After my father passed away at the end of January, my sister and I took two months to clear out our family apartment (as I described in Home is Where the Heart Is). Although most of our parents’ possessions were sold, donated, or discarded, I brought home a bag of things that I just didn’t feel right about throwing away.
These things were not valuable or even of great sentimental value. They were simply items that my parents had held on to for many years. I felt that it would be disrespectful to my parents to simply throw these things away. I vowed to get them into the hands of people who would appreciate them. For that end, I turned to eBay.
I sold some New York City subway tokens that my father had saved from different eras (to which I added a few of my own), as well as a set of three newspapers with the headline “Nixon Resigns”. In both cases, I brought in a very small amount of money. Still, I was glad to find people who wanted them.
I had a harder time figuring out what to do with some opera memorabilia from the 1960s. Both of my parents were huge opera fans, and they had a Metropolitan Opera subscription for as long as I can remember. They saved only a few special Met Opera programs, some of which were autographed. They also saved a few copies of Opera News magazine featuring articles bidding farewell to the old opera house, or introducing readers to the new opera house at Lincoln Center.
There didn’t seem to be much market for these on eBay, so rather than try to sell them, I decided to donate them. I started with the Metropolitan Opera itself. I was told that they had a full collection and were not interested. Then I tried the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts. They, too, did not need them. These conversations actually took many e-mails and phone calls to resolve.
Finally, I put them up for sale on eBay. Surprisingly, they sold, and for more money than I expected. As I wrapped them up for shipping, I felt a tug at my heart seeing my mother’s handwriting on the sticky notes she had used to identify which programs were autographed, and by whom.
All told, I spent way too much time trying to dispose of these few items. I’m not sure it was really worth it. The demand for them was apparently quite small. If a client had asked for my advice on whether it was worth trying to sell or donate these, I would have probably said not to bother. Sometimes the recycle bin is the best solution.