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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Finding Treasure in a Drop-Front Desk

I don't have a preference when it comes to searching for a good story. I write a lot about estate sales, and it probably would be easier if I just stuck with a single classification. It doesn't always work out that way.

Some weekends there are no estate sales, and a couple of saturdays ago this tag sale sign was all I had. As I walked down the driveway I was greeted by a member of the family running the sale. After a brief explanation of my desire to dig, I was met with an interesting lack of confidence that I wouldn't find anything there.

They had thrown down the gauntlet, in a very polite way.

Undaunted, I immediatly found a drop front desk that looked at least 50 years old.  If you have read this blog or any of my Patch articles, you know that I am not shy about pulling out drawers from desks and dressers to see what might have been left behind.

But I didn't need to even do that with this desk, because already I could see a slice of old paper left in one of the slots.  I called over the family member who had claimed I wouldn't find what I was looking for.

"What is this!? This is what I like to find." I teased as I unfolded the paper and spread it out gently on the desk to see that is was a bill from a Radio & TV repair shop in Middletown, CT.  As a piece of TV history, this is a neat find. The bill denotes a repair on an RCA Console TV with the problem of "Fades away." The diagnosis seemed to be "Tubes loose in tuner."  $3.50 later the problem was fixed, and one year later the first color compatible television was available for sale. "Fades Away" may have been a prophetic statement.

But there was more treasure than this inside the desk.

All the little cubbies and drawers in writing desks alway interest me. There are any number of things that can get lost in them.  The first place I like to look it the thin slot between the cubbies and the desk surface.

Can you see that?  Having a small L.E.D. light nearby is recommended so that the dark places give up their secrets.  The secret here looked to me like a piece of jewelry.  By removing the top drawer I thought I might get a better look from underneath.

I was right, and by now I had several family members and a few customers for an audience.

Despite pulling and pushing I found it was stuck pretty good.  Not unlike a surgeon, I asked someone to "get me a coat hanger." I don't know too many surgeons that use coat hangers to operate, but this was a difficult operation in a battlefield situation. I had to improvise.  In the end, this secretary finally gave birth to not one old watch, but two. Twins! (tho' non-identical)

Were they Rolex's? No. They almost never are, but what they were was exactly what I was looking for- a good story and a minor impromptu street performance with a happy ending.

Have you found anything hidden in a old desk?


  1. Never heard of a piece of paper described as a "slice." I'll stick with sheet.

    BTW - did you buy anything? Or do you just go to sales and annoy people who are trying to sell stuff?

  2. I found this article fun and interesting! Coincidentally, right after reading it, my husband, in the process of redoing our half bath, came across an uncashed check from 1979 ( years before we bought the house). It was fun to see the name of a bank long gone in the merger frenzy of the 80's and 90's: State National Bank of CT. Neither name on the check was the owner at the time, but I did realize that the people we bought from were not responsible for the hideous vanity or hidden wallpaper!

  3. Thanks for the comment! I enjoy hearing about these "finds" almost as much as making them myself. I usually urge people to grab a camera when those discoveries are made. They are rare and fun. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. So interesting and very timely. Having recently moved, I'm still arranging and rearranging furniture. As I moved a small vintage roll top desk into the living room, I noticed a side panel had wiggled out of its place. I laid the desk on its side to do some minor repair. When I began moving the panel into place I discovered several lost items snuggled behind the wood. One black Barbie shoe, one Barbie stole, one Barbie bra...all attributable to my youngest daughter. This was her desk as a child. But as I continued to search, the strangest item emerged! It is a piece of vintage doll clothing; and it's really fun. There is a fox tail and fox feet (or perhaps wolf) complete with tiny claws. I will keep it. I may find a small doll or teddy to wear it. I agree. Old desks are fun to explore. I bought this desk 30+ years ago...

  5. These desks are kind of an unintentional time capsule, and the reason why I need to pull a drawer out of every one I see. Great story Laurelei, thanks for sharing it.

  6. Thanks Craig, I needed to migrate my comments from the old URL inside Discuss.


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