The follow story is by guest contributor, Andrew J. Hogan. Dr. Hogan published more than five-dozen professional articles on health services research and health policy. He has published forty-one works of fiction in the OASIS Journal (1st Prize, Fiction 2014), Hobo Pancakes, Subtopian Magazine, Twisted Dreams, Thick Jam, Midnight Circus, Grim Corps, Long Story Short, Defenestration, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, The Blue Guitar Magazine, Stockholm Review of Literature, The Beechwood Review, Children, Churches and Daddies, Spank the Carp, Pear Drop, Festival Writer (Pushcart Nominee), Lowestoft Chronicle, Fabula Argentea, Mobius, Thrice, The Lorelei Signal, Fiction on the Web, Sandscript, and the Copperfield Review.
Host: The forty-first season of the Antiques Roadshow International opens with a live broadcast from the Transcorporate Convention Center on Kabo Verda Du, a floating platform anchored to the uninhabited island of Santa Luzia and the islets Ilheu Branco and Ilheu Raso in what was formerly known as the Republic of Cabo Verde until 2038 when the massive collapse of the northeast flank of the Fogo Volcano sent a 200 foot tsunami racing across the archipelago, obliterating most of the populated areas on the southern and eastern sides of the island chain. Only the islands of relatively unpopulated islands of Maio and Brava escaped major damage. Amazon Chairman Emeritus Jeff Besos, struck by the massive devastation, bought the entire country and rebuild it as the world’s first corpornation. Kabo Verda Du, with its magnetic platform lifts and erectable sea wall capable of repelling a 100 foot tidal wave, is the first of several major projects to be completed since the disaster. Let’s go down to the Convention Center floor to see what antiques have been brought to the Roadshow.
APPRAISER: Well, where did you get this statuette and what can you tell me about it?
GUEST: When my Gran died last year, I drove my mom out to Glendale, California to clean out the house for sale. I got the statue for helping.
APPRAISER: This is kind of an iconic little statuette. I’m surprised your mother didn’t want to keep it.
GUEST: She’s suffering from macular degeneration. When I handed it to her, she practically dropped it because it’s so heavy. ‘You want it, take it,” she said.
APPRAISER: Probably a lot of our viewers have an idea about this statuette. What do you think it is?
GUEST: Because Gran worked for the movie studios for a number of years, I was hoping it might be one of the props from the Maltese Falcon movie. That’s all I know.
APPRAISER: That would be quite a find, one of the biggest we’ve ever seen on the Roadshow. Movie director John Huston commissioned two prop statuettes made out of lead and later a third one made from resin—so Humphrey Bogart wouldn’t drop it on his foot again. One of the lead statuettes, the one Bogart dropped on his foot, denting the tail, is in the Warner Brother’s Museum. The second lead statuette was acquired by a private collector in the 1980s and later auctioned off in 2013. Do you know what the 2013 auction price was for the statuette?
GUEST: I think it was a lot, but it was in the old money, so I don’t know how much it would be in Besos.
APPRAISER: In 2013 the second lead statuette was sold to an anonymous collector for just over four million dollars, which in modern bitcoin currency would be about fifteen trillion Besos.
GUEST: Holy crap.
APPRAISER: And that’s not taking into account any appreciation in value. The statuette was first sold for about four hundred thousand dollars in the 1980s, but thirty years later the auction price was over four million, an appreciation of ten times. So how much do you think the statuette might have appreciated in the forty plus years since the 2013 auction?
GUEST: I don’t know, man. I was never good with math.
APPRAISER: Well, if this were the real Maltese Falcon props. I say “if,” because the statuette was allegedly destroyed in a 2025 fire at the mansion of Srimaharshi Dayand Barawati, and the Pennsylvania Assurance Consortium reportedly paid eleven million dollars (nearly fifty trillion Besos) to cover the loss. So, if this were the real Maltese Falcon prop, in today’s market it would probably fetch something close to one-hundred trillion Besos.
GUEST: Oh, man, you’re freaking me out.
