On the Road

Spring 2014

Dreams of fame, fortune and quirky antiques

BY JILL BRUCKNER

Call me a dreamer, but I’d like to discover a piece of Ming Dynasty porcelain tucked away in a box of mismatched coffee mugs and souvenir spoons.

Here’s why: A rare Ming Dynasty “chicken cup” recently sold for $36 million at auction. I’m no curator (or appraiser), but I’m pretty sure finding any Ming-thing would result in personal merriment. My personal merriment.

I’m not knocking the artistic and historical significance of the Ming Dynasty. Sure, this dynasty boasted 1 million troops and completed crucial construction projects, but the period also saw significant strides in ceramics. Really cool ceramics.

If I found a Ming Dynasty cup (again, worth 36 million smackers), the first thing I would do is buy some overalls and one of those Husker corn hats and wear said items to a taping of PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow,” where I’d wait with the other hopefuls for an expert to determine the value of my palm-sized porcelain.

In my “Roadshow” encounter, we’d jump right to my favorite part of the program, where the appraiser asks the participant just how much she thinks her item might be worth. Thanks to my rich imagination—and possible clairvoyance—I’d already be familiar with the cup in question.

“So, what would you guess the value of this item might be?” (This from the slightly balding “Roadshow” guy, whose excellent manners echo his antiquities’ knowledge.)

“Oh, I dunno,” I’d say, pushing my gleaming new corn hat back from my brow. “I pulled it out of the ‘free’ box at my neighbor’s garage sale because I thought it might make a good food bowl for my hamster, Nibbles, Jr.”

This would be an awesome response because it’s adequately strange and would allow me to later roll-out the underused (and slightly unsettling) phrase “cheek pouches” on national television.

“Well, this is a rare Ming Dynasty cup, nearly 500 years old,” the appraiser would say, gently displaying the hamster bowl for the camera, and me. “I’d estimate it’s worth at anywhere between $30 million and $36 million.”

“Wow, I could totally buy a new Habitrail for Nibbles, Jr. with that!” Then, I’d turn to the camera, give an enthusiastic thumbs-up, mouth, “Go Big Red,” grab the appraiser’s hand, pump it heartily, and say, “To think Nibbles, Jr.’s been filling his cheek pouches from this thing!” Bam! All the weirdness I can muster for my 15-minutes of fame.

After the “Roadshow,” I’d splash pictures of the cup all over Facebook, just before adjusting my online status to, “Just left my $36 million Ming-thing home while I head to Popeye’s for some chicken.”

Hopefully, there’d be company (Yay! New friends!) waiting for me when I returned with my hot wings and battered chicken thighs. Sure, the folks who’d likely broken into my abode in search of Nibbles, Jr.’s food receptacle might be hostile (and completely uninvited), but I like to find the good in everyone.

That’s why I’d encourage my new friends to fill their cheek pouches with Popeye’s before I’d wink and offer them an opportunity to pet my super-hungry hamster while wearing my fancy corn hat. At this point, I’m pretty confident the would-be intruders would be heading for the door…quickly…and I could watch “Antiques Roadshow” while dunking those Popeye’s wings in my ranch-dip-filled Ming cup.

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