You never know what treasures you might find when you’re digging about in your own backyard. For Jim Addison of Toronto collecting other people’s unwanted and outdated castaways became a lifelong passion and turned into three levels of floor-to-ceiling history and Toronto nostalgia.
Since the 1960s, Addison’s Inc. was the top prop shop for Hollywood’s movie industry and a veritable treasure trove of collectibles and antiques. You may have seen Addison's props in movies like Million Dollar Baby, Cinderella Man, IT, or The Shape of Water, and TV shows like the Handmaid’s Tale, Murdoch Mysteries, 12 Monkeys, and Reign.
What started out as a plumbing and salvage warehouse turned into an eclectic mix of art deco items and beautiful period pieces dating from the 1800s to the 1900s. Thousands of objects made up this unique collection – architectural artefacts, antique & vintage lighting, unique furniture, old signs, cast iron radiators, and over 100 bathtubs.
Addison’s was the go-to place for movie set designers, prop houses, collectors, designers, renovators and antique hunters. The collection itself is as eclectic as its devotees. When the $500,000 collection came up for auction, it attracted a worldwide online audience.
Almost every beloved collectable found its way to a good home where it will be "treasured and maintained in the same fashion as Jim Addison and his family did." For the past 50 years, Addison amassed one-of-a-kind pieces and held onto them, increasing their worth over time.
Which goes to show, just because something looks like a garage sale item, doesn’t mean it’s not worth collecting. So keep your eyes peeled and look beyond an item’s immediate value. Ask yourself the question, how much will it be worth in years to come?
Pearls of Wisdom
Gifts passed on down to us through the generations keep us connected to our past, and through their provenance provide us with some interesting family stories. These gems are often our most cherished treasures, and give us an historical context to our cultural roots.
In the case of Abraham Reyes from Mississauga, Ontario, his family heirloom was a giant clam that his grandfather brought back from Manila for his aunt in 1959. In the Philippines, it is customary for travelers to arrive with gifts for their hosts, and his aunt had been collecting clam shells for years.
This giant clam from the volcanic, turquoise waters of Camiguin would provide enough meat to feed a family for a week. In addition, the giant clam shells were used as baptismal baths for children, and fulfill many other purposes in Filipino homes and gardens. But what they didn’t expect to find inside the clam shell was a giant pearl worth millions.
At first, they didn’t know that the Giga Pearl was a gem of any kind, so it was lucky they kept it in the family all these years. It doesn’t look like a typical pearl with its rough oblong shape, yet it outweighs the famous Lao-Tzu Pearl by almost 47 pounds. Weighing in at 60.96 pounds or 27.65 Kg, the Giga Pearl is the largest in the world and is estimated to be more than a thousand years old.
After having it evaluated at the Gemological Institute of America in NYC, Reyes discovered the worth of the pearl is between $60 and $90 million. No other pearl comes close to its magnificence and Reyes feels a responsibility to share it with the world, hopefully in a museum.
To show off and preserve the beauty of the Giga Pearl, Reyes commissioned NYC artist Bethany Krull, who designed a beautiful 22-carat gold-plated octopus with agate eyes. These gems were believed to have special powers at attracting and finding pearls. Agate is often seen set together with pearls in Medieval jewellery. Krull said:
"Seeing this incredible natural pearl and learning of its origins in the Philippine Seas, which are so rich with diversity and teeming with life, inspired me to create a sculpture that not only displays the pearl’s magnificence but also reiterates the idea that the biodiversity and uniqueness of the waters to which it was born need to be respected and preserved. The majestic octopus, a creature thought to be the most intelligent of all invertebrates’ wraps its sensuous and undulating tentacles around the pearl in the most beautiful and protective embrace."
Reyes, a mineral broker, has been collecting gems and other antiquities from a very young age. Turning his hand to curating, Reyes is putting together an exhibit of his favourite pieces from his private collection, and together with the Giga Pearl will soon be on tour.
Despite being told the 1943 penny he found in his lunch money was a fake and worth nothing, 16-year-old Don Lute Jr. from Massachusetts kept hold of his treasure for seventy years, leaving it in his will to someone who is now a very rich person.
The 1943 penny Lute found has been called the "Holy Grail of mint errors" by Heritage Auctions who recently sold the rarity. One of just 10-20 known to be in existence, this penny is one of the rarest of all the U.S. coins worth collecting.
The story of this penny occurs during World War II when metal was in great demand for use in artillery, ammunition, and many other military materials. Metal rationing was in effect. So the U.S. Mint ordered a halt to pressing copper pennies in 1943 and replaced them with zinc-coated steel, informally known as ‘steelies’.
When the order came, this blank copper penny was already in place in the minting machine, leftover from the last run of 1942. The steel penny blanks were loaded into the machine and minted along with the remaining 10 or 20 original copper blanks or planchets. Though the U.S. Treasury denies knowledge of these pennies, it is believed they were released into circulation unwittingly. Since the 1960s when rumours spread of their existence, numismatists everywhere have been searching for just one of these 1943 mint mistakes.
When Lute’s 1943 penny came to auction, it attracted 30 bidders and fetched $204,000, way above the starting price of $170,000. You can find more information at ha.com.