It's not so much that someone had abandoned a Christmas present. It's that they had waited 111 years to do so.
At least it's going to a good cause. Once the good folk of the Ponsonby's Mercy Hospice Shop figure out what to do with it. Right now they're still scratching their heads.
Firstly, how did someone manage to stroll in deposit an enormous, metal-covered family bible on the front counter with no one noticing? But that's how busy this place gets at times.
According to the tome's impeccable long-hand dedication, it was originally given to immigrant couple, Alfred and Lydia Talbot, some time in the late 19th century and was passed into the care of their five children on Christmas Day, 1900.
Further pages then detail their five grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren who, for most part, lived out their days in Christchurch.
Secondly, why someone would give up such a toanga? Has the line died out?
Or maybe the owner escaped the earthquakes and decided it was too awkward
to keep lugging around?
Who knows? So the discussion shifts to what to do with it.
"Sadly, this sort of thing isn't that uncommon," says Maria Baird, the store's manager since it opened six years ago. "One time this woman came in and handed me a box.
'Here, have these,' she said. They were her wedding photos and she didn't want them anymore. That was really awkward, I mean we couldn't really sell them. It was probably a heat of the moment decision, so I hung on to them for a while. In situations like those it's more important to show how grateful we are for anything people want to give us.
That's the thing really, because without donations the hospice can't operate."
It's likely the photos washed up on the same "too hard" shelf where the huge bible has joined two boxes of wooden clothes pegs, an unopened box of circa-80s Sunlight soap and a wonderfully illustrated book from the 1920s which links biblical prophecy to the geometry of Khufu's Great Pyramid.
Great stuff, and while there must be buyers somewhere for each of them, they don't really fit the charity shop's vibe, so here they'll stay until Baird comes up with a few plan Bs.
Who knows when that will happen though, as she seldom pauses for even a cup of tea. She is far too busy rotating and encouraging a roster of 40 volunteers, welcoming and pricing donations, restocking the shop as often as possible, and hopefully matching everything with a buyer.
When selling cheap, you must sell quickly and often.
STILL, BAIRD'S job has become easier as the economy has worsened. Recessions are always boom times for "chazzas" and this one arrived just as the dank op shops of old finally started tarting themselves up.
Not only are new stores popping up everywhere, the big three - Salvation Army, Mercy Hospice and Red Cross - are providing in-store music, clear branding, and, best of all, fresh air.
You could say there's an alms race brewing.
According to Jonathon Platt, the Salvation Army's family store consultant, they have much still to do if they are to attract more mainstream shoppers - and that is vital, because given what he calls "exponential" growth in demand for their services, they always need more money to keep them running.
As a result they are upping the quality of their wares and introducing the same service you'd expect on the high street.
For their part, the Red Cross only began following two years ago and probably still have the most work to do. Again, their motivation is financial.
The man running their stores, Patrick Cummings, says while about 80 per cent of the cash received from donations and op shops used to go offshore, local needs mean most is now spent in New Zealand. They are also innovating, for instance, the Rotorua store, which has teamed up with a recycling company. This latter provides them with saleable goods in turn for a slice of the profit.
But the rapid growth among charity stores has been helped by internet sites, which have decimated the generalist second-hand traders. Those who have survived now find themselves competing with flossied-up charities where people not only work for free, they get their stock - and sometimes even carpet and fittings - for free and then sell well under the odds.
Even so, the notion of a charity shop thriving on Ponsonby Rd is striking. Head off from the front door and you'll pass several multimillion-dollar properties before the foam fades on your coffee.
Then again, this is a Hospice Shop and they don't roll quite like the others. Consider their recent national promotion - a first for op shops - which came about after Dyan Cann from Hibiscus Hospice secured a grant and got the Work advertising agency, New Zealand Next Top Model winner Brigette Thomas and singer Gin Wigmore to provide their services for free.
It was a rare example of unity, because while the Sallies and Red Cross are essentially centralised, the hospices operate like feudal lords with each drawing cash from its own territory.
The Ponsonby store falls under Mercy Hospice in St Mary's Bay, which has seven stores dotted from Pt Chevalier to Blockhouse Bay and Ellerslie. Each is staffed and stocked by its immediate area so it's not unusual to see unemployed strugglers putting down old baby clothes to rummage through preloved Jimmy Choo shoes and designer handbags.
Despite appearances, the need is there, says Baird. Ponsonby and Grey Lynn still host plenty of inner-city families who arrived well before their wealthy neighbours, as well as a fair number of halfway houses.
The economic contrasts can make pricing a difficult balance. People donating expensive goods don't want to see them flogged off for a buck or two, but the nature of the shop means they can't be sold at market rate either.
Baird relies on instinct and years of experience. She owned Ponsonby fashion store Media before moving to America on 1999 to work in an art gallery. All the same, flying home to set up and then run an op shop in a former chicken butchery didn't exactly fill her with enthusiasm.
