Valuable (to me) junk

It’s that time of year when “yard sale” and “garage sale” signs are a common sight. We drove through a neighborhood yard sale last weekend, where neighbors had decided to increase their traffic by having all their yard sales on the same weekend. One man’s junk is another’s treasure, and I’ve bought my share of both junk and treasure over the years. We all have knickknacks and odd items scattered in our homes, neither beautiful nor particularly useful, which guests could never guess the true value of. None of the items below will be in a yard sale as long as I’m alive.


My brother bought this cut-glass bowl on a pedestal at a neighbor’s garage sale when he was five or six years old. He bought, with his own money, some little trinket for each of us—Mama, Daddy, my sister, and me—even though no one told him he had to. There were many days growing up when I would have gladly sold my younger brother and sister for a nickel. But this memento of my (sometimes) sweet baby brother currently sits on my dresser.


This tattered ship’s model of Christopher Columbus’s Santa Maria sits on the front edge of a bookshelf crammed full of books. My grandma Josie won it for having the biggest catch of the day on a deep-sea fishing excursion in Florida. I remember it holding pride of place on a shelf in her living room. As far as I know it was the only prize she ever won. It pleased me (and her, too, I suspect, that she caught a bigger fish than Granddaddy that day!) She was a kind, but quiet woman, who taught me how to float on my back in the swimming pool and to plunge my face underwater without being afraid of drowning. She and her sister, my Aunt Della Mae, taught me how to play gin rummy—and let me win. There’s a scene in Death Crashes the Party where a little girl races ahead to the duck pond in Liv’s trailer park as a grandmotherly figure trails behind her, carrying a Wonder Bread bag with stale bread bits to feed the ducks. That little girl was me!


This pipe, cracked and held together with tape, belonged to my father. He gave up smoking, thankfully, many years before he passed away. But as a child, I remember him standing on our porch in the evenings, smoke rising in puffs from his pipe. The aroma of some of the tobacco varieties he smoked were intoxicating to me, with woodsy scents and notes of cherry. Someday, I plan to encase the pipe and other small mementoes of my dad’s in a shadow box for display. It’s sixteen years since he died, and I still can’t bring out these items without breaking down sobbing. So, they reside in a box on a closet shelf. But whenever I need to feel close to Daddy, I tightly clutch this pipe through which his breath has passed.

At a yard sale, these family artifacts would probably fetch less than a dollar. But for me, they’re priceless.

Do you have any items in your home that are not necessarily expensive, but of great sentimental value to you?  Or have you bought something at a garage sale that you’ve always wondered about the story behind it?

37 thoughts on “Valuable (to me) junk

  1. I still have everything that my son ever gave me whether it was a drawing he did in the 1st grade or a knick knack that he got me when he went on a cross country trip with his grandparents 3 times. I still wear the the earrings he gave me one year for mothers day they are blue for my birthstone and I wear them often. I have the ornaments he made and I still put them on the tree every year. I hang up his pictures he drew along side the ones his 3 daughters draw for me.

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  2. What lovely memories, Vickie. I have a collection of beer steins that were passed to me after my dad died. I don’t think they have any value on the collector’s market, but they are wonderful reminders of my childhood.

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  3. I have a stupid little metal toy on my desk that’s about 2″ x 2″. It’s two stick figures on a seesaw that go up and down when you tap one on the head. It was given to me by my eldest son when he was about 5 years old (he’s 25 now). He bought it from school with his own money to give to me. There’s not enough money in the world to buy that toy from me.

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  4. Oh, boy, do I! Robin likes to say that if I did the Marie Kondo test and held all my knick-knacks and other items I’ve saved and collected over the years up to my heart and asked, “Does this spark joy in me?” that I’d give an enthusiastic “Yes!” to each one. Which is why they’re still all around the house. Which makes dusting a real pain….

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  5. I have a rumpled paper airplane safely tucked behind the glass doors of my bookcase. Ten years ago, in the weeks prior to his passing, my 86-year-old father decided we should have a contest. We both folded our unique flyers and thew the paper birds across the living room. Jess, my Boston terrier, faithful retrieved each plane. I don’t remember who won, but I treasure the memory of that day and the delight in Dad’s eyes.

