Thursday, September 24, 2009
Years ago there was an antique dealer that lived in the little town of Funkstown, not far from where I live today. He was considered eccentric , because his little shop was filled with what looked like trash. There was a narrow path to get to the door , and once inside you maneuvered through a maze of piles of stuff to get to the counter. To the locals who were not in the antique business, he was eccentric. To antique dealers around here in that era, he was the one you went to for reference and to talk shop. Although I remember the outside of the shop, I was one of those who just looked at the place as a junk dealer's shop. Many years later when he passed on to the sky above, I realized he was a genius. He was even invited a few times to D.C. to lecture about antiques. By this time I was still green as far as knowledge of the antique business. I attended his estate auction because I heard there was antique paper being offered. And there was...not just paper, but the entire old building was lined with stacks of old catalogues and magazines. Not the kind the general public received. Instead, the kind the retail store would receive, wholesale catalogs. Everyone that was in the business was at that auction. The prices went sky high, it was amazing. I was able to buy a few of those catalogs and still have them today. This is the kind of item where condition does not have merit...at least in those days, because this type item was very important if you were going to be a success in the antique business. Wholesale catalogs that went to the retailers were the " Bible " for the old timers antique business. For instance, A lady comes into your shop looking to add pieces to her silverware...what is the pattern ? Look it up in your catalog....So many times through the years someone will ask me ( and other dealers in this business ), how do you know so much about this stuff ? This would be before the Internet...and , unlike today where all things are revealed, the answer was just a shrug with a smile or wink. And , those reference books that are written these days, chances are they used the old catalogs and magazines for most of the research...that is why old catalogs are being reprinted today. So, through the years I have sold some of my wonderful catalogs, but my favorites are still here in secret niches of the house to enjoy when all alone. Better than reading a book . Shown are a few of my favorite catalogs to give you an idea of what a store truly was like in those days. As the years go by, I will be listing my treasures on Ruby Lane, so, you might want to keep an eye on my shop there. Treasures can be had today..not reprints, but the true actual items of yesterday's world. They say one cannot go back into time, but, to this I say, you can hold the past in your hands, and cherish it
Sunday, August 16, 2009
They say that one collects toys that they remember from their childhood. I can truly understand that statement, however, I believe one collects toys that speak to them. Now, I do not mean pull the string and it speaks. No, instead, once in a while you will happen upon a collector who says they only buy the toys that speak to them. You hear this statement sometimes at doll shows. I can remember the first antique doll I held. My husband ( before we married ) had a doll sitting on top of a cabinet in his apartment. When he told me she was 100 years old, I was shocked. This was in the days before I became an antique dealer / collector and had a different career. Needless to day, that doll became an obsession with me. I went to the library and read all I could about dolls like her ( this was long before the invention of the Internet ) . And, I can truthfully say, she was the beginning of my treasure hunts. I was simply amazed that toys like that still existed. I had to know the why, how, and what , about dolls, teddy bears and toys. After we married, I become a dealer and collector of many things . Honestly, one has to be married to either an antique dealer or collector to understand how a house becomes...well, shall we say, a fun place to live. When one walks into most homes, you see the usual living room couch, TV, perhaps a fireplace etc. No so with this house. Cabinets are filled with Teddy Bears and little toys and games. Look to the left, and dolls and teddy bears welcome you as the rest of the porcelain and other things I have collected truly do take second place. After all, how can one notice anything else when a Teddy Bear is looking up at you...especially if Teddy has his own doll ! Oh my, that is fun. There's no order in the cabinets...it's as though the toys decide for themselves where they want to be. And a toy is not displayed alone, oh no, never...dolls need things like miniature books and hand fans and mesh purses. Toy Kitty Cats need hiding places to peek out from. And the big cabinets need tiny cabinets to hold tiny things. Eventually, the toys and dolls in this house will have to be sold. Many have found new homes through the years which is not easy to do. There was a time when everything I selected for this house, was selected in mind as a presentation for our eventual downsizing estate auction ...but, through the years after attending many wonderful estate auctions and having a few wonderful estate auctioneers as friends, I have decided instead, to sell our items one by one through my shop on Ruby Lane. Although the auctioneers I know are the best around , I will sell our things myself because each item I or we have found through the years has truly become a part of us. When I walk into a room , sit down and look around, I can't help but smile. Although our house is rather full, it is a kaleidoscope of colors that somehow blend together . When one is bitten by the urge to collect , it is a joyous memorable trip. Collecting something is a wonderful pass time that can bring not only a smile to your face, but also a good investment. Some collectors of today's world feel that an item has to be mint in box...that is something that really got out of hand in the 1970's when collecting became so popular. If a box has wonderful graphics and was a box that normally would have been thrown away, yes, that's a valuble box. Box, the idea of buying a modern collectible to never hold it, to never remove from the box, is a very sad thing. To me, the box becomes the prison of the toy. But, to each his own. For this blog I included a few extra photos of our treasures as they are displayed here in our home. I think when you view the photos, you will have to smile...and that is why collecting this type thing is an obssession..it makes me smile
Friday, August 7, 2009
