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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Treasure Hunting

I Have a Lock on Valentine’s Day

 (Cheryl-Anne Millsap / Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
(Cheryl-Anne Millsap / Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)



I usually spend Friday afternoons out and about exploring local antiques shops. My weekly deadlines have been met and it’s a treat to have the quiet time to myself.

I’ve done this since I moved to Spokane and it’s a ritual I look forward to each week. Frequently the owners are in their shops, prepping for weekend traffic, sometimes already putting out items picked up at the morning’s estate sales, and I can stop and chat. Or, when it suits me, just quietly browse. Even when I travel, I try to find a few minutes on my own, searching for a vintage souvenir.

Last week I made my rounds and stopped by Tossed and Found on north Monroe. I’d been looking at vintage Valentines all morning, thinking I would build a February 14th column around some sweet paper find. But, as it always is with treasure hunting, my Valentine arrived in an unexpected way when I spotted a small heart-shaped lock on a table and picked it up. The black paint on the body of the lock showed its age, faded and chipped in a few places. The hasp had that true rusty patina that comes with time and exposure to the elements. Stamped on the front was the patent date of Feb. 25, 1896.

I stopped looking at postcards and paper. I’d found my Valentine.

Since I brought it home I’ve carried the lock around the house like a child with a favorite toy. For a few days it rested in the dish where I drop my earrings and watch each evening. Then it spent a day on my desk as a paperweight. After I photographed it, the lock lay on the table next to the chaise lounge where I like to sit and have my coffee each morning. From time to time I pick it up and run my fingers over the surface as my mind plays over words and sentences, searching for the perfect line for whatever I am writing. I feel the weight of it and imagine the places it might have been. The little lock is a perfect example of the Victorian philosophy that even the most mundane objects should possess beauty by design.

I considered looping a ribbon over the hasp and wearing it as a pendant. It’s the perfect weight and shape for a keyring. Of course, if I can find a key, I can use it as it was intended, to secure something I want kept private and safe.

So, some may get cards and flowers. Others will celebrate with jewelry and wine. But I’m happy with my discovery.

 I like to think I have a lock on Valentine’s Day.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Home Planet , Treasure Hunting and  CAMera: Travel and Photo blogs, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes about antiques and collectibles and the love of all things vintage. Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement and she is The Spokesman-Review's female automobile reviewer. She is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. Cheryl-Anne is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."