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  6. I have so much stuff lying around–definitely a lot of my kids’ crafts and drawings. One of my fondest memories of a thrift store was getting a beautiful cut-glass bowl with a vine-and-grapes motif on it. I had been invited to my friend’s home, and it was my first houseguest gift. (They loved it!)

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  7. As the resident black sheep in my family, I have no physical memories from when I was young. My important stuff is all in my head and my memory, which I refuse to forget.
    Most of the stuff that I have that’s collectibles type stuff is stuff I found at estate sales and antique shops. I love to make up fake memories for these things, such as my autographed Julia Child cookbook which was autographed to a George. I happen to have an uncle George in my family. Or the buffet credenza, that’s got a burn mark in it, that I insist was created by a 1970s drug party.

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    1. Or the casino chips I found, from a casino that had actually never opened.
      Let’s not forget my prohibition liquor cabinet, that I got in the antique shop. It was homemade, and the antique dealer had no clue it was it was, so I made up a story, and refinished it.

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      1. Hestia, made-up memories are perfect for estate sale finds! Hubs and I bought a steamer trunk early in our marriage and we’ve enjoyed speculating about its travels over the years. We’re “certain” it made a transatlantic voyage at some point!

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  8. Vickie, what a beautiful post. And what wonderful memories. I have a precious memento from each of my grandmother’s. My dad’s mom was very rich when she was young and eventually they lost everything. Her first husband disappeared, her second committed suicide. I have a silver bowl that was the last item from her past. I wrote it into my stand-alone, which my agent is shopping around right now. (No luck yet, sigh.)

    And I have one of my late nonna’s rosaries.

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  9. Vickie, I love that story of your brother. When my son was 8-ish, he came home all excited about his purchase from our neighbor’s garage sale. I opened it up and inside was the most beautiful etched trumpet. Also inside the case was the price tag … $35. “Where’d you get 35 bucks?” Turns out he only paid $5 for it so we went back across the street. I pointed out their error but our neighbor (a musician and music teacher) said, “No mistake. He made me an offer which I accepted.” Jeff played that trumpet for years before moving on to the tuba. God bless music teachers.

    My dad smoked a pipe forever. My next door neighbor sits on his back porch and smokes and it’s like hanging out with Dad again.

    What a lovely post!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. He teaches fiddle and many times he and his students have their lessons out on the front porch so the music wafts over to our house. Very bucolic and Mayberry-esque!


  10. What sweet stories.

    I have items around here that mean something to me. Like the artwork from my niece over the years. I wouldn’t get a nickel from it in a garage sale, but I don’t plan on letting it go ever.

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  11. Aw, I love the trumpet deal! Sounds like the neighbor was very fond of your son, and you, too! Our next-door neighbor always gave my siblings and me a silver dollar on our birthday — same as he did for his grandkids, and it made me feel special!

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    1. That’s so sweet, Vickie! In college a friend of ours got three dollar bills in the mail every week from an elderly friend of their family. It came without fail and we all marveled at her simple generosity. We called her his “Three Dollar Lady.” It’s so different from sending someone a monthly check.


  12. Vickie, love this! What beautiful memories. Your post is perfect timing for me, too, because I am once again trying to clear some space in our memento-jammed house. Of course, it is nearly an impossible task. My dad smoked pipes also, until around 1980. He always gave them up for Lent each spring. I still have some Alfred Dunhill tins and pipes and racks. My job was to dust them each week. The good part was that he kept the racks on his bookcases. I did a lot more reading than dusting.

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    1. I was glad when my dad gave up smoking, especially for his health’s sake. But he had a favorite tobacco that had a mild cherry scent that I always enjoyed the aroma.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Such lovely keepsakes and memories, Vickie!!

    One of the things I hold dear is a pair of my mom’s earrings that were handmade by one of her grade school students. I remember loving them so much when I was a kid. Wearing them now makes me feel as though she’s whispering in my ear.


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