If it wasn’t one thing it was another.

“What have we got here?” Harriet said, grumpy. She’d spent all morning trying to find an online buyer for a plasma screen TV that had a tendency to distort picture and color. It had looked good enough when the thing had been pawned, but Harriet was sure the shop was going to take a $500 bath on the thing.

A younger woman, college age, had come in with an item wrapped in brown paper. “You guys buy and sell everything, right?”

Harriet rolled her eyes. “You tell me,” she said, pointing to a buzzing neon sign that read WE BUY AND SELL ANYTHING in the front window, wedged between an electric guitar and a Mossberg 500 with the firing pin removed.

“Okay,” the girl said. She pulled off the paper and set a heavy wooden staff on the countertop. “What’ll you give me for this magic staff?”

Harriet sighed and fished for her jeweler’s eyepiece. “What is this, oak?” she said.

“Ash,” the girl said. “It’s an heirloom, a 1927 Wandchester with the optional black onyx gem and leyline engravings.”

“A ’27? Hardly,” Harriet groused. “See the mark here, on the butt? Wandchester didn’t use that until after the war. It’s a ’48 or maybe a ’51.”

The woman reddened. “Okay, it might not be as old as Gammy said it was, but it’s still a top of the line staff. That’s real black onyx and the carvings make the staff shatterproof.”

Harriet took a closer look. “Either you don’t know what you’re talking about or you’re trying to bankrupt me, kid. That stone’s a cheap one, obsidian. You ever see an old Wandchester catalog? Obsidian’s at the bottom, cheapest stone that’ll hold a charge. And this enchantment? It’s custom-engraved all right, but it’s for stain maintenance, not shatterproofery. Again, cheapest one in the catalog.”

“Are you sure about that?” the girl said, sounding wounded.

“Look, I bought a 1901 Tiffany staff last week for thirty-two thousand dollars, kid. I know what I’m talking about.” Harriet looked her customer in the eye. “I’ll give you $250 cash for it or pawn it for a $500 loan payable in 90 days.”

“Even if what you say is true, it’s still a good piece!” the girl cried. “It’s old and in great shape.”

“The shaft in nicked, the enchantment is wearing off in three places, and the obsidian is being held in with cheap-ass glue.”

“Can you give me at least $1000 for a pawn?” the girl said. “I won’t need it until the new term starts and I’ve gotta make rent!”

“$600. Final offer,” Harriet said. “It’s a buyer’s market, and unless you want it ground up for pixie dust by weight that’s the best you’re going to get.”