We have an ongoing debate in our house: What to do with my 1966 World Book Encyclopedia.
I want to keep the collection, regardless of how yellow its pages or how little I use it. Actually, I haven’t cracked one of the green-and-cream books in forever. I now do almost all my research online because the information is more up to date, not to mention easier and faster to find.
Still. Still. This encyclopedia has meaning beyond its alphabetical entries and thorough cross-references. I’ve had it for at least as long as I can remember. Stacked on a bookshelf, gold lettering a beacon of knowledge, it serves as a reminder of childhood, of my early curiosity about things beyond the strict parameters of our household. Surely its purchase must have meant a huge sacrifice for my Cuban exile parents.
But where to put it? Keeping it means I have to toss something else off my bookshelves, something I also treasure: novels autographed by Russell Banks and Edwidge Danticat, books by writer friends, a collection of Miami and Florida references. An impossible choice.
So … I’ve been keeping the World Book tomes in boxes that collect dust in a closet, useful to no one and a sore spot for other members of the family. Now we need the space in that corner.
“Get rid of it already,” The Hubby insists. “It’s attracting roaches.”
I don’t see any bugs scurrying about, but I buy roach traps at the supermarket anyway and set them out. That, however, doesn’t solve the space problem.
I take a different tack. I tell The Hubby that I’m keeping the encyclopedia for the next generation, a sort of inheritance in the same way silver or jewelry is handed down in other families.
In fact, I may not leave the Hope diamond to my granddaughters, but I have three boxes of vinyl LPs that must be worth something. The Beatles. Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. Jim Croce. Chicago. Bread. Al Stewart. Dionne Warwick. I don’t expect great wealth from this cache, but maybe the collection, with the encyclopedia thrown in, can fund a college education.
The other morning I searched “1966 World Book” on the Internet. I was shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Lots of people are auctioning their encyclopedias on eBay. The highest asking bid: $119. On Amazon, the price starts at $185. That wouldn’t buy a single textbook!
I didn’t even bother researching the vinyl.
Like the friend who believes she’ll make a fortune on the vintage wind-up movie camera she discovered while cleaning out her mother’s apartment, I’ve watched too many episodes of Antiques Roadshow and Pawn Stars. Everybody thinks they have a priceless soup tureen in the attic and a long-lost early Picasso on the wall. The truth tends to be more pedestrian.
Huge closets and cheap storage units have turned on its head the old saw about one man’s trash being another’s treasure. There’s plenty of trash waiting in the dark recesses of our homes, and all the so-called treasures — well, they’re already for sale on the Web. For a pittance.
Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.