Finding small treasures in a sea of trash

by Hank Nuwer

My wife Gosia and I like flea markets. Gosia discovered the ramshackle Schleeters
Auction and Flea Market in St. Marys, Ohio. Last Saturday, she brought me there to browse.
I contemplated buying a 1957 Christmas album with Gene Autry and Rudolph-the-Red-
nosed reindeer on the cover, recalling how I as an 11-year-old gave that recording more
scratches than my old cat Spike ever gave me.
But I passed on the album and spent $15 for a stamp collection last updated in 1962.
The owner’s name was on multiple envelopes. I looked her up on Google. Anita is now 79, living
in Bluffton, Ohio, and celebrated her 60 th wedding anniversary to David in 2022.
“Maybe I’ll call or write her to ask about the collection I bought,” I told Gosia over coffee
Sunday. “What do you think she’ll say?”
“She’ll say you are crazy and hang up.”
“But I want to know how and why the collection ended up in Schleeters.”
“There’s no spy theory story,” she said, scoffing. “Someone thought it was trash and
tossed it. End of story.”
Well, not exactly the end. I spent a happy Sunday reliving my childhood memories
collecting stamps. I mulled a sheet of Bachrach Collection Presidents of the U.S from #1
Washington to #34 Eisenhower and found it on E-bay sale for $34.95. There were pristine
sheets of international stamps from the Mystic Stamp Collection which used to get cuts of my
paperboy pay envelope. Then my jaw dropped to see a 1958 “Nestle’s Postage Stamp Catalog
and Exciting True Comic Book” that sells in online nostalgia shops for between $25 and $100. I
used to send in wrappers from Nestle’s almond bars with 60 cents in coins to get packets of
used stamps.
To top it off, I perused about 800 mint and used stamps issued pre-WWII on up to 1962
when “my” Anita married and presumably abandoned stamp collecting for housewife chores.
“I’m not calling or writing Anita,” I announced to my wife as she washed breakfast
“Why not?” she said. “You’re a reporter. You often surprise people with calls.”
I told her that my $15 dollar purchase amounted to maybe $200 or more in today’s
“That’s why you won’t call her,” she snapped. “You’re afraid she’ll want it back.”

First published in the Daily Standard, Celina, Ohio