Stickers, shirts, toys and more have all been collectibles Conor Hildebrandt has coveted as he spends hours online and in-person trying to score the latest collectible.
Despite the long hours Hildebrandt has put into becoming a collector, nothing compares to his most recent find courtesy of his grandmother Beth — a 120-year-old trunk made by luxury brand, Louis Vuitton.
“To me, it’s more than a suitcase. It’s a piece of history. It’s like a rare find. It’s a collector’s item,” he said.
« All those things together, just kind of like made me really giddy and really excited… I think it’s really, really cool. »
After learning about it over the phone, Hildebrandt popped over to his grandmother’s house trying to uncover the mystery of how she had the trunk in the first place.
“She’s had it for several decades, traveled with it, but she said it belonged to her grandmother,” Hildebrandt said, noting the item is likely over 100 years old.
« It’s family history. »
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The antique, known as a steamer trunk, was created in Paris where the luxury manufacturer is based. It was mainly sold in France or London in the late 19th century or early 20th century, with limited to no products coming to North America.
The trunk is still in good condition, with minimal wear and tear, luggage slips still attached and an embossed tag reading 1896.
“It has such a unique story, I know she’s moved around with it, but it’s not torn apart, everything seems to be there,” he said
While Hildebrandt knew instantly he had a gem on his hands, his grandmother had no clue what was in her possession. In fact, for the better part of the past two decades, Beth had been using the trunk to store her old sewing equipment and newspapers.
“I kind of equate this to almost winning a lottery in a sense… It still hasn’t hit me yet; I’m kind of head up in the clouds,” he said.
Hildebrandt is a collector of the New York-based streetwear brand Supreme, and as soon as he learned about the trunk, he popped it onto his local Toronto Supreme collectors group.
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“Some people were telling me this is worth a couple thousand, others saying tens of thousands — it was all over the place,” he said.
While Hildebrandt is unclear on the price, Andrea Zeifman, co-owner and senior appraiser at AH Wilkens has sold about 10 similar trunks in her life. Zeifman, who viewed images of the trunk, called it rare.
« How often do Louis Vuitton trunks come to the market in Canada? Not very often at all. I’ve been in the business now for about 20 years, and I’ve sold perhaps 10 of them,” Zeifman said.
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The veteran antiquities expert noted that Hildebrandt did the right thing by being patient to really learn the value of what he had rather than simply taking the first offer on hand.
“It`s an amazing story that he was able to identify this before selling it off for a lesser amount than what it should actually be worth,” she said.
In her line of business, despite the popularity of Louis Vuitton and its initial endeavors being based around luggage, it`s hard to come across items like the trunk in Hildebrandt`s possession, according to Zeifman.
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When asked to put an value on the trunk, Hildebrandt said it`s likely north of $10,000 and could fetch more if they find the right buyer given its condition.
“It looks like it’s in excellent condition for its age. You can see that there were very few scratches on it. You can see that the monograms are still bright,” Zeifman described.
“And most importantly, the interior of it is intact. So you can see oftentimes you’ll see water damage. You’ll see the draw has been lost. You’ll see tears in pulls on the linen. All of that seems to be in really impeccable condition. So that always helps to drive the value of the piece.”
For anyone who is moving or has what some may describe as old junk in their basement, attic, garage or other storage space, Hildebrandt said to be patient and check the worth of every item — because you never know what you might come across.
“There’s a buyer for everything…. go over everything and see what potential value you can have sitting in your home because clearly, you could come across a treasure like this,” he said.
Hildebrandt said his grandmother wants to sell, but they’re not eager to unload their family possession unless the right offer comes in.
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