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3:17pm on Thursday, 14th June, 2007:

The Oldest Thing I Own


I was wondering the other day, what's the oldest manufactured thing I own? I don't mean the oldest thing in general (I have some fossils I bought 10 years ago that must be 200,000,010 years old now), or the thing made of the oldest material (when was gold formed in Earth's planetary history?), I mean the oldest thing I have dating from when someone made it.

Remarkably, because it's so recent, the answer is 1869. I have several maps of Europe from that date, their being one of the two categories of things I collect (the other being issue 4s of Knights of the Dinner Table). I don't have anything from before then, though, which is a suprise — 1869 is only 91 years before I was born. I think I had a coin that might have been older, but that got mixed up with my father's collection of "foreign coins that people put in gas meters when they didn't have the right money", that we used to use for betting games when we played as kids (poker, Newmarket, that sort of thing). It was a gift from my French teacher when I was 11 — she was emigrating to America (her husband was American, and she sounded American herself, too, come to that) and he didn't want to take his coin collection with him. I have a vague idea that the coin I got was Napoleonic, but I'm not sure. I don't know if my dad even has it any more.

Both my parents are still alive, so I haven't inherited anything from them, but (coin aside) I don't think they have anything particularly old, either. Both their sides of the family were poor, so it wasn't as if there was much for my parents to inherit from them either. In any case, my father's father remarried after my grandmother died, and when he copped his clogs we didn't get anything passed on to us (not even things of no interest to his new wife, eg. baby pictures of my dad). My mother has at least one thing from before 1842, which she got from her aunt, but I'm not due to inherit that (it's going to one of her grandchildren).

Maybe I'll pop into Colchester some time and buy a Roman coin from a dealer there. As antiques go, a bunch of maps cut out of schoolbooks from 1869 isn't all that impressive.

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).