The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
Every couple of years “Antiques Roadshow” visits our Old Pueblo. I’ve watched Tucson treasure hunters bring in amazing items.
The appraiser always asks, “What do we have here?”
“It’s a mounted javelina head. I was ‘antiquing’ at a Tortolita yard sale when I saw it. I said to Lurlene, ‘Holy jalapeños! I been wanting one of these for years!’”
“Care to guess what it’s worth?”
“Buck. Buck and a half?”
“At auction this fine example of 20th century taxidermy would fetch $350.”
“Shut the corral gate! You’re kidding!”
“Heck, yes, I’m kidding. Next. What do we have here?”
“It’s an ‘original’ DeGrazia tumbler. Me and Ed got the receipt. Ed likes the angels. I like the way he used dots for eyes.”
“Complete with your provenance this fine example of mass-produced midcentury folk art in today’s art market would fetch as much as $2.95.”
“Heck, yes, I’m kidding. Toss it in our dumpster on your way out. Next! What do we have here?”
“A vintage set. I got a Stumble Inn bar coaster, a Dusty Chaps cassette tape and a popcorn kernel from the Bum Steer. Found these treasures in the summer of ’76 in a trash bin behind a U of A dorm after the students moved out.”
“My grandfather’s alien registration receipt card from the ’40s granting a worker legal residence.”
“A hair ribbon woven from a tin foil blanket by an orphaned girl in immigration custody.”
“My mother’s ‘No amnesty for illegals!’ protest sign.”
A woman cradles what appears to be a holy relic. “It’s a lock of Lute Olson’s hair. We got it from a fella claiming to be his barber for five hundred bucks.”
“This miracle tortilla with the face of weatherman Michael Goodrich on it has been in my family since 1999.”
“This is one of the pens Ronald Reagan used to sign his immigration reform bill way back in 1986 legalizing the residency of 3 million immigrants.”
The appraiser recites what he knows. “President Reagan believed if you put down roots here, even though you may have come here illegally, you should not have to live in the shadows.”
The owner nods.
“In the overheated marketplace of ideas today such artifacts have fallen out of favor. You’d be lucky to sell it as kindling. Next. What do we have here?”
“A can of ‘Tucson Sunshine,’ produced by the Chamber of Commerce, Jurassic period.”
“It’s a sheet or a nun’s habit worn by Sister Agnes in ‘Lilies of the Field.’”
“A porcelain liquor decanter shaped like a kachina.” A cultural insensitivity warning flashes onscreen.
“Next. What’s this?”
“A copy of the 2005 Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act signed by Sens. John McCain and Ted Kennedy.”
The appraiser raised his eyebrows. “This may as well be a 13th-century Ming vase! What you have here is a rare and remarkable piece of bipartisan lawmaking which became the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. It featured, among other things, a reasonable path to citizenship, funding for border security, and a functional guest worker program. Practical and reasonable, it was doomed. It’s been collecting dust in America’s attic ever since. In today’s market I’d estimate your historic artifact to be a costly reminder of our nation’s failure to do the right thing. Next.”
“I found this at an estate sale. It’s a black-and-white glossy of an unidentified congressman using our border for a campaign photo op. He’s waving his fist. Caption on the back says he’s decrying the crisis on the border.”
The appraiser studies it. “It could be from 2012. No, I’m wrong. It’s from 1992. On second thought it could be from as far back as ’86. Maybe earlier.”
He takes out his magnifying lens and scans the image. “Wait just an ‘Antiques Roadshow’ minute! I see only 48 stars on your politician’s flag pin. Hawaii and Alaska didn’t become states until 1959! This vintage image of this politician ‘decrying the crisis on the border’ has to be from the early ’50s.”
“Not really. It’s utterly valueless. The market is saturated with thousands and thousands of these images of politicians ‘decrying the border crisis’— dating all the way back to the Gadsden Purchase. Next.”
“I was out hiking when I found this beautiful tiny child’s rosary.”
The appraiser was intrigued. “It’s carved out of wood from Central America. It’s quite weathered and old. Where did you find it?”
“Out in the desert in an area we call the ‘Devil’s Highway.’”
“Children’s rosaries like this are common. Probably worth a few pennies at most. What became of the owner?”
The man shook his head. The value of his world-weary expression? Priceless.
David Fitzsimmons: firstname.lastname@example.org.