Imagine watching your neighbours lift a genuine antique Louis Vuitton trunk on to a fiery inferno, in an effort to get rid of "junk" from around their property.

This is the story of my mother in that very situation and how she somehow managed to save a piece of history, with a single loaf of homemade bread.

No, you haven't travelled way back in time. No, we weren't trading in "old-time" currency. And no, my mother is not an exceptional bread maker (sorry Mum).

It was 1993 and my family had just purchased a large, very rural farm on the outskirts of Whangarei.


The Kiwi farming lifestyle was new to my immigrant mother but she decided to give it her best shot, starting by meeting the neighbours. She walked to the farm next door to introduce herself to what turned out to be our very rural new neighbours - who appeared to have resided there since the beginning of time.

During her optimistic outing, my mum spotted one of them busy burning piles of farm rubbish - they were clearing out their barn.

She decided to go and say hi anyway because walking to the next farm over was not a short journey and she was already halfway there.

After the usual pleasantries, my mother watched on dozens of vintage steamer trunks were tossed onto the fire. Some were broken but others looked to still be perfectly together.

Initially too shy to call a halt to the abomination, she bit her tongue, feeling unable to say anything to these new acquaintances she hoped to befriend. Instead she watched the growing pile of beautiful old trunks burn.

That was until a familiar brown and gold monogram caught her eye: she stared in horror as an early 20th century Louis Vuitton steamer trunk was hoisted up, about to meet a sinful end.

In a desperate attempt to save it, Mum asked if she could buy it from them. Without a second thought, they handed it over, for no charge. Zero. Nada.

Ever the good sort, after carting it home she trudged back to the neighbours' farm with a loaf of warm, homemade bread as thanks. New friends parted ways, each pleased with their end of the deal.


For years this trunk sat in my family home, used as a blanket box, a costume chest and a side table. Most recently it has become a coffee table and proud focal piece in my own first home here in Auckland.

My mother couldn't have been more chuffed to clear out her garage and pass on the item, which she described as "pretty, but takes up a lot of room" - has the curse of nonchalance hit her too after all these years?

I had always told her she needed to protect it and have it restored. After some research, I deduced it was probably worth between $5000 and $8000 - much more than the $500 - $1000 she'd guessed.

My don't-you-dare-put-your-coffee-on-that table table, waiting to be restored. Photo / Supplied
My don't-you-dare-put-your-coffee-on-that table table, waiting to be restored. Photo / Supplied

Once I had it in my possession I decided to look at bringing it back to its original glory - before it had been damaged by the bumps and bruises from my childhood - and made some inquiries as to what a restoration might cost.

An email response about its true value left me gobsmacked.

I was told due to the rarity and the unique size of the trunk, after the restoration it would be worth $30,000 or more. I was also told the demand for these trunks is so high in New Zealand, it could go for whatever a keen buyer was willing to pay.

This news meant my contents insurance literally doubled in the blink of an eye and our "coffee table" quickly became a "don't-you-dare-put-your-coffee-on-that table".

Despite its value, the truth is I'll never sell it. It is a small, daily reminder in my home that sometimes the most valuable things can come from the strangest of places.

It's also a reminder that the Atkins Diet has some serious flaws. I mean, look what white starchy carbs did for my life! So the next time anyone dares to tell you bread isn't good for you, just remind them of this.

*This author has chosen to remain anonymous because this is likely the most expensive coffee table they will ever own.