The Case of the Mysterious Priceless VaseJune 20, 2011
Living on a small tropical island may seem boring to some folks, but our island has all kinds of exciting things happening all the time. We have frequent visits from UFO’s, unexplained power outages, alligators in saltwater canals, strange characters roaming the streets, mysterious signs proclaiming Yard of the Month awards, the theft of the great Polly the Flamingo Mailbox, and the true story of the amazing case of the Mysterious Priceless Vase.
The story of the Mysterious Priceless Vase begins at the boating community of Isles of Capri in Naples, Florida. The Isles of Capri is a small island chain just north of Marco Island, only a few miles long, with most homes having direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. We have several marinas, two general stores, a fire station, commercial fishing & crabbing boats, but no gas station nor street lights. The meeting places for locals are the small beach behind the fire station, the Capri Civic Association building, and four restaurants. People also meet while walking their dogs or driving their golf carts around the island.
One quiet Saturday morning on May 21, 2011 behind the Isle of Capri Fire and Rescue a construction worker finds an enormous treasure, an ornate vase, believed to have washed up on the beach underneath our new 265 foot dock being constructed behind the fire station.
The lucky worker immediately told the Fire Chief about the treasure he found, who contacted the editor of the Coconut Tele (our Email Alert System), who contacted the local photographer, then the exciting news was shared with residents the next day via an Email from the Coconut Tele which included a picture of the mysterious vase.
Instantly the speculation started, the community went into a treasure hunting mood hoping the vase was valuable or maybe priceless. People speculated about the vase’s origin due to its ornate design, some called it an urn or pot. This spectacular vase had gold painted all over it with graphical depictions of angels, women, faces, birds, and urns. The bottom had an old style symbol commonly found on antique porcelain and china. One resident described the vase as unusual, another Bohemian, yet another Victorian, and the best guess:
"It may be a rare Italian DaVinci piece from the 16th century that went missing in a canal in Venice, or dropped from Cleopatra's barge while she and Anthony were partying," surmised our volunteer island photographer who captured photographs of the pot found on the sandy shore.
The funny thing is, the vase was in perfect condition, aside from a clean break on the top, it had no barnacles, no algae, no signs whatsoever of being in the water for any length of time. It was in perfect condition. How could this vase be from the 1600’s and still be perfect?
Sometimes it’s more fun to “believe” something is valuable. Well, someone actually came up with an explanation for the great condition of the vase:
"If it was completely submerged under the sand, it would emerge in its original condition because it was not exposed to the elements; the sand and lack of oxygen preserved it. The consensus was that the drilling of the new dock “released” the vase from its resting place buried under the sand."
Over the following week the news of the Mysterious Priceless Vase spread, people talked about it on the streets and in the bars, this was an exciting event for our little island community. A priceless artifact was discovered in our backyard.
- Are there more treasures out there?
- Is there a sunken ship in our Johnson’s Bay?
- When does the digging start?
- Has the piece been appraised yet?
- Who owns it? Where is it?
Then the story was published in the local newspaper in the Capri Connection section of the Marco Island Sun Times letting the world know a valuable vase was found. The photographer who found the vase wrote about the tale calling the vase
"The Ol' Jug":
"As my eyes gazed at the art work that covered this large vase, I pictured it coming a long distance and being in the ocean for 100's or 1000's of years. Maybe it came from the canals of Venice, a DaVinci throw-away, or maybe it fell off of Cleopatra's barge during one of her and Antony's partys."
Well, people read and see what they want to hear, so after the article appeared in the Marco Island Sun Times, the fire department received calls about permission to scout the beach for more treasure. Some callers even demanded to know “who” had the vase for further inspection.
The Fire Chief was getting frustrated with all the calls and commented in an Email sent by the Coconut Tele:
"They want to dig up the beach and search for more, and they demand to know where the pot is."
After the Fire Chiefs frustration was revealed, a concerned resident finally came forward with the answer to the origin of the mystery vase:
“It is not an amphora or priceless anything. A while back, I believe a matter of months, at the local Pelican Bend Restaurant & Marina, a woman came in with vases of that type for sale. I think she ran a decorating business. She didn't get many takers, and somehow that one got broken.
"So, she just pitched it into the water and there it lay, waiting for our dock construction crew to uncover it and assume it was a priceless antique.
"This tale was verified by an afternoon client at the Pelican Bend," said this informant.
The story was so interesting that our island resident reporter who has a sense of humor decided to publish this story two times in the Marco Island Sun Times. In the first story she speaks comically of the find which caused the Fire Chief to get so many calls, and in the second story she tells of its actual origin that was revealed by the informant. She ended the second story with:
"This started quite an adventure, and we thought it wasn't worth anything, but you could not pay enough for memories like this," said the author with a laugh.
After the vase’s origin was revealed, the swirl of speculation ended, and the funny story of the Mysterious Priceless Vase will forever be in our memories.
But this is NOT the end of the story…
As a frequent customer at the local Pelican Bend Restaurant and Marina's Tiki Bar and recipient of the Coconut Tele, I witnessed the fury of speculation first hand and knew exactly where the mysterious vase came from—My Trunk!
This true tale actually started when a neighbor, who was moving, placed two vases in the trash. Noticing the big vases sitting on top of the pile calling me to investigate, I stopped and looked them over. I thought they were too nice to throw away and each vase had a price tag on the bottom for $200, so I put them in my trunk. The vases were not my taste but I figured someone would love these expensive vases.
A month went by and I forgot the vases were in the trunk until one day I was driving onto Isles of Capri when I suddenly heard them rolling around, again calling me to investigate.
I pulled into the Pelican Bend to investigate the rolling vases, and thought, why not have a cold brew while I was at it?
