From cowbells to milking time: here’s another curiosity from the Usmeum. This one isn’t (yet) a family heirloom, although I did inherit it from my Mum, who bought it in a local antique shop in the 1960s. She took a liking to it when shopping for furniture and paid just a few pounds for it, less than 5 if I remember rightly. It served our family as a waste paper bin, tucked away in a corner of the living room for many years. Then about 10 years later the gentleman from Sotheby’s came to value Mum’s real heirlooms from Auntie, and, along with my toy teapot, Mum was in for a surprise. He spotted the “bin” and promptly identified it as a genuine antique: a “brass-bound mahogany coopered pail” worth the astonishing sum of £350!
We continued to use it as a waste paper bin, though with added value as a conversation piece. My Mum’s relish in re-telling this story was priceless, and I think of it whenever I look at this lovely old wooden receptacle, now tucked into the corner of my own living room. Where I use it, of course, for waste paper.