I can remember the little general store in Sabillasville Md. Actually, there were 3 of them, but the one I remember best was ole Charlie Shields' store. It had the penny candy store cases , the broom rack and so forth. So, when we started collecting advertising, it really was a walk down memory lane. At first I felt silly searching for old tins that should have been thrown away. Old tins were usually saved to store things in such as nails, buttons, you name it, a good old tin can was great for storing things. That is why they can still be found today. Before the Internet, one could still go into an old general store and buy the old , never used stock , stored in the basement. The first time I realized old tins etc were collectible was when my husband brought the contents of a basement of a store downtown Hagerstown. Well, boxes upon boxes of old tins never opened, little bags of kids' toys never hung on the racks. Boxes of figural celluloid tape measures...a large load of untouched inventory spanning 30 years from the 1940's to around 1970. I helped him display everything in the antique shop and when we were done, I was hooked. It looked just like a real country store. And so, the treasure hunt began. I wanted to find things that dated in the beginning of the 1900's era because although my memory of Charlie Shields store is from the 1950's to 1960's era, we lived in the country, so, his store really was a step back into time, even in those days. First, I started adding advertising items to the kitchen. Kitchens are perfect for advertising tins such as spice tins, coffee tins and old tin signs. Then, the downstairs was transformed from an office to a 2 room country store. It took many years to acquire the things in our collection. The photo shown shows just a small space. As you can see, that small space is filled with no room to spare...well, maybe a few more tins can be added here and there. Each piece is a special memory as to how I found it... and sometimes, I smile when I realize how I would begin searching for a particular type of item such as candy boxes, and how that search would become an obsession. It was not only wonderful to find those items, but to research the reason why they became so popular in their day. When we still owned the antique shop, country store collectors were the mainstay of our business. Almost everyone wanted to have that look added to their home. If not a country store decor, then the primitive country decor. Why ? Because it is a step back into the world of simpler times. When sitting at the wood stove on a cold winter day to talk about the things going on in town was the way news was gathered. Penny candy , the Fire Ball bubble gum, the old cigars the men enjoyed. The days when homemade Lye soap was in a barrel made by someone local as a way to supplement their income. We finally made room in our country store room for a card table and 4 wonderful leather chairs. The kind of table poker players would relax for hours playing poker. So, when life gets too hectic, or when I am tired and want to just get away from it all, I go to the country store...the one downstairs. I prop my feet up, lean back, close my eyes, and the world of yesteryear is with me once more.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
My husband served in Viet Nam and then became an Air Force recruiter until retirement age. He's the kind of man you enjoy talking to, and know you can trust. A long time ago, one of his recruits called him. She was still in the military, probably still is since she was staying in till retirement. She remembered he was also an antique dealer. This girl's grandmother had passed away, and the some personal estate was left to her. Well, since she was a military gal, she could not just drop everything and take care of the belongings. Although it had been years since she had talked to my husband, she remembered him, and knew he was the one to help. She brought a van load of items to us. We sat down, and when she told us who her Grandfather was, my husband was ecstatic. I am not a sports fan at all, so I had no idea of why my husband was looking like a kid in a candy store. Even when we unloaded the van, I still had no idea of what was so exciting. The load just looked like a bunch of old scrapbooks to me. I was selling items on the Internet by then, and I agreed to sell her grandfather's things for her. She went back to where ever her military location was , and I was left with a huge room of scrapbook albums and so forth. Well, her grandfather's name was Bill Norman. This fellow lived and breathed baseball. I guess there were at least 25 or more scrapbooks. Thankfully, the first thing I read was the newspaper clipping you see in the photo beside this blog. It was written by Bob Broeg. You may as well say, Broeg opened my eyes to the world of baseball pre 1962. His article told me so much about Bill Norman that I could not have understood any of the scrapbooks' importance without it. I poured through every single page in those scrapbooks. The scrapbooks were made by Norman's wife. He was a fellow that was not home very much because baseball was his life. While he was away earning their keep, she stayed home being the wonderful family wife and loved it to the max. She cut out every newspaper clipping ever wrote that had Norman in it. I felt like I knew him, and honestly, I was so wrapped up in it, I even found his grave site on the net...I auctioned off those scrapbooks and the bidding was fierce which made me so pleased, because he deserved to be acknowledged. He was a baseball scout , a fellow that went everywhere looking for ball players. I was so involved in those scrapbooks that I really had a tough time parting with them...but, they were not mine, and to tell the truth, they belonged to fans of the sports world. If I remember right, most of the scrapbooks went to Wilkesbarr , Pa. My husband arranged to have the scout book and the belt buckle brought for me as a surprise , after everything was shipped out to the winning bidders. I have the 1960 notebook he used with his own hand written notes about different players. And, I have his White Sox belt buckle. He died in 1962 of a heart attack, which is sad, because scouting for the White Sox would have been the highlight of his career . I still do not enjoy sports , but, I have to confess, you just never know where the antique business will lead you. It was one of the most exciting events of my career in antiques. I happened upon the Bill Norman items the other day, and thought, now there's a good story for a blog. Bill Norman, the SABR forgot to include you, but, I will never forget you and your fascination with baseball.
