By Diane Ako
Are you the sort that wins things? Contests, prizes, drawings? I am not. I know people who are, but that's never been me. When Antiques Roadshow was in Hawaii, I took old jewelry and dishes for appraisal, and found my items were worth not much. That's why, when I recently sold a very old leather jacket for hundreds of dollars, I was shocked. I have finally "won" something.
In high school, my then-boyfriend's dad gave me his leather motorcycle jacket. It was old even at the time. Mr. T bought it when he was in college in Portland, rode his motorcycle with it, and as the decades passed, he outgrew the jacket (horizontally.) By the time it came to me it was over 30 years old.
I loved it at first. I wore it through college, which was perfect, since California weather necessitates a jacket. It was so biker-chic to me. Over the years, though, I did not take care of the cowhide jacket, and it hardened and dried so stiffly that it could stand up by itself. I also changed to prefer a different fashion.
I still could not get rid of the jacket for sentimental reasons. It followed me around the country, but usually sat at the back of the closet. After I got married and had a child, I forgot all about it.
Over the summer, I was cleaning out the guest room closet in preparation for a long-term house guest, Tai. I found the jacket. We are in a Craigslist era, so I decided to try to sell it over the internet. I researched it online to see what kind of price to try and fetch for it. The label said it's from Langlitz Leathers in Portland, Oregon, so I contacted them.
The jacket style is still made, and on their website, it sells new for $800. "I have no idea what condition your jacket it in. You should just bring it in and we can get a better idea," said the staffer at Langlitz Leathers. I know my friend Jen goes to Portland biannually, so I decided I'd ask her to do it for me. If it wasn't for the convenience of Jen, though, I would totally have given it to Goodwill.
So Jen kept it at her house for a while, and then pretty soon I coincidentally had a trip to Portland scheduled (to shoot a documentary.) I took the jacket.
When I walked it into the store, the guy at the counter - Dave- said, "I'll give you $10 for it." I didn't say anything, but I was thinking that I had just wasted my time over a piece of junk. He quickly added that he was joking and proceeded to apprise it as a vintage 1950's jacket, limited edition, worth $2,500. I was stunned.
Apparently, I had a Cascade-style, green label jacket, that, with some care, would look wonderful again. Other than some rust on the snaps, it was in good condition. "This is really popular in Japan," he told me. "I know someone who would probably want it. If you want to consign it, I think I can sell it for you."
He was so honest, that he told me if I kept it longer, it'd be worth more. I considered that, but while it seems good in theory, I decided that I might also run the risk of damaging it more due to certain neglect. I agreed to the 30% consignment fee.
Two days later, Dave called me. "Your jacket sold," he said. "Where should I send the check?"
The check came in the mail, and it's bookmarked for a couple months' tuition at preschool. But because getting it was such an incredible windfall, I decided to pay it forward by portioning some of it for my favorite non-profit. When Hawaii Public Radio has its next fundraising drive, I'll pledge some of my jacket money.
So thanks, Mr. T, and Tai for giving me a reason to clean the closet, and Jen, and Dave for your honesty. The jacket was special to me for a long time, and I am happy that it's found a home with someone else who will love it the way it should be.
2443-A SE Division
Portland, Oregon 97202
Our mailing address (2443 SE Division) does not quite coincide with our actual physical address. Our driveway is directly across from the intersection of 25th Avenue.
Also reach me via DianeAko.com