APPRAISER: Could one of the attendants, please, get our guest a glass of water. Well, don’t get too excited. There’s a lump of melted lead sitting on the desk of the president of the Pennsylvania Assurance Consortium that was found to be an exact chemical match to the statuette in the Warner Brother’s Museum. And let’s face it, your grandmother wasn’t too likely to leave a statuette lying around her Glendale track house that could have bought her a mansion in Beverley Hills.
GUEST: Maybe she didn’t know what it was worth? Like she might have dated a cat burglar who gave it to her as a present? She dumped my grandfather right after she got out of the maternity ward with my mother and ran off to Hollywood on her own.
APPRAISER: So, you’re saying, on live international TV, that your grandmother received stolen goods?
GUEST: No, I mean, you know, like maybe she slept with one of the studio execs, who gave it to her to keep her quiet and get an abortion, or something.
APPRAISER: So, you’re saying, on live international TV, that your grandmother was a Hollywood slut?
GUEST: You know, I would like to have my lawyer present before answering any more questions?
APPRAISER: Which lawyer? Adam Warshanki, who represented you in your illegal possession of narcotics trial, or Valerie Bishop, who represented you in your counterfeit watch selling trial?
GUEST: How did you know about my arrests?
APPRAISER: Didn’t you read the Antiques Roadshow Guest release form?
GUEST: Not all the way to the end.
APPRAISER: You gave us the right to search the NSA Inc. database for any criminal background information suggesting you might pose a threat. Since you pleaded down both of your prior arrests to misdemeanors, they decided to let you on the show, because of the interesting artifact, which before you embarrass your grandmother again, is not one of the original studio props.
GUEST: How do you know that?
APPRAISER: Pick up this dumbbell. Heavy, huh? Tell the viewers how heavy.
GUEST: Ah, it’s got two twenty pound plates, one five and two ones.
APPRAISER: Which is?
APPRAISER: Forty-seven pounds.
APPRAISER: Now pick up your statuette. You had to use both hands.
GUEST: It’s heavier.
APPRAISER: One point seven times heavier, to be exact. Eighty pounds, give or take a couple of ounces.
GUEST: What is it? Platinum, I hope.
APPRAISER: Sorry, gold.
GUEST: Crap, I really need a couple trillion Besos, bad.
APPRAISER: Back around the time the studio prop statuette sold for 4.1 million, the gold in this statuette was worth about two million dollars, nearly ten trillion Besos. That would have bailed you out of your gambling problem.
GUEST: What gambling problem?
APPRAISER: Your background check showed numerous texts to Mickey The Shank Fitzsimmons, a former convict who served time for running a numbers racket.
GUEST: No, I need the money for my mother’s pancreas replacement surgery.
APPRAISER: Your mother is receiving Social Security Disability. Medicare covers the full cost of her surgery.
GUEST: Is the god-damned statue worth anything?
APPRAISER: As I was saying, the statuette was worth about two million dollars back in the first quarter of the century, before the great Putah Creek flood of 2035.
GUEST: What, a flood of whores?
APPRAISER: Putah, not puta. Putah Creek is a tributary of the Sacramento River that runs through the campus of the University of California at Davis. After an unusually wet spring in central California, there was a freakishly extreme wet macroburst that dumped seven inches on Cobb Mountain in fourteen hours. The flood was so great that it swamped Lake Berryessa and eroded the west bank of the Monticello Dam, sending almost two million acre feet of water rushing toward Davis. It was a major disaster. You must have seen video on TV?
GUEST: I was kind of out of touch with things back in the thirties.
APPRAISER: Well, even if your brain had been substance-free around the time of the flood, you might not have known that, among the many things swept away by the flood was the experimental sewage treatment plant the Microbiology Department had set up to test the effectiveness of self-replicating nanorobots in the treatment of waste water. The experimental sewage pond had been constructed to withstand a thousand-year flood of Putah Creek. But what they got was the ten-thousand year flood, and all the self-replicating nanorobots were washed into the Sacramento River, from there into San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
GUEST: So, what does that have to do with my statue?
