Posts Tagged collector

Coffee Tables as Collectibles, Ecclecticism Is Good For Business

20 August 2010

We think of  antiquing as being all about old stuff.   Mostly it is but there is also a process of evolution.  Everything new becomes old.  A trip to any antique mall will show you artifacts of our culture over a large span of time.  Some dealers resist this, others give themselves up to it eagerly.

I used to have a stand at Meadowview Antiques on route 322 in Campbelltown, Pennsylvania.  At the time they had two buildings full of dealer’s I was in the old milking barn.  It had a lot of rustic charm and an interesting group of  characters making some portion of their living dealing in a wide variety of antiques and collectibles.  The sales approaches and marketing niches varied widely.  Once you leave behind the old notion of “antiques” as museum pieces for the home you open up a lot of possibilities.  The “collectibles” dealer doesn’t mind reselling items that are virtually new as long as the demand is there in the market place. It seemed like the younger dealers often had a more open attitude to what they would sell.

Joe Plebani was one of the younger dealers in the barn.  He was very laid back, a skateboarder and aficionado of  the Plymouth Barracuda.  His stand was an eclectic mix of items that at first blush might seem out of place in anything styling itself as an antiques market.  Among the comic books, postsers, action figures and assorted elements of popular culture you could usually find furniture items far removed from the worlds of Chippendale and Sheraton.  Much of it was Online Pokies rescued from the garbage man or hunted down at garage sales and lower end auction houses.

A regular feature of his inventory was old lamps usually from the fifties, sixties, and seventies.  He would have everything from wierd abstract art floor lamps, and elegant plug in chandeliers to ceramic panthers with the avocado green shade that graced many a middle class living room one upon a time.  Joe had an eye for retro when retro was just becoming cool.  He was riding the wave and enjoying every moment.  I admired his courage.  To sell things that are patently unlovely takes guts or incredible good luck.

Joe’s furniture items were unlikely to include mahogany china cabinets and buffets.  A more likely item would be the time-honored icon of American decorative arts – the coffee table.  And, not just the standard round coffee table but also the classic kidney shaped “Judy Jetson” bleached mahogany model.  I’ve known people to fight pretty hard for these at auction.  For those who are not enamored of wood he was likely to have a glass top dining table just for a change of pace.

In the beginning my own stand ran more to walnut china cabinets and the like.  The furniture was definitely more pricey.   That began to change as I learned what the tourists were taking back to New jersey with them.  In business being a little hungry is educational.  I learned as much from young Joe as I did from some of the old-timers.  Know your niche markets from the inside out and don’t underestimate the value of popular culture.

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SeeAuctions.com Takes on eBay

13 August 2010

There is a new game in town known as SeeAuctions.com.  At last someone has stepped up to take on an internet industry giant.  What does this mean for you?  The Internet has it’s thousand pound gorillas.  They get that way by building something new and attractive to a large share of the bandwidth hugging crowd.  When branding goes viral it is very difficult for anyone to compete.  So it has been since eBay appeared on the scene in 1995.

I have been involved in selling on the Internet’s largest auction site since 1996.  At one time I hired myself out to less tech savvy antique dealers as an eBay consultant.  In the good old days It was simpler and less expensive to do business on the web site.  As time went by I saw many dealers leave the fold in frustration.  Recent trends have caused my involvement in eBay to be sporadic.  The question is often asked, where else can I go to sell online? Why hasn’t a competitor appeared to scoop up all the disappointed dealers and buyers left in eBay’s wake?

You can build your own web site and sell directly to anyone who can wade through the cluttered wasteland of cyberspace  to pick you out of the thousands of other search engine hits.  That could be expensive to do well and who has time to be their own webmaster and run an antiques business at the same time?  Find another online auction?  Good luck with that.

There was a time when a large group of  net entrepreneurs were attracted to the gold that could be seen glittering brightly in them thar hills.  Nobody ever seemed to attract the traffic that eBay drew and the rules were usually just as complicated and the fees still seemed endless.  SeeAuctions.com  is seriously trying to garner market share in eBay’s back yard by offering commission free trading and no fees of any kind for the first year.  They are quite clear about there objectives as stated on their website:

“All new sellers receive a 1 year free trial at SeeAuctions.com! No listing fees, hidden fees, commissions, premiums, or funny contracts. We are confident that sellers will love our marketplace, so there is no requirement to stay after the first year. We plan to be the #1 online site for antique and collectible items. To that end you will notice an aggressive advertising campaign to let the world know about us. This will drive more buyers to your listings and result in higher sale prices. Selling will be 100% free until we meet that goal!”

