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Japanese House With a Japanese View

14 July 2010

Every estate sale is a window into people, families, and the landscape of living. When attending these events I invariably analyze the details that are left in the four walls of the house. I don’t mean to be disrespectful. It is in my nature to profile people and places. People are much the same wherever you go. It is an advantage to me to keep my eyes open. This weekend provided a richer field than usual to wander in search of unusual artifacts and meaningful moments.

There are houses, and then, there are homes of distinction. It is a privilege to walk through certain doors because they lead to subtle riches. Sequim, Washington rests in a valley with it’s back to a towering range of mountains. North of the town is a much less imposing ridge running like a barrier to the shore line of the Straits of Juan De Fuca. Last Saturday found me at one of the best organized and best run estate sales I have been to in a long time. It was at a house on Medsker Road which runs along the ridge. The first thing that struck me about the house was the tiled roof. Covered in authentic Japanese ceramic tiles it is an eye catching structure with classic Japanese lines. The glazing is a brilliant blue accentuated by stark white walls.

The sale began in the three car garage where Swallow’s Nest Antique & Estate Sales was setup with cashier and will call tables. The garage had an array of tools and utilitarian household items. Once inside the house I was struck by the tasteful blending of Japanese and western design. Everywhere you looked was clear straight grained wood The rooms were spacious with an open plan that flowed beautifully from one end of the structure to the other. Furnishings throughout were Asian in style with good use of built-in features. A central element of the house is a Japanese tea room complete with shoji screens and tatami mats. When talking to the estate sale staff members I found out that the owners imported craftsmen from Japan to build this particular part of the house.

The merchandise was laid out in various rooms in an organized and uncluttered way which befitted the style of the abode. Prices were quite reasonable and I came away with some interesting smalls and several books that appealed to me personally. As I wandered through the building I was taken by the purposeful harmony of design. This became all the more evident when I looked out through the large windows that open up the south side of the house to a striking view. At that point the house became a complete work of art.

Architecture is at it’s organic best when it joins it’s surroundings seamlessly. A Japanese house needs a Japanese view. The valley extended before the house with a sweeping vista painted in the varying shades of early summer green.  The town spreadout beneath the towering backbone of the Olympic mountains which supported a clear blue sky. The fields below had been recently mowed and where dotted by bales of hay in patterns that crawled in orderly rows, not quite straight, but winding in sinuous progression. The pattern had that natural but intentional, random, but carefully arranged look of Ikebana. The effect was artistically complete and deeply satisfying.

In a business that deals in the tangible manifestations of intangible concepts one may begin to value economics over aesthetics. This is understandable in hard times such as these.  I experienced it long ago as a young woodcarver/sculptor watching his customer base swirl away in a recessionary spiral.  Beauty is not reserved for the fortunate. Even while casting about with dollar signs in my eyes I occasionally come upon a transcendent moment. Payday is any day that you are lifted up to a finer place than first hoped for.

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Slow Going on eBay

13 July 2010

I have to say that as much as I liked the fact that ebay gave out some free auction space it hasn’t done me much good. Out of 24 auctions which ended Sunday and Monday only three resulted in sales. None took any bids higher than the starting price. Maybe it’s something I’m doing wrong. Maybe it’s the economy

I have been out on the garage sale circuit quite a bit lately and they don’t seem as crowded as in past years. The same with estate sales. This business depends on the customer having discretionary funds. People will buy food and fuel before they buy nostalgia. I’ve seen it before. We just need to hang on and look to the future. Collectibles are like the stock market, always looking for an opportunity to go bullish.

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Selling for Free On Ebay Update, How are You Doing?

5 July 2010

We are well along in the current eBay free listing opportunity.  How are you doing?  I’d like to know if there are lots of people taking advantage of this or is everyone just kicking back enjoying the fireworks and beer. I have been busy posting auctions.  As of this writing I have 23 active auctions.  I have kept all of the starting prices low.  About half are relisted items that i would like to clear out of inventory.

