Bonded Print CharliesTrivia brain teasers have some element of trivia in them, but they are not just pure trivia questions.
"Look, Aunt Nora!" Chuckie Shekrie, Nora's nephew, called from two tables ahead at the swap meet. "A whole plate of Charles ... I mean, Charleses ... Chuckies?" Nora shared a grin with her brother, and they went to see what the eight-year-old had found.
He'd found a table sporting Scandinavian collectibles. The display included silverware, decorated clocks, carved wooden toys, crystal bowls and other vessels, and the obligatory array of Father Christmas figures.
The apple-cheeked woman behind the table smiled as Chuckie pointed to his find, politely keeping his hand at least six inches from anything breakable.
"See? Eight on a plate!" His finger indicated an octagonal platter.
Nelson, his father, bent over to look. The central shield was an 11" piece of cut crystal, certainly up to the standards his wife had drilled into him over a decade of shopping for dinner presentation pieces. This was set in an eight-sided porcelain border. In the center of each side was a male face, carved before firing and enhanced with India ink or some similar material. The largest portrait, directly above the centered shield, was detailed enough to be taken from a painting; the one to its left appeared to be some level of woodcut. The others were done with less precision, as if ...
"... done from written records and the artists' imaginations," the woman was telling them, "since there are no actual portraits of the first six. Charles VII comes from a bone-and-ink portrait in a museum in Stockholm; Charles VIII is copied from a painting in one of the big Paris museums." Her voice lilted prettily, calling up images of springtime melts and home-baked edibles.
"It's a cute piece," Nelson said, "and it's even an anniversary." He pointed to the etching in the shield, which read "1948, 500th Anniversary of the coronation of Charles VIII, King of Sweden, 1448."
He imagined his wife's reaction. "Sharon would love the crystal and white combination, and the history is great. She's Swedish, remember. But I think even she might flinch at $750 for a serving dish."
Nora addressed her brother, but looked straight at the vendor. "I think she might also flinch at having an obvious fake, no matter how beautiful. Would you be willing to pay, say, $150 for it, dear brother? I saw something comparable for $200 half an hour ago." The vendor turned even redder. "I think it's a fair price. After all, a very nice serving piece has been debased by a sloppy joke."
The woman controlled her emotions, stared at the plate, and held out her hand to Nelson. Confused, he shook it and immediately wrote out a check for $150.
How did Nora know it wasn't real?
HintThe dates for Charles VIII of Sweden are accurate; look up Charles V.
AnswerThe big tip-off was the stylized portraits of Charles I through VI. They never existed. For some unknown reason, the first Charles to ascend to the Swedish throne took the name "Charles VII". He was assassinated in 1167, and Sweden didn't get the other Charles until 1448.
Sharon Shekrie was delighted with her husband's purchase. She used it for years after to brag about Nora's quick thinking and to embarrass the occasional pseudo-intellectual.
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