What truly attracted me to SeeAuctions.com is that it is specifically an antique and collectible marketplace.  Your Victorian trade cards or Beatles memorabilia won’t be lost among the 99 cent mp3 players and CD collections of public domain documents.   As experienced antique dealers themselves the creators of this web site say, “We are dedicated to provide a better Internet trading site. We ensure a safe, flexible and fun experience, for buyers and sellers alike, offering such features as 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 21 & 30 day listings, commission-free trading with no extra costs or fees, options like 0, 1, 5 & 10 minute extended endings, instant payments from both Google Checkout & PayPal, automatic insurance calculation and never a buyer’s premium.”

I have registered with SeeAuctions.com and awaiting verification of seller status.  In the coming days I will post some auctions and see how things shake out.  I encourage my readers to do the same.  It’s free and it looks like fun.  Let me now what your experience with SeeAuctions.com is like.  Maybe we can participate in real economic recovery.

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Antique Auctions, Live and Online With a Lot of Zip.

7 August 2010

I don’t have access to an auction house of any sorts where I live.  The nearest one is about 79 miles away.  However, I really miss it and only stay away because it involves to much time and gasoline.  Thanks to this intriguing bit of technology we call the internet I may have found the solution.  On a recent visit to a local used car lot I entered the sales office and saw something wonderful.  the owner of the business has recently become a dad.  There he was sitting at his desk with baby on lap, watching and participating in the automobile auction he used to attend in person.  It seemed like an elegant solution to a modern problem.  One which I could borrow.

With a little searching I found Auction Zip.com.  This well put together web site brings together auctioneers from all over the United States.  The auctions are live webcasts so it’s like being there.  You can log in at the time of the auction or place a prior absentee bid.  I have to give this a try and will post a story if and when I get the chance.

I previewed some ephemera auctions and was basically satisfied with the format displaying the items offered.  It could be improved a bit with the use of thumbnail images giving more screen room for better browsing.  You can search the site somatroph hgh by subject matter and can probably find just about anything you want.  Be aware that most auctions seem to have a buyer’s premium and sometimes an extra little online fee.  the auction houses are responsible for shipping anything you win and will tack on shipping charges accordingly.

In going over the list of auctioneers I recognized a bunch of those which I regularly attended back east.  It was kind of nostalgic.  This new forum does lack some of the old familiar ambiance.  Like cheap hot dogs from the snack bar and crotchety local dealers whispering their deals in the back of the room and dour looking Amish men fresh from working the fields.  Just to get that authentic feeling, try sitting in front of the computer on a steel folding chair.  If it’s summer turn on the heat and reduce the ventilation in the room.  If it’s winter position yourself to catch a frigid draft every time someone opens the door.  Get your least favorite relatives to come and go through those doors frequently over the course of the auction.  It’s the next best thing to being there.

Maybe the good old days are getting better.  Give it a try.  Many of us are all old dogs and the new tricks are coming thick and fast.  Now all we need is an economy that keeps pace with our capacity for innovation.

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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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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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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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WWII, the Home Front Tells a New Story

26 May 2010

I got into the antiques and collectibles business to do more than just sell stuff.  I’m not even a very good salesman.  I like the cash to flow but I’m also very interested in the things I sell.  If nothing deeper mattered and I was a good closer I would sell insurance.  There’s more money in it.  The historian in me analyzes my trade goods as artifacts.  Sometimes I get a priceless glimpse into the past.

Last Saturday I bought a book at a local antique shop and put it on eBay.  Click here to see. While scanning the photographic pages I detected a distinct slant to the presentation.  It’s a WWII era photographic booklet, We Keep e’m Flying.  It shows life for the men and women at the Naval Air Technical Training Center, Memphis, Tennessee. The 44 pages are replete with black and white images of the camp and it’s happy, smiling personnel.  Besides showing training scenes with guns and airplanes there is a heavy emphasis on recreational activities  and social life. You would hardly know there was a war going on.