APPRAISER: Interesting you should ask. A couple of years later, researchers at the University of Rochester determined that those particular nanorobots were ineffective at removing fecal matter from waste water.
GUEST: Oh, God.
APPRAISER: Don’t bang your head on the counter. As I was saying, the nanorobots wouldn’t work on cleaning up sewage water, but, pretty much by accident, the researchers discovered they would collect gold from seawater. And so the whole gold dredging industry was born in the twenty-forties. By the beginning of the current decade so much gold had been dredged from the ocean that it was no longer considered a precious metal. So today what was a two million dollar gold statuette is only worth a little more than two million Besos, about five-hundred dollars in old money.
GUEST: Christ, I’ll barely cover my travel expenses here with that.
APPRAISER: You could if you didn’t require short-term female companionship every night.
GUEST: Hey, I need to relax. I’m under a lot of stress.
APPRAISER: Fortunately for your nerves, the salvage value of the statuette isn’t the whole story. As many of our more astute viewers probably know, Dashiell Hammett based his Maltese Falcon statuette on the Kniphausen Hawk, a ceremonial pouring vessel made in the late 17th century for Count George William von Kniphausen. That bird statuette sits on a rock and is encrusted with garnets, amethysts, citrine quartzes, emeralds, turquoises and sapphires. The Duke of Devonshire bought it in 1819, and vessel was part of the Chatsworth collection until about a decade ago, when it was acquired by the International Museum of Historical Art on the Transcorporate Island of Anguilla.
GUEST: My statue doesn’t feel like it’s got any jewels stuck on it. Maybe I should try to scrape off some of this coating?
GUARDS: Putdown the knife! Put your hands on your head!
APPRAISER: Hold off, fellows. Maybe you should put that knife away before the security guards start shooting. Okay, everybody calm. Now, there are no jewels inside the statue. We ran the mass spectrometer before we started filming.
APPRAISER: And you can see that as a decorative piece, the statuette doesn’t have much appeal.
GUEST: It looks like a falcon.
APPRAISER: Yes, but it’s not finely rendered.
APPRAISER: However, it may have some historical value.
GUEST: Why, it’s just a fake.
APPRAISER: No, our history appraisal panel is pretty sure this is the actual statuette that the Knights of Malta commissioned to be delivered as a gift to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fifth in return for granting them control of the Isle of Malta in 1533.
APPRAISER: Those were dangerous times. Sulieman the Magnificent was determined to conquer Malta and after that Italy. The Ottoman Empire had a large navy and sea battles with the Knights of Malta were frequent. It made sense to send a valuable present disguised as a mediocre lead statuette rather than gold bars or coins that would generate a lot of loose talk which Ottoman spies might hear.
GUEST: So, maybe it’s worth a trillion Besos.
APPRAISER: Sorry, the market for late Renaissance artifacts has been quite weak the last few years. Our estimate, in a well-advertised cyber-auction, is between six-hundred and fifty and eight hundred thousand Besos.
GUEST: That’s not enough.
APPRAISER: Sorry, maybe… Oops. Here’s a tweet from Jimmy the Shank. He’ll take the statuette and a kneecap, and you’re off the hook. Oh, and you never go back to New Jersey. That’s not so bad. What with the HillaryCare supplement to Obamacare, you could get a kneecap replacement for almost no out-of-pocket cost.
GUEST: I was having a run of bad luck when the bill for the supplement showed up.
APPRAISER: Wait. Jimmy tweets that we should keep the statuette. He’ll send a guy to pick it up directly from us. Security will show you out. Take him to the west entrance, guys. The emergency medical tent is out there. Thank you for bringing your interesting antique to the Roadshow, and good luck.
Host: Appraiser Monica Berkwalter is visiting the just-opened Jeffery and Matilda Besos Packaging and Shipping History Museum, the first cultural institution built on Kabo Verda Du since becoming a corpornation. She’s talking with Museum Director Paulo Chantre to learn how merchandise has been packaged and shipped over the ages, including an amazing new Neanderthal packaging artefact.