I started posting on Sunday and added several more today.  I will probably put a few more into gear tomorrow.  I never seem to have good luck with items posted later in the week than Tuesday.  If you are interested in what i am offering check my member ID, gwynnsmom.  I have no bids yet but there are a bunch of watchers and page views.  The real action happens at the end anyway, so I’m feeling good right now.

My favorite item is the Naval Air technical training Center photo book.  I wrote a post about it when I first offered it for sale and I am surprised it is still hanging around.   Write a comment and share your experience.  Tell us what you have high hopes for or what is just a dog you hope to shed soon.  Have a happy Fourth of July.  I hope you all make the big bucks.  It’s the American way.

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Sell For Free on eBay, Right Now!

1 July 2010

We all love the rare occasions when eBay has an event allowing auction style listings without an initial insertion fee. They did back around the Memorial holiday.  I was very pleased but did not expect it to happen again soon.  well, expect the unexpected because it’s here again for Independence Day.  the dates for this special event are June 29 through July 12.

You can get all the details from the horses mouth by going to auctions to begin and end on Sundays between 5:00 and 6:00 pm eastern time.  Be advised that other premium fees may still be in effect.  I would suggest keeping your auctions simple and starting bids low.  this is the ideal time to give those items that didn’t sell in the past and are just languishing in your inventory another chance.  Whenever possible offer free shipping.  Consider the occasion a clearance sale and make a little cash to spend on some truly hot collectibles.  Good luck!  Think like a capitalist and prosper.

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A Passion for Paper

1 July 2010

What does a dealer in collectibles collect for himself?  For me it was paper.  There is something about printed media that interests me on many levels.  Maybe it’s the pack rat in me.  As I grew into the antique and collectible field I continually came across what is called in the trade “ephemera.”  It fascinated me like nothing else in the profession.  I like the way the name suggests something that is lacking in substance and liable to imminent decay.  It suggests that not only our lives but the physical traces of our path through history are but dust in the wind.  The great paper trail of society comes in many forms: advertising, books, maps, documents, trading cards, lithography, prints and engravings.  The field is a grand combination of history and art.

I am fascinated with the artwork found on old documents.  Check out an antique stock certificate.  The engraved illustrations can be quite beautiful.  A postage stamp album is an art gallery in miniature.  Old checks and bank drafts often have very well done engravings or lithographed pictures.  As an item to collect collect old paper can include a broad array of subject matter or be highly specialized.  I have enjoyed maps since I was very small.  they feed the imagination as well as keep one from getting lost.  They record the locations of history and remind us of so many things now gone.  I used to have a climber’s map of Mount St. Helens that I kind of took for granted until one day it became instantly collectible as it became apparent that they weren’t going to need to print anymore of them.

Remember when road maps could be had for free at any gas station?  They are quite collectible especially if they have the right art work on the front panel.  If you are new to collecting road maps be advised that the printers didn’t always place a date on them in an obvious way.  Instead, they had a code in one of the margins.  you can read the date codes at websites such as http://www.roadmaps.org/date.html.  Maps were one of my first surprises in the collectible business.  I had always appreciated them and enjoyed them and didn’t realize what a treasure they were until I put one on eBay for a dollar and it got bid up to sixty.

One of my other favorite items were Victorian trade cards.  I had hardly known of their existence.  They keep showing up in box lots and stuffed into old books as page markers.  I admired the many charming lithographed designs and appreciated the historical detail they conveyed.  The light soon came on in my head and I adopted them as a lively little niche market.  They were doubly fun as I could gather them up at estate sales and flea markets. I kept the ones that interested me and sold everything else.  It was the first hobby I ever had that paid for itself and then some.

Of course the category includes books but that is a huge subject I will leave for another day.  There is so much more to cover in this fascinating area.  The use of paper spans centuries and the printers art has been so important in developing civilization it can hardly be grasped.  The invention of the printing press was every bit as world-changing as the invention of the Internet.   Before photography brought every man’s eye view to printed pages the graphic arts flourished wherever ink landed on paper.   Art in the hands of the common man is democratizing.