What swayed her was the same thing that has swayed everyone who works with her: loss. All have an immediate relative who died at a hospice and in Baird's case it was her mother.
Death is a connection no one shies away from, to the extent that the notion of being able to discuss such matters comfortably can be part of the appeal of volunteering.
Which somehow makes it a jolly place. There is a community vibe here that is unique, maybe because even the most hard-up can find something to consider buying.
THE DOORS at Ponsonby's Mercy Hospice Shop are supposed to open at 10am but 9.30am is the norm, so local shop staff have a chance to pop in. Coffees are offered, weather predictions are made, and the carefully arranged clothes racks are soon in need of attention. The only discernable worry is theft. Before I'd had a chance to say hello to everyone, I was warned to lock my bag away.
Shoplifting when stuff is practically given away? Says long-time volunteer Dianne Vovan, "Some people are real buggers."
But security is a nagging issue that makes all charities reluctant to confirm how much they make each year. The risks of running a store usually staffed by women of a certain age and kindly disposition was reinforced last year when some scumbags charged into the Glen Innes Hospice Shop and ripped out the till. Any male volunteers are welcomed with open arms.
For now I saw no danger among the mixed bag of early shoppers. There was a leather-jacketed girl in PVC pants nodding away to her earbuds, two Maori guys from Northland who were talking treaty claims as they tried on work shirts, and an old gent telling the ladies a rude joke.
The old guy is a regular. He doesn't shop, he just tells a joke - usually about his wife - and then leaves.
"You can set your watch by some people," says Teresa Mayo, who when not volunteering works as a lawyer. A favourite is Monica, who drops off a packet of cigarettes, then comes in once a week to smoke one and select a handbag, which she carries around until her next visit. Much like a library book really.
It's people like this who illustrate how these places straddle a fuzzy line between fundraising and welfare service. Some visitors are more interested in human contact than bargain hunting.
THE MORNING goes by in a blur of tidying, chatting, selling and sorting until Min Goodwin shows up. She's the Hospice chain's window dresser and one of a very small group of paid staff.
Today she is particularly proud of the rubber duck keyrings she has transformed into Christmas tree decorations. As with most of the shop's fittings they were the result of a cold call to a potential supplier asking for any surplus stock going spare (she's now on the hunt for male mannequins with heads still attached).
Goodwin's learned the hard way not to put the best clothes in the window. In fact, it's often best to avoid clothes altogether because people inevitably want to buy them as soon as they're up and get very grumpy when told they'll have to wait.
As a result, each store now has a sign reading "Window displays are not available until Thursday". Buyers are invited to add their name to a list and can have a turn at trying them on once they're out of the public eye.
Then there's just enough time for an extended chat with various punters about the relative merits of hip 80s bars and clubs like Zanzibar, Island of Real and Siren - this is Ponsonby, after all - before the ladies set to clearing some room in the storeroom. The hospice employs two drivers to collect donations and one is on his way with an assortment of randomness.
Sione Sione duly arrives, plonks down a hefty box of decorations, then settles into a cup of tea. A rugby prop, Sione played for Counties before spending two seasons with French club Narbonne.
He was about to head home when he saw the job advertised on the net: "I didn't even know what the hospice was, but when I found out, I realised I had a connection through a cousin who died of cancer ... so here I am. I'm even a sort of ambassador for them now and try to find out how people find out about us when I'm thanking them. There are so many people with the same connection I have."
His cellphone rings, there's another pick-up to make.
Roma Grey is a year 12 student from Senior College who does the odd afternoon shift to boost both her CV and karmic levels. It doesn't seem to hurt her closet either, as she soon spots a designer top and starts planning how she'll talk her mum into buying it for her when she arrives to take her home.
But there is a slight emergency to deal with first. They've been so busy the shop is almost out of plastic bags, so a call is made and a volunteer brings in a handful she'd earmarked as bin-liners. This is the glamour of retail.
And I'd done my bit to create the problem. The lock-up protecting my bag is now groaning with a video copy of old British comedy Ripping Yarns, a Yoko Ono album that had been taken out of the Hamilton Public Library stock in July 1984, a pop-art print of some aeroplanes for my boy, a Strangely Normal shirt, and book on mystic runes for the missus. For cheap - and that's the glamour of charity shopping.
All of a sudden it's 4pm - closing time. With six people still scouring the racks, two trying on clothes and two more knocking on the door, Mayo fires up the vacuum cleaner as a noisy hint. By the time the message gets through she could have finished my place as well.
The last punter is finally being hoorayed with "thanks ever so much, see you again" when another pair rock up with a clear intent to browse.
"What? You're closed?"
"Yes, sorry. But we're open again tomorrow. Cheery bye and thanks for coming."
Their unction is understandable. If it wasn't the bible, I'm guessing they'd got wind of the clothes pegs, or my Ono album, or maybe even one of Monica's smokes. For cheap.