A Russian Cloisonné Box in Baltimore?

Russian Cloisonne Box, top

August 7, 2010—We’ve been doing some deep house cleaning and I keep running across things that just don’t make sense to keep—things that have been in boxes for decades or haven’t been used in well over a year. Among those things, I’ve found a few objects are mystery items.

Take the case of our little cloisonné box—it was gift from a relative a long time ago. Jacob and I only see it from time to time—when we move things around or move from one place to another. It’s been housed, on and off, in a carton with other whatnots for twenty years or more.

I decided to do a bit of research on the little 3-inch round box. I approached it as if I were working on a copywriting project for a product I knew nothing about and a project that came with no creative brief. It was a fascinating and educational few hours of research.

The cloisonné box is apparently Russian, from the very early 20th-century, and it has a portrait of Dobrynya Nikitich on the hinged lid. (Nikitich was the second most popular of the Bogatyrs, you know.)

Russian Cloisonne Box, bottom

The back is intricate and not-so-clearly hallmarked in three places. The inside of the lid is marked in three places, also. I knew nothing about Russian silver hallmarks, but I went online to learn. And I learned. I learned a lot. Again, fascinating.

After all that discovery, what to do with the little box? Let’s sell it.

It seemed there might be someone who might want it.

I didn’t think the market would be very strong in Baltimore and it didn’t seem to be a Craig’s List type of item…

Until the time of that house cleaning, I’d only purchased a few things from eBay. I’d never sold there. It seemed like a promising place to list the box, so I created a seller account—another learning experience—and I listed it.

It’s getting a couple of bids from the people who list their address as “Russian Federation.” And, I’ve learned that, yes, I can ship there and, after speaking with the folks at FedEx, I now know how.

UPDATE 9/9/2010—The first bid is in at $400—the whole project has been fun and you can tag me as a lifelong-learner.

UPDATE 9/12/2010—Well, this research and writing and selling project turned out nicely! By way of actively promoting the auction on Twitter and on my blog—and after a frenzy of 11th hour bidding, our little Russian Box sold on eBay for (take a deep breath) $14,101.

Kudos to my partner, Jacob, for locating the original painting of Nikitich that was used as the basis for the portrait on the lid of the box. That seemed to make a big difference in the sale price.

And, I didn’t have to ship internationally after all. The buyer lives in Port Jefferson, New York.

By Stephen Brockelman

As a Sr. Writer at T. Rowe Price, I work with a group of the best copywriters around. We belong to the broader creative team within Enterprise Creative, a part of Corporate Marketing Services. _____________________________________________ A long and winding road: My path to T. Rowe Price was more twisted than Fidelity’s green line. With scholarship in hand, I left Kansas at 18 to study theatre in New York. When my soap opera paychecks stopped coming from CBS and started coming from the show’s sponsor, Proctor & Gamble, I discovered the power of advertising and switched careers. Over the years I’ve owned an ad agency in San Francisco; worked for Norman Lear on All in the Family, Good Times, Sanford and Son, and the rest of his hit shows; and as a member of Directors Guild of America, I directed Desi Arnaz in his last television appearance— we remained friends until his death. In 1988 I began freelancing full time didn’t look back. In January 2012 my rep at Boss Group called and said, “I know you don’t want to commute and writing for the financial industry isn’t high on your wish list, but I have a gig with T. Rowe Price in Owings Mills…” I was a contractor for eight months, drank the corporate Kool-Aid, became a TRP associate that August, and today I find myself smiling more often than not.

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