There seems an endless supply of ephemera stashed away in attics, basements and store rooms.  A good specialty shop in the field is like a god mine.  Back east I loved to go to Mr. 3L, Leonard L. Lasko’s shop on The Lincoln Highway east of Lancaster, PA.  Mr. lasko is a character and he’s been in his business for a long time.  The shop is not the neatest and if you like organization forget it.  This is a place to adjust your attitude and surrender to the thrill of the hunt.  You can find a staggering array of old advertising sometimes in new old stock wholesale units.  I remember finding packets of old Seven-Up soda bottle labels that had never been used.  They were just as they had come from the printer.  I bought them for a good price and sold them in small lots on eBay for over a year for a healthy profit.  Deals like that are just the ticket for steady cash flow.

Lasko doesn’t have much of  an internet presence but apparently he is still in business if you are interested.  You can find him at 2931 Lincoln Highway East, 17529 Gordonsville, PA, Phone: 001 (717) 687-6165.  oddly enough his favorite advertising strategy is announcing a “going out if business sale.”  he’s been going out of business for as long as I can remember.  Maybe he will shutter his shop someday but it’s still worth stopping in sometime just in case.  After all business in this day and age can be somewhat ephemeral.

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Exploring New Venues for Buying and Selling

28 June 2010

It’s easy for me to get stuck following the same old paths but sometimes it becomes apparent that I need to think outside the rut.  Living in a smaller more remote communinty than previously has taken away a lot of choices for funding good collectibles either for myself or to sell. There must be others who have falen into the same situation.  It is time to beat the bushes and start down the path less traveled.  Who knows what fine collectible cliches we may find.

In the near future I will be uncovering  and reporting on alternative venues for buying and selling antique and collectible items.  Ebay is not the only game in town even if it is the biggest, which it is.  Certainly I am not completely soured on the Bay as some have become.  Local antique stores don’t seem to have as broad a selection as I like and the prices often leave no room for me if I choose to sell.

A quick recon of internet alternatives shows that the competing auctions tend to be more narrow in focus.  For instance I just registered at mynotera.com which is an auction site specializing in ephemera.  As this was a favorite niche market of mine back in the day I am going to check it out with a little interactive testing.  I will be reporting back in due course.  Sites like this have nowhere near the numbers of dealers or buyers as the 800 pound gorilla. Is that a good reason to stay away?  If nobody goes to these sites they will not prosper and grow.  Let’s put the competition back in capitalism and build a healthy marketplace.  If you know of a particular internet auction or collectible store that you would like me to check out send an email my way.  I think I’m ready to shake things up, are you?

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An Antique Attitude

23 June 2010

Som where on the way to 57 I became cranky.  Not mean and nasty, just cranky.  I got into the antiques trade as a stress reliever.  The law firm I worked in as a paralegal was a collection of tightly wound people crouching behind typewriters. They dug through endless file folders for the scattered parts of statutory weapons with which to bludgeon their prey.  You can probably tell I wasn’t happy in that job.  On Saturdays I spent most of the day cruising garage sales.  It was where I first got caught up in the thrill of the hunt.

Antiqueing brought me back into a saner world.  However, some baggage remains from those times and here I am – a crank.  let me use an “antique” word and say curmudgeon.  A curmudgeon is a guy with an antique attitude.  The motivation comes from the past.  you can’t be a proper curmudgeon without a sense of history.  The things I get cranky about are based on ways of living that the world has passed by.  I see a worn and work polished old hand tool and it seems like any one of various abandoned moral codes.  I have a fine old low angle block plane of a type Stanley doesn’t make anymore.  It is beautiful in it’s simplicity and reliability.  Only a cranky guy like me would actually use it in a modern electrified cabinet making shop.  It delights my soul when some young woodshop wunderkind asks to borrow it.  Why is there an antiques trade?  Because quality endures.

