would, “…rival Chicago and Milwaukee. At its height, the town boasted of three mills, two hotels, several general stores, a renowned bank, and was home to Michigan's first schoolhouse. In total, the town consisted of 23 buildings and two sawmills.” (That third mill was a small flour mill.) Then came the Great Fires of Chicago that caused sparks to travel across the Big Lake and destroy much of Michigan’s coastal areas, and by 1871 Singapore was in ruins. To this day those ruins are buried beneath the sand dunes at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River in Saugatuck Township.

My husband’s family once owned a house that was buried under the sand dunes of Singapore and he grew up with stories of family members going there for summer picnics and camping when the third story attic of the house was still visible. He owned every Ghost Town book printed that mentioned Singapore and we spent a lot of time trying to track down the ownership of that house and property…visiting relatives, looking through photo albums and going to county records offices. He wanted to buy that property in the worst way and I will admit that I got bored on all those wild goose chases we went on trying to find out what happened to property after the fire. Records were lost, burned or buried, the land where the house once stood got land-locked in the 1900s but Don’s imagination and love of the Singapore mystique never wavered. I’ll bet he never imagined part of his ashes would one day be part of the dunes, scattered in the winds from the tallest dune just off the water’s edge and hopefully they got carried a few dunes back to where the house got buried. The things we do for love. (And Cindy, if you're reading this, thank you for helping me make that happen for Don. I'm not sure you ever knew the full story of Don's connection to the area.)

In good condition (which mine is not) the Singapore banknote is only worth around $100 if I were to sell on the retail market and $35 if I had sold it wholesale to the coin shop. As I sat there after the guy's offer, I just couldn’t say “okay” and I couldn’t make myself dicker for higher offer. So now the bill will become another project because I’ll probably frame it and making that decision made me regret that I didn’t keep at least one of Don’s ghost towns of Michigan books to display nearby. Oh, well, who would have ever guessed I’d get sentimental over an 1857 banknote.

People keep praising me on how much I’ve downsized and I get that. But what they don’t understand is that what I’ve been downsizing isn’t the normal stuff people downsize with a move. It’s been mostly collectables and I have STILL have to do the normal stuff people have to let go of to move to a smaller home…furniture, dishes, art, clothing and other household stuff, etc. And let me tell you, I’m stressed out over downsizing dishes. I have vintage carnival glass, 1960s Fenton stemware, 1940s diner ware, 1950s lily-of-the-valley patterned grocery store give-aways---the latter two sets were accumulated one piece at a time over years of antique hunting and I still use them daily. It’s killing me that there is no market for this kind of stuff anymore. Can’t sell it, can’t give it away. Young people have no interest in tableware that can’t go in a microwave or dishwasher or isn’t featured on the FoodNet. ©

The 1901 banknote I sold for $500. This is one of the prettiest bill ever made and that's not just my opinion, it's highly sauce after. There are lots of fakes and reproductions out there, so if you run into one, beware.

I can't remember how many decades it took for all the burned out and still standing buildings to get covered over with sand in Singapore---I'm guessing 40 years? The sand took over the town because without the trees that burned as a buffer along the shoreline of Lake Michigan there was nothing to stop Mother Nature.     

    

29 comments:

  1. Yes, “Hip, hip hooray!” Oh, Lord, what a lot of work.

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  2. Wow...I really enjoyed read this about the money sold. Interesting. I am also going to Google & read more on Singapore (never knew of its existence). Keeping one note to frame is good...and the spreading of the ashes of your late husband...was that his last wish?

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    1. No, spreading his ashes there was not something we ever talked about. He could never decide if he wanted to be cremated or buried. He wanted to have a grave site with a stone though, which he got and part of his ashes are there. I Johnny Appleseeded him all over the place...

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  3. This was so interesting. That last photo is really something. It seems like an appropriate place for Don's ashes. Reading about you researching and painstakingly selling individual collectibles makes me realize that you needed serious time to do all this. It's not a two-week project. I can see why you sold to the coin shop. It all sounds a little overwhelming, especially if you don't know what you're doing - like me. Congratulations on gettin' it done.

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    1. At one point I was thinking about keeping the silver coins and e-Baying them after I moved to maximize the sales, but then I've have to keep the pressure that goes with it...making sure my camera, computer and printer are always working, etc. It's really labor intense to sell coins and I decided I didn't to have 'work' to do after I move.

      Yup, one of the appeals of putting money down on the CCC was the long lead-in of time it gives me to get downsize. I have a love/hate relationship with the process.

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  4. Congratulations on reaching another milestone in your downsizing. I’m hoping that at the end of the process you have the total financial return you want.

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  5. The reverse of collecting is just as--if not more--painstaking. And way more heartrending. And you really have to be in the right frame of mind, or find a way to put yourself there. It's not an easy job, no matter how you look at it. Of course, in the future, you'll have a few regrets, but you'll have to remind yourself that you worked very, very hard to make the best decisions you could at the time you made them.

    I don't envy you this task. It's also lonely work that takes place mostly in your head and heart.

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    1. Some collectibles have been easier to downsize than others, the things we bought and sold over the years while other collectibles we only bought for our own pleasure. It's going to feel weird when I get to the end, which will probably happen by the end of the year when I plan to change gears. The stupid pandemic is making my timelines hard to hold and predict.

      With everything I sell I'm happy that I'm not leaving a the project for my family to deal with.