I can remember the first box of antique post cards I ever owned. At that time, I was not an antique dealer, instead, I was dating my husband who was an antique dealer. He brought them at a house not far from my house, and after the house call, brought them inside for safe keeping while we went out to dinner. Well, when I saw the shoe box crabbed full of what looked to me to be old papers, I had to ask. It was then that I learned about antique post cards. It was another eye opening event. Needless to say, we ordered dinner to be delievered since the box of cards were on my lap and I was going no where. Thankfully, he had a long day that the shop, and was content to relax watching T.V. while I took a trip back through time. Those postcards were a true time capsule. They were not a dealer's box of cards. Instead they were saved through the years as they were sent. Starting in 1910 up to around 1940. It was mazing they were not thrown away. So, the next day I went back to the library to get a book on post cards. When I start something, I am the type person to go over the top and beyond. I am not content to just know, instead I need to understand the why, how, when etc. After we married, I started helping at the antique mall where my husband was part owner with 3 other partners. I started buying postcards at auctions, and the cards I did not want to keep, were put in sleeves and sold in our booth
Saturday, August 1, 2009
A long time ago, I had a call to see a lady down in W Va.
If I recall right, her home place was in N.H. When her husband retired, he insisted on moving to the country.
And that they did. It took a long drive through many winding roads to finally find their new home. It was a sleek modern home, so, I really did not expect any treasures to be found.
She was actually the best treasure. The fist call found me haggling prices with her all day. We enjoyed it tremendously.
We made the arrangement that she would travel to the home place and bring as much down to the new home as possible for me to buy.
The first load was wonderful, but the second load is my fondest memory. She had a box of buttons and wanted a fortune for them. I joked with her about the amount and since we had become buddies at that point, I told her no way could those buttons bring such a price.
She looked at me in such surprise that I was worried that I offended her, and chastised myself for not remembering my house call rules I had always set for myself...But, no, instead, she looked at me and said, " oh my, you do not know buttons ? "
I looked back at her and said.., " Buttons ? No, not really ". She made me promise to buy a button book ( the Internet was not born yet ). We put the box of buttons aside, and after I brought just about everything she had brought down from the home place, she reach over , patted me on the hand, and told me she would sell me the buttons for a very low price..and promised once I knew buttons, I would be delighted with this treasure. Well, to her , the price was low..but to me, at that time, it was high, really high..but, I brought them anyway.
And when I got home, I went to the book store and brought a button reference book.
My eyes were opened to a whole new world. Do you know buttons ? If not, you need to buy a button book and loose yourself in the fabulous world of buttons.
I still have that box of buttons.
Mrs Smith, my dear friend, died before she could finish bringing the rest of her treasures down for me to buy..it was a sudden un expected illness..she had Cancer of the Pancreas and was gone in 2 months.
By the time I found out, it was too late to say good bye.
No need to. She will always be in my heart. And whenever I see buttons, a bell rings in my head, and I remember our visits together haggling out prices of things I was to buy.
This is the first story of this blog, and it is dedicated to her.
I live in Hagerstown Md, a place that has always been nicknamed " The Hub ". Which actually for today, means in the center of things. I can search for fabulous antiques and collectibles in the tri state area easily in one day instead of traveling days to visit one antique mall. I am well known in the area, due to the fact that my husband founded Beaver Creek Antique Market, which at one time ( before he sold his share of the mall ) was one of the most visited antique malls on the East Coast. A house call is always a welcomed call. It means I am invited to go to the person's house and see what they want to sell. Sometimes, instead of buying, I give advice as to where to send their items to auction and so forth. You never know what you might find at a house call. Although I am always excited when going on a house call, 9 times out of 10 the call will end up with me just giving advice. But, with patience, and kindness ( it pays to listen ) , the house call sometimes is a call back, meaning they call me back to the home to sell me the items after all. Here's some advice to those of you that might someday be asked to go to a house to buy. Open your ears and listen...and talk to the people, not at them. And, if the item is a cherished family heirloom that they truly believe should be in a museum, and you know it is a common item, not rare...let them down gently...tell the good points of the item first...then be truthful. After all, families do cherish items because so and so declared this and that. There's always that phase, " I got this from my grandmother and she would be 100 years old now if she was alive..she lived to be 80 "...well, she could have brought the item when she was 79...which in most cases, the item declared to be so old, is actually later 1900's pre 2000. Sometimes I will make an offer on an item, and if the person hesitates, I tell them to write my offer down..I give them my business card..and they can call me back if they find no one will top my price..sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. So, there you have it. This blog is to help those of you that are thinking of having someone over to buy your things, and it is to help those of you that are in the antique busines too...what to say and when to say it. My next blog will be about one of my favorite house calls and what I found...be sure to watch for it.