Sunday, June 6, 2010

Three Old Men

A few weeks ago I wrote a story about my love of treasure hunting. It was a tongue-in-cheek piece where the treasure was a wrench lying in the road. Of course, the story was really about the treasure I found when I met the Lord Jesus Christ. You may remember it. It had a picture of a treasure map titled “Treasure Map”.

The funny thing about that story is – it has received more anonymous visitors from all across the world than any of the 70 or so other stories I have posted. See, I have this tracking program that tells me about my readers – not who they are of course, but where they are from and how much time they spend at my website.

I have watched enough episodes of “Antiques Roadshow” to know how cool it would be to find something of real value for a mere buck or two at a rummage sale...

The Treasure Hunter story has had hits from London to Moscow, from Athens to Vitry-sur-seine, from Bergen to Edmondton, from Swansea to Tripoli… every single one of them with the term “treasure map” in the search line.

Everyone is a treasure hunter. But I’ve already written this story, haven’t I? Well, not really. See, since I wrote that last story I found a “real” treasure.

Stephanie and I love to go to garage sales, and especially estate sales. But as a rule those events start on a Friday, or maybe even a Thursday, so by the time the weekend comes and we get to them we’re left to hopelessly sift through the dregs. But, there was this Friday when Stephanie and I had some business to attend to so I took the day off. We had some time to kill in the early hours of the day, so we went on a rare Friday morning treasure hunt.

We turned on a street with a “garage sale” sign at the corner and drove down to the house with all the junk strewn across the driveway. Now, I have two methods of treasure hunting. First I take a quick glance across the landscape, scanning for anything of real value, and then I start digging. (Thank goodness Stephanie carries hand sanitizer.)

But at this sale I never got to the digging stage. See, leaning up against an ugly old car in the driveway were three picture frames… with pictures in them. The first was an early American scene printed on cardboard, warped by time and in an inexpensive wooden frame. I recognized it from the days when “Home Interiors” was the house-party of the moment. This hideous item was marked $2.00. I passed on it.

The other two pictures were an obvious set, and obviously the object of this story. They were marked at $1.00 apiece. At first glance they appeared to be pencil sketches. They were framed alike, and signed by the artist. In fact, the artist’s signature was a part of the “print”, but then it was signed again down below, and had some penciled writing in a foreign language.

Like you, I have watched enough episodes of “Antiques Roadshow” to know how cool it would be to find something of real value for a mere buck or two at a rummage sale. Had I found such a treasure? I asked the lady sitting on the porch eating a donut, “What’s the story on these pictures?” “I don’t know nuthin about them,” She answered. “They were hanging in my mother’s house.”

That’s all I needed to hear. “This woman doesn’t know what she’s got here” I thought. Of course, I had no idea what they were either. But I was pretty sure they were worth more than a buck a piece. I left two bucks lighter and two pictures heavier.

I Googled the artist Paul Geissler (1881-1965) and found that I had purchased not prints, but hand tinted engravings, signed by the artist on the plate and signed and titled by the artist in pencil on the margin. And of course they were matted and framed.

I learned that the artist does the etching in copperplate and then those plates are meticulously inked and pressed onto hand-made paper to create a copy. That copy is effectively an original, as the copperplate is then cleaned and re-inked for the next work or art to be created.

I found an on-line auction site where a duplicate of one of my etchings, the “old man with a pot of flowers" gaveled at $100.00. Information on the other “old man” picture remains elusive… for now. But one thing’s for sure, a return of 100 times on your investment ain’t the chicken’s feet!

Cool find for sure! But Jesus Christ remains the greatest treasure this old man ever found!

Photo by Reece Kepler - Click on the picture to see a larger view.


  1. One website (translated from German) calls the picture on the left a Self Portrait. The flowers are Märzenbecher, quite common in Germany. It blooms in March and is similar to our Lilly of the Valley.

    I have seen the Märzenbecher etching on E-bay and another auction site as well as being mentioned as hanging in a restaurant. But I still have not seen any information on the other picture.

    I suspect they are both self portraits.

    I saw a website where a reader comments that these pictures were offered as a special purchase by either Macys or Gimbles in NYC back in the 1950s.

    1. The flowers picture is titled The First Snowbells. Some websites call it The First Snowflakes. Snowbells is the literal translation. It is a common etching and is usually priced from about $65 to $200 on various art auction sites.