Asked where her affinity for antiques originated, Diane Mucciante of Presque Isle traces it back to her kin.
"I think it all started with my great-grandmother," said Mucciante, a busy wife and mother of 10-year-old triplets. "I think she lived to be 98. She went from living in a farmhouse with a two-holer outhouse for a bathroom, and when she died there had already been a man on the moon. That progression doesn't come easy."
Mucciante realized the attachment her great-grandmother had to the pieces of the past, and she soon grew to appreciate the stories behind the old pieces of furniture, china and mementos of a long-ago life. She also began to collect antique items at garage sales, estate sales and from friends, though her finds meant more to her if they had a story behind them than if she was merely buying someone else's old stuff.
News Photo by Diane Speer
Diane Mucciante displays some of the antique pieces she has acquired over the years, including a violin transported many years ago from Germany, an antique perfume bottle and a Confirmation certificate.
An elderly couple in the neighborhood where she grew up was close to her family, and when it came time to dispose of their possessions after his wife's death, Mucciante couldn't bear the thought of their treasured items going for a song to people who didn't care about their history. She is honored now to own several of their favorite things, including a perfume bottle.
"They were married 68 years," Mucciante said. "I've got her first bottle of perfume he ever gave her. I've also got the wedding set of silver that her husband just couldn't bear to let go to a stranger. He knew someone was going to buy it and would melt it down, so he gave it to me. The memories attached to these items are more important than the items themselves."
Mucciante also values a violin she acquired at an estate sale. While watching no bids come in on the antiquated instrument, she struck up a conversation with the widow whose estate was being liquidated that day. The woman was lamenting the lack of understanding of the violin's sentimental worth, and because she could tell Mucciante "got it," the woman ultimately decided Mucciante should own it.
"The violin was carried over from Germany. It had been in the family for four generations," Mucciante said. "It was killing this woman to part with it, but she was able to let it go because she knew I understood its importance."
Not only did Mucciante continue to pick up antiques along the way, but she also began helping friends to hold successful garage sales or dispose of family estates. One of those friends pocketed a hefty $2,500 after Mucciante organized a garage sale for her that included items left with the passing of her husband.
That success coupled with upbeat comments from friends got Mucciante's wheels turning. Career-wise, she thought she had found her niche when she took a position in the business office at Tendercare Alpena. She worked there for 16 years until her job was eliminated in 2010.
"I've enjoyed senior citizens working with them, talking with them, getting to know them," she said. "I fully intended on retiring from Tendercare."
She has since found a new position with the Presque Isle Road Commission. Even so, between her love of antiques and working with older people, and the encouragement she received from friends, she decided to start a new business she calls Treasured Things.
The premise behind Treasured Things is that rather than people turning over their estates for auction, she comes into their home and organizes/conducts an estate sale, structuring it to maximize the return on the sale of all items.
"The difference is auctions are designed to liquidate. They will guarantee when they are done everything will be gone," Mucciante said. "Auctions serve a fabulous purpose."
What an auction also means, however, is that some items families have held on to for years can end up being sold for only a couple of dollars. With Mucciante's new business, the person who hires her determines the lowest price at which they would be willing to sell particular items. If they don't sell at that lowest amount, then the family retains ownership and doesn't just give them away for a dollar or two.
Mucciante keeps in mind how sentimental people can be about the pieces of their past. She researches many of the items she encounters to find their monetary value through numerous antique websites to which she belongs. Those sites provide her with the current market price for silver, pottery, paintings and other valuables.
"At Cherished Things, I focus on getting as close to retail as possible, while also reducing the inventory, all the while remembering that each and every item holds memories," she said.
She does a free analysis of estates and never charges any out-of-pocket expenses. From beginning to end, she handles set-up of the sale, research on items, advertising, bookkeeping, staffing and security.
"It's a brand new service," Mucciante said. "No one on this side of the state does this. It's an alternative."
Mucciante can be reached at 464-8659 or online at www.CherishedEstateSales.com.