In Pursuit of ‘Junk’

I love the pursuit of ‘junk.’ Nothing excites me more than digging through a second hand store, hunting for treasures no one else has noticed. I love auctions, junk stores, vintage shops, high end or low end, and sometimes the low end ones can be more fun, and the victory even greater when you find a wonderful object at a great price. I have always loved mixing ‘important’ (ie. valuable) objects with things that cost nearly nothing. Among my treasures, I have a few beautiful old China porcelains of fruit, which I mixed in with the ceramics my kids made in grade school, and no one suspects which is which. The pieces made by my kids are much more valuable to me!

I found a great brass trunk in a Paris junk store for $100, a beautiful Lucite sculpture from the 50’s in a second hand store in California. It’s about 3 feet tall and is a giant swirl, I paid less than $100 for it and it looks like a major piece of art, and I have it in my entrance hall in Paris, with other similar objects, and a few really good pieces I bought over the years. The secret is mixing it up, and the best part of the ‘game’ is finding something you love in a place where no one else would ever expect to. My daughter and I found a beautiful black and white roll-top bar for almost nothing in the Mission District of San Francisco. It looks great in her New York apartment. There’s a beautiful translucent green stone called fluorite which looks a lot like jade. I have found many pieces of it, carved, including a really spectacular one for $40. For me, nothing is more fun than the hunt for these objects. One of my favorite art pieces is a pastel of a nude woman that looks like a Renoir (and isn’t), which I bought for $200. One of my friends, who knows me well, says that I hate museums because I can’t buy anything there and can’t find any bargains to take home. Half the fun for me is finding these treasures and then taking it home to integrate into my home and life, and I’m always so proud of how and where I found it and what a bargain it was And some of the things you find that way can be really beautiful. And totally unique.

There is an auction house in Paris which holds 45 auctions a week. There are 15 auction rooms that turn over every 2 days. You can find everything there from important paintings and furniture to gardening equipment or old clothes. Some of it is junk, and some of it is absolutely spectacular stuff that you’ll never find again. I check out that auction house almost every day when I’m in Paris. But wherever I go, I find some old junky junk store, and the treasure hunt begins. It’s my favorite sport, and a hobby that has brought me endless joy.

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7 Comments so far
  1. Christa January 9, 2009 5:52 pm

    Oh I couldn’t agree more. Recycling and second-hand is two of my favorite subjects as well 🙂 I use them to make my own line of jewellery however, but at times I save an item just as it is as well.
    I’m especially fond of 1930’s and 1940’s Art Deco. It’s an amazing period that should never have ended 🙂

  2. Helen January 11, 2009 12:45 pm

    I love old green glass – my mom found me a kerosene storm lamp, with both the base and shade in green. It is so special to me, mostly because my mom is now 87 and can’t do much. When she could, she thought of me.

  3. Kristen January 11, 2009 6:10 pm

    I used to be annoyed by my dad and his constant pursuit of what I considered junk. I was embarrassed by his finds (at times rightfully so; one of his finds a tree stump-turned-lacquered-table) and never understood the value of the find and the thrill of the chase.

    As I’ve grown up I’ve learned that what he does is so much more valuable than the typical department store lifestyle that I chose. I’ve learned to take my time, to look for special objects, and that value isn’t determined only by a dollar sign.

    Thanks again for a lovely and thought provoking post!

  4. Kim January 12, 2009 8:49 am

    I find pleasure turning another’s junk into treasure. = ) One place for treasures… I surf across the nation and have found such. I get to help a charity and get my treasure fix as well. It’s the hunt too.

    I’d love to be able to do the Paris auction sometime. Sounds great!

  5. Lisa January 13, 2009 1:04 pm

    One day I would love to go to Paris and hunt in their markets. I always wonder though how to send the items home? I also love treasure hunting. Garage sales and thrift shops and Craiglist and Ebay are my favorite places to hunt! It is twice the fun to find interesting items for a fraction of the price. And if you have a good eye, then its even more special. I found an old Bergere chair for 20.00 at Goodwill and hired my neighbor who is a retired upholster (sp) recover it in zebra fabric! It is awesome. The whole thing cost me only 200.00 fabric and all. It looks like a very fancy chair that would have cost over 1000.00 Im sure. My husband used to look at me cross eyed because he couldnt see what I saw, now he just trusts me. 🙂 I too Love Junk!

  6. Denise October 2, 2009 11:25 pm

    I found three old wicker sewing baskets, large and sturdy enough to sit on the wooden top, and covered the tops with designer fabric.

    I also haunt Goodwill shops, and I’ve tried to understand why I do this, but it’s no use. The chance to find a lovely side table (I found an elegant table in oak, with long, delicate legs $15) or even an outfit for $9.50 — keeps proving irresistible.

    Of course, I have made a few shopping errors, including some doozies. I just bought a beautiful old white entertainment center for $40, intending to use it for books. But it’s too heavy to carry upstairs so it sits in the hall, near the door. Next week, the neighborhood is holding a yard sale….

  7. Robin September 10, 2017 7:54 pm

    I loved ready this BLOG as it brought back memories of my first experiences in “repurposed” stores. My grandfather use to take my siblings to find treasures. He lived in a large Victorian home in Portland Oregon. 3 stories of FUN! Grandpa loved books and found many on his hunts and taught us to love them and find them. So many other great finds and memories from our outings.

    Thank you for sharing. Continued happy hunting.