I opened the trunk, sadly discovering one of the vases, the Mysterious Priceless Vase, rolled one too many times and the top lip was broken. So I up righted the vases, collected the broken off pieces which could have easily been glued back on, then went inside the Bend and asked the bartender if she wanted some cool looking expensive vases. She followed me to the trunk and took the square shaped one. Unfortunately she did not want the mate, the Mysterious Priceless Vase, so I brought it into the bar to look for another taker; I wanted it out of my trunk.
Of course the vases became the topic of conversation in the Pelican Bend that afternoon. It’s not every day two exotic looking large vases make their way to a Tiki bar. Most patrons thought the vases were too ornate for their taste. We all laughed how ugly the vases were. Incoming patrons commented on the vases and thought the same; I had no takers on the 2nd broken vase, the Mysterious Priceless Vase. The third matching piece was a pedestal for the Mysterious Priceless Vase, some thought it could be used as a candle holder and contemplated taking it (I never did find out where this piece ended up!). The Bend has so many unique decorations everywhere so I figured the two unclaimed pieces would find a home somewhere in the Tiki, having said that I went home leaving the vases on the bar.
The next afternoon I received an Email from the Coconut Tele about the unearthing of a Mysterious Priceless Vase, including a picture of it! Hey, that is my vase. How did it get in the water?
I promptly went down to the Pelican Bend and learned a local guy, who was in the Pelican Bend Tiki earlier when I first brought the vases in, came back later that night a little "Tipsy". He boisterously announced the unclaimed vase was “ugly”. He picked up the vase, walked out to the dock and threw it in Johnson's Bay! No more looking at that ugly vase. (He later told me, after reading the first draft of this story, that he intended to walk to the end of the dock to dispose of the vase, but he was too tipsy to make it that far, so he dumped it off the edge of the seawall behind the Tiki. This tale would not have transpired if he sent it off the end of the dock; the vase would have been swept out with the tide to the Gulf of Mexico, maybe ending up in The Keys?)
The next day the stories started to swirl and during the following week the vase was the topic of discussion on the Coconut Tele with an Email a day discussing the treasure. We had so much fun at the Pelican Bend recounting the imaginative stories we heard, we all knew the origin of the vase but nobody was leaking the truth because it was good fun hearing the stories and speculations.
About a week later, I received an Email from the Coconut Tele stating someone was going to start digging behind the fire station for more treasures. I freaked and immediately called the Capri Fire Station to tell them what happened. The last thing we needed on our little island was a trove of treasure hunters digging up our bay and back yards, and it would be my fault for not revealing the origin of the vase.
Funny thing is, the Sergeant at the fire station never told anyone outside the station, so a few days later another article appeared in the Marco Island Sun Times with an unknowingly false “explanation” from the informant. What a coincidence that a few months back someone was selling similar vases in the bar; their story was strange and nobody in the Pelican Bend recalls anyone selling vases.
The consensus between my friends was to keep quiet and let the speculation continue because nobody believes the printed explanation, but I had to share this fun story. Just yesterday I was at the Bend and overheard a man talking about the vase to someone, proclaiming it was worthless because it had a Heart on the bottom. I laughed to myself knowing there wasn’t a Heart on the bottom. It is funny how stories get twisted. I guess the mystery of the priceless vase will live on if people don’t read this story.
The one thing I wonder, where is the vase?
I inquired and was told it was last seen on a dock post at the Capri Fire Station.
Did it fall back into the water? Where will the tide carry it? Will it surface again and continue its fame?
Wondering what happened to the second vase, the Mate to our famous Mysterious Priceless Vase?
Remember the bartender said she was taking the square shaped vase home on the first day of this story?
So I assumed—
Well, about a half hour after I left that day, a local guy came into the Pelican Bend Tiki Bar and told the bartender he did’t have a gift for his wife’s 50th birthday coming up in a few days. He had no idea what to get her.
Kiddingly, the bartender told him he could give her the square vase she took from my trunk since it was in perfect condition and the tag said $200—the vase would be an “expensive” gift. She was still kidding when she added that he should leave the tag on so his wife would know how valuable the vase is. He thought that was a “Great Idea!”
As he walked out the door with the vase, the bartender warned him his wife would probably “crack it over his head” and suggested he give her jewelry instead, not some stupid vase. He said he didn’t care if his head was bashed in, he had a gift!
A few days later, with no pomp or glory, the husband gave his wife the vase for her 50th birthday. The husband did not wrap the gift nor take the $200 tag off; he just handed it to her. What a Dork!
The wife’s reaction was “what the heck is this?”
Pointing to the naked woman on the vase he said “look honey, see the beautiful Angel, it reminds me of you!" And guess what she did with it?
She tossed it into Johnson’s Bay!
After telling a friend about the disappointing gift, the friend broke her silence and told the wife where the vase came from and the story of the Mysterious Priceless Vase. The wife laughed and said:
"I should have cracked the vase over his head!"
He is now in the dog house. Too funny!
The amazing part of this story is that both vases came to a similar end in the same body of water, Johnson’s Bay.
Were they meant to be together?
Who says life is boring on a little island. Hey, we even have UFO’s here!
I’ll save that story for another time.
If you happen to spot the great Polly the Flamingo Mailbox there is a $1,050 reward offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thief, she is sorely missed. (Update: Polly has been found but not the thief)
I would also like to thank all the "locals" for their good humor and contributions to this story, it has been fun!
Special thanks to Ann Hall & Jim Hughes for their good humor, help in solving the mystery, and Jim's wonderful photo's. Ann Hall deserves a big "thumbs up" for her hard work keeping the locals of Isles of Capri informed with the Coconut Tele Emails.
Please Contact me if you have information on the whereabouts of the the vases.