I’ve handled a number of the yearbooks published for various military aviation training bases.  They tell a story of a generation of Americans who took loyalty to their country seriously.  The patriotism is openly expressed.  The subtext is often more telling.  In case you doubt that society has changed since the 1940’s look at  books, magazines and films the government published for consumption on the home front.  Some call it propaganda some call it public relations but that flavor is present as a matter of intent.

Equality blossoms in the war effort.

We all know about Rosie the Riveter.  She began as wartime propaganda and letter became a feminist folk hero.  In this book there are a surprising number of women shown  working along side of men, handling mechanics duties and training in the same ways.  One wonders if the emphasis was overstated compared to the reality.  The summer camp flavor of the piece stands out in contrast to the realities of life in a combat zone.

I recently sold a yearbook for a pilot training base in Kansas.  The ranks of photos of eager young cadets showed only Caucasian faces except for one training squadron that was all black.  We Keep ’em Flying presents a parade of fresh white faces except for the photo of the base laundry.  Here young black women wield irons as they press uniforms.  A solitary black male sweeps the floor.  It seems a sad note in the cheery picture.  It probably went unnoticed in 1945.  Now it leaps out and grabs our attention.

I do not mean to be too critical of the people of the time, context matters.  After all, out of the same crucible of war and societal upheaval came the Tuskegee Airmen.  No reasonable person questions the value of their contribution or denies their sacrifice.  Valor has no color or gender.

We all live in the context of our times.  What we do today may be judged differently tomorrow.  More than ever our lives are recorded for the future to see.  When our children look at us smiling back in artificial images will they only see the movie and not get the message?

The contrast shows behind the scenes

A collector is motivated by appreciation of  his acquisitions to value them for meaning as well as worth.  As dealers we tend to think of the bottom line.  The artifacts we engage with contribute to our worldview as we examine their place in our culture.  To paraphrase a  navy recruiting slogan: It’s more than a job, it’s a  classroom.

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You Are What you Collect

20 May 2010

The first time I had a collection was when I was about eight years old.  My mother worked part time in a department store.  Every payday she would bring home a ceramic dog.  each one had a chain around it’s neck that had  metal plate stating the breed.  I still have them.  Later on my plastic models of ships and airplanes formed a large collection displayed in my bedroom. I put a lot of myself into those but they disappeared over the years.

I have always been a voracious reader and collector of books.  They are not just a momentary exercise in symbolic recognition.  If I like a book I want to keep it.  I like having plenty of reference works at hand.  Some books are kept as a result of an appreciation of an attractive, well crafted, binding.  I have always felt at home in libraries and it seems completely natural to make one a part of the home.

Because of dramatic changes in my life I no longer possess some of my collections.  I used to have a selection of hand thrown pottery.  Ceramic birds that decorated an antique fireplace surround.  There was also about a hundred bookmarks old and new.  I am fascinated by navigation and collected maps and plotting tools.  Anything old and related to aviation caught my eye.  My coolest collection ever was an assembly of pilot’s wings.  They came from airlines, aircraft manufacturers, pilot’s organizations, the military and some old radio show premiums.  The whole lot were kept displayed on a ball cap that had wings on each side.  It was given to me as a gift from a friend when I got my pilot’s license in 1984. I sold the whole hat to a dealer in militaria at a time when I was jobless and the family needed food.

I don’t have huge regrets about the loss.  I don’t make idols of these things. That would be blasphemous.  Besides I learned one thing sitting at hundreds of auctions: If you don’t get the winning bid today there will be another chance eventually. Very few things are so unique that another won’t come around again sometime.

In their time all these things meant something special to me and I had a lot of fun hunting them down.  I still prowl around always on the lookout for a pair of wings, a rare book, or a beautifully drawn and lithographed map.  As I look on this listing I see some of my personal history, my interests, and a glimpse into who I am.

What do you like to collect?  What does it mean to you and what does it tell other people?  Gather your goodies and thrill in the hunt.  You can’t “take them with you”  but you can enjoy them while you are here.

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