The Collector’s Item

Our resident columnist Kam Raslan's dream for a Tuscany home is thwarted, again

Published: 30 January 2018

A long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting was recently sold at auction for the record-breaking price of USD450 million. To my untrained eye, it doesn’t look like it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci because it lacks his otherworldly subtlety but if it was actually painted by the great Renaissance master, then it really wasn’t one of his best. It looks like something he did quickly to give to his landlord to cover three months’ unpaid rent or maybe he did it in his art class at school. But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the world’s foremost art experts know more about these things than I do (it’s possible) and that it really is a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci, then USD450 million is not a bad price considering that it was bought for USD10,000 at an estate sale in New Orleans as recently as 2005.

I can’t help thinking about the people who sold the painting for USD10,000 because I bet they are feeling very, very unhappy right now. It got me thinking, do I have anything lying around the house that might be worth something? I’m fairly certain I don’t have a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci but do I have something that has somehow gained in value despite years of use? You know, like a 2010 Honda Civic.

Several years ago my mother finally wanted to sell her grand piano and I thought, we were going to be rich! I immediately started looking for my dream home in Tuscany, nothing fancy, just a palace overlooking Florence. But then I looked on eBay and found that the same pianos were being sold for GBP50. Old grand pianos for a mere GBP50? And the seller had to arrange delivery! Obviously I had to forget about my dream home in Tuscany, again.

Recently I was idly reading a book about funk music and I saw that a record by an obscure 1980s band from Washington DC called Trouble Funk was now considered to be a very rare collector’s item. I had that album! Back in the 1980s I had decided that I was going to be a funk music legend like Prince because I, too, am very “ghetto” (Bangsar is a ghetto, right?). So I put away all my Kajagoogoo and Flock of Seagulls albums and started studying James Brown instead and when I heard some music by Trouble Funk, I thought it sounded absolutely terrific. So I rushed out to buy their album. And then I rushed back home and listened to it intently and I thought “meh” and I never listened to it again.

But the Trouble Funk album was now a collector’s item, I had it and it was in pristine condition. I’m going to be rich, I thought to myself as I started looking for my Tuscan dream home. For months and months I had to wait impatiently but eventually I made a trip to London and I immediately went to a second-hand record shop. I didn’t want the owner to know that I had a copy of Trouble Funk’s classic double-album In Times of Trouble, so I casually asked him if he had it. “That’s a collector’s item,” he said, impressed by my knowledge. So I casually asked him how much it’s worth. GBP15. A mere GBP15 for a collector’s item? GBP15 for an album that one reviewer on Amazon.com called, “This CD was defective because there was no music on the CD!!!” And yet he still gave it three stars even though there was no music on his CD because it’s that good. You just have to hold it to feel its greatness. The record shop owner was unmoved as I explained all this to him. “GBP15 is a good price,” he said. “And what’s it got to do with Tuscany?”

I’ve since given up thinking that my vinyl collection will yield any treasures. Even my Beatles albums would only be worth something if they were first prints from the 1960s and if there was a photo of John Lennon sitting on them. But, I have been told, I’m missing the point. I might not own anything that would be of any resale value but they are of enormous value to me. I wouldn’t part with my Beatles albums for anything in the world because I couldn’t imagine my life without them. Having said that, I’ve got a pristine copy of Trouble Funk’s In Times of Trouble. And if you’ve got a 2010 Honda Civic then we might be able to find a deal.

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