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Cap Pistol Collectors Go To The Round Up

16 June 2010

Bang, bang! You’re dead.  No I’m not. Yes you are!  Ah, the peaceful days of childhood.  Why is making noise such a large part of being a kid?  Whether we old guys like it or not, noise is fun.  One of the all time great kid noisemakers is the cap gun.  They first showed up sometime after the Civil War when gun manufacturers augmented their reduced sales revenue with toy guns that fired loud gunpowder caps.  They became a common American toy but really came into their own after WWII when radio, then television popularized western dramas.  When the genre faded about 1965 so did the cap gun market.  As the children of that time period grew up a collectible marketplace was born.  The number one driver collectibles in the economy is nostalgia.

The memories of shoot ’em up days is about to surface at auction. Kenton, Ohio resident Bob Bailey will be auctioning off his extensive collection of over 230 cap pistols at Kenton’s 17Th annual Gene Autry Days, June 26-27 at the Pokies Hardin County Fairgrounds.  Bailey’s collection is the largest in the country and features guns made by the Kenton Hardware Company from 1904 to 1950.  He has one Gene Autry model gun from each year of manufacture from 1938 to 1950.  His collection is on display at the Hardin County Historical Society.

It will be interesting to see what kind of interest will be shown in this day when children are more likely to relate to light sabers and and ecologically friendly fun.  Social change also made cap guns a less popular item on the American scene.  The 1960’s anti-war movement, the counterculture in general and academics in the field of psychology pointed to violence on TV and violent toys as influencing violent behavior in children.  The point is debatabe but the effects of the discussion can be seen on the shelves of  toy departments across the nation.  It’s clear that  the big box stores are kinder and gentler places than the old Woolworth’s stores of my youth.  And quite a bit more sterile.

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Ebay Does it For Free

9 June 2010

This past Sunday saw the end of my eBay auctions which were listed the previous week.  They did one of their rare free listing periods.  Essentially an eBay dealer could list anything without being charged an insertion fee.  You pay nothing unless an item sells at which time the usual final value fee is taken.  It’s a pretty good deal.  If you are selling on eBay always keep on the look out for these opportunities.

The recent occurrence offered free listing of auction style sales only from May 30 to June 1.  This gave a little boost to sales which typically flatten out around summer holidays.  When the nation goes vacationing in a big way they tend to leave eBay at home.  Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day usually show less activity in page views and watchers.  Sales can slow to a crawl. It’s a good time Casino En Ligne for dealers to take a break .

free listing opportunities sometimes show up around holidays.  This one a bit of an intrusion but as a dyed in the wool capitalist I rose to the bait and put up 22 auctions.  All I had to do during the holiday weekend was post the auctions on Sunday at 6:00, my favorite eBay sweet spot.  The real action occurred the following Sunday as the auctions came into their last moments and snipers came out of the wood work.  I didn’t make a killing but it did net me some much needed cash to feed to a hungry gas station.

Unfortunately this means that it will be some time before another free listing day occurs.  I always hope for one around Christmas.  They have done it before and when they do it is worth all the time and effort you can spare.

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My Newest Collection – Old Friends on Facebook

3 June 2010

It’s been a long time since I started a new collection.  Without realizing it I have done just that.  I have been gathering friends on Facebook for about two months.  I was unsure about becoming involved with this particular piece of popular culture.   I’m generally not what you’d call “cool” or extremely social.  I mostly joined Facebook because the current thing in internet businesses is “social media” and I didn’t want to ignore a valuable marketing tool.  I’m not sure that it has done much for marketing but it has been fascinating.

I am on the other side of the continent from almost everyone I knew up until eight years ago.  That’s a lot of people who I have not been in contact with for a long time.  It was a revelation to find out how many of my relatives had Facebook accounts.  Facebook kindly offered to make me friends with various members of my high school class.  I declined that one because of the years of therapy it might bring on.  However, it occured to me that there might be other connections that I could reestablish with some degree of comfort. The results have amazed me.  I am now in touch with valued friends I haven’t seen or heard from in decades.  One recent connection was bittersweet as It brought me the knowledge of a friend’s passing.

Friend’s are the two-way artifacts of social interaction.  They point to us and we point to them.  I hold them in fond memory and reread the pages of our stories like a good book that always has a new twist waiting to be revealed.  There is a value to my collection of old friends transcending time and ever increasing in value.  You won’t find that at an auction.

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