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  6. Do you have Amvets or Salvation Army or Vietnam Veterans or St. Vincent de Paul in your area? If you did want to give some of it away, in my area you can schedule a pick up from them. Or maybe a local museum or historical society could use some of the antique pieces. You know better than me since you have been in the business of collecting and selling. I wish you lots of luck getting rid of what you want and hope it goes smoothly for you.

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    1. Yes, on your first point and when it comes time to get rid of furniture I will call a charity on the common stuff but I'll still need some of it for staging the house. I live in a city with a strong history of furniture making factories and I doubt there are any antique pieces our museums don't already have---floors and floors of it---but it's a great suggest for anyone else reading this who might also be downsizing.

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    2. Oh, I meant the dishes and glassware. Sometimes there are old world villages or museums that have that type of stuff on display or in use for demonstrations. You and your husband sure had a very interesting life! Such neat collections!

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    3. I donated some things to a couple of museums---one that was setting up an 1800s kitchen and a theater costume closet got a bunch of things and a stamp musuem as well. I don't think any of my dishes and glassware are unique enough to be museum worthy but I'll put out some feelers.

      When you aren't blessed with kids you have a lot more spare cash for collectibles. LOL

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  7. Tim and I have been collecting old coins and notes for years which we will pass on to our daughters one day

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    1. It used to be a very popular hobby but interesting is not what it used to be. My husband enjoyed the research, me not so much.

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  8. How fascinating. I have to say the things you guys collected were not, as you said, the ordinary things people have. I can see why you've spent so much time working on selling versus the old estate sale or yard sale method. And I say well done. I never knew about the bank notes --very interesting indeed!

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    1. I live in a township where auctions and estate sales are not permitted. And my neighborhood has never been a good one to sell antiques at yard sales because its an area where people shop mostly for kids things.

      I'[m surprised you didn't know about banknotes. You have so many great antiques of your own.

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  9. You sure do have the neatest collection of stuffs and all so unusual.

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    1. We've had fun with them. People used to joke that it was like going to a musuem to visit us. A friend of our even bought my husband an expanding pointer for his little 'talks.'

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  10. I didn't know banks issued their own currency. That's fascinating. I'm glad you kept one of your banknotes, especially one from somewhere that no longer exists. That appeals to my dry sense of humor.

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    1. Thanks what's fun about any collectible, the deeper you get into the the more you learn about American history.

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  11. History Lesson, I never knew along the Banks of Lake Michigan there were buried Towns and Dunes like the Sahara. Of coarse, I only saw some of the shores of said Lake back in the 1960's, nothing like that around Lake Superior which was closer to where we lived at the time. Yes, Sentiment is a Bitch to overcome isn't it, while downsizing! *Le Sigh* I can get Nostalgic and Sentimental about the craziest stuff actually in the Letting Go Purge and it is the bane of my existence and why I just had to relent and buy a Forever Home with a Big Ass RV Garage to store/Hoard it all in now! *LOL* During the Great Move there wouldn't have been enough Lifetimes actually to get the job done, so I do commend you for cashing out on what you could hawk best and concentrating on that first. I should have done that and made more Bank... I did it in reverse, Purging Household shit first which I knew I could bulk dispose of without a Care or a Tear shed. Then I was only left with the hard stuff, the stuff of Value, both literally and Sentimentally... and here we are now... and I don't know how long it will take? But, I'm moved now so I can relax and do it for however long it will just take.

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    1. It's fascinating, isn't it, that sand can claim entire buildings in so little time. Makes you wonder what all is beneath the sand in places like the Sahara and can they pop up again in the future if the winds change because of climate change?

      Your Forever home with the big RV garage is so perfect for you. We had a 100x50 poll building before Don's stroke and had a huge auction to clear most of it out, then we went to a 12x30 storage unit for three years before I was able to clear that out. My goal with this move is to not have any storage unit except for the one that will come at the end of my new garage stall. And trust me, that little 4x8 unit will be packed and planned out by the inch. LOL

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  12. I enjoyed this post, in an ambivalent kind of way. My dad was a passionate coin AND stamp collector, and believe you me... When it came time to disperse those collections, it was quite a headache. Stamps weren't so difficult, because I knew some people in the Houston stamp-collecting community who were trustworthy. The coins were something else, but I ended up going through dealers. I sort of wish I still had a few things, but all they were doing was sitting in a drawer. I did keep some full sheets of stamps, particularly those from around 1920-1930 that showed places I've been. The artwork on those stamps is fabulous: a far cry from what we have now.

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    1. Stamps do have great artwork and both my husband and I collected full sheets and blocks. I literally could not find anyone interested in them even at face value. I ended up giving them to the stamp museum after inquiring if they wanted them. I kept some to use and I gave some to friends to use as well.

      People who keep coins to past one to another generation are giving them a project they might not appreciate. There aren't enough people in the U.S. still collecting them. I felt fortunate to find an honest dealer and when I sold my last batch to him, he said, he needs to start downsizing his own stuff because he sees so many widows coming in and he doesn't want to put his wife in that position.

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  13. Don't know how I missed this one. Mercy lady, what a chore you have finding homes for all the collectibles. I am always amazed at the different types of things he collected. You must have a monster house.
    Did not know that about towns printing their own money.

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    1. We had a lot of collections but they were mostly small things that fit in collector "bug boxes" 1 inch deep with glass tops that you can stack on bookshelves. We also had several glass front showcases and our house is not monster size...only 1600 square feet with a three stall garage. My husband's gas and oil collectibles were in the garage.

      I really don't have anything left in the way of collectibles to sell that is worth much and it if all goes to a local auction I'll be good with that.

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