Posts Tagged Lindbergh

Flying High With Aviation Collectibles

2 September 2010

Human powered flight encompasses a large area of collecting interest.  Aviation is equal parts technology and romance.  It occupies a small slice of the span of human history but is a defining element of the modern world.  Airplanes fascinated me as a kid who spent many hours in libraries.  I poured over all the books that showed airplanes and explained how they worked.  The magazine racks held Model Airplane News magazine.  I was one of those kids who hung on the airport fence and watched the planes take off.  After high school I got distracted by popular culture but came back to my earlier interests as I got settled into a steady job and home ownership.  I put the necessary time and money into getting a private pilot’s license which was one of the highlights of my life.  Virtually every aspect of Flying, it’s history and continuing development, civilian, military or commercial is part of an ongoing love affair..

The kind of feeling I grew up with for aviation is what makes a collector tick.  A lot of people have that feeling for automobiles, trains, dogs, horses, stamps, coins, you name it.  I have the same thing for sailboats, hence my other blog: Seaward Adventures.  As a dealer in collectible items, buying and selling to make a profit was the main consideration.  Aviation was one of the few areas I collected for myself.  My pride and joy was an assembly of aviator’s wing badges.

When I first started selling collectibles I naturally gravitated toward items that interested me personally.  My interests payed off surprisingly well.  I had stumbled onto the formula that became my business model.  Artifacts that relate to an activity engaged in by well educated people with a passion for the activity and a healthy income to support the activity equals profitability.  Lets face it you don’t see any poor people climbing into a Cessna 172 to go for a hundred dollar hamburger.

The aviation demographic was grown by WWII and the postwar economic growth that allowed many Americans to pursue their personal dreams. My customers were frequently people with good stories to tell.  I always enjoy some good hangar talk which is why my favorite podcast is Uncontrolled Airspace.  Jack, Jeb, Dave and the various other contributors to the podcast are entertaining and educational in a way that makes a pilot feel connected with the flying community.

Some interesting items I have handled in my business or personal collection are:  Pilot’s operating handbooks for various vintage aircraft, early variations on the E6B flight computer, parts for Jacob’s radial engines,  early pilot’s goggles and way too many other items to remember.  I divested myself of all those collections.  I still dabble.  I have a few items on eBay right now.   A recently acquired WWII item was the subject of a previous Adventures in antiquing post.  You may view it at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220663480133.

I find that people have fond memories of the aircraft they flew once upon a time.  The old sales literature with full color photos of prosperous young folks traveling cross country on business and pleasure have been good sellers.  I three examples on eBay right now.  See the Vintage Beech Sierra Sales Brochure 1973.

Sales have slowed down a bit because eBay is not a happening place lately.  Aviation itself is feeling the effects of the economic downturn.  Certainly some people will slow down their collecting as they tighten their budget.  Ultimately what sustains the market is passion.  Pin your business model on that

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You’re Only as Antique as You Feel

30 March 2010

We draw a certain meaning from any work we do. One can’t be in the antique business and not think about time and aging.  You constantly handle artifacts from simpler eras.  Many dealers are old-timers who have been in the game a long time and know how much it has changed.  The insight I have drawn from antiquing is a change in the pace of life.  Thank you, industrial revolution!

Collecting antiques and displaying them in our homes is a recognition that we value history.  Estate sales  are glimpses into the past as lived by ordinary people with sometimes extraordinary bits of residue from historic moments.

I once knew a dealer who bought an old bottle at an estate sale in the Pennsylvania coal regions.  He was intrigued by the french inscription etched in the glass and the thick black liquid sealed inside with a crystal stopper.  It turned out to be oil drained from the engine of the Spirit of St. Louis at Le Bourget  airport.  When Lindbergh landed, the mob that greeted him began to take bits and pieces of the plane as souvenirs. Police had to guard it through the night.

Today’s advertising can be overwhelming, even annoying.  You will find any antique mall  and many shops to be chock full of old advertising treated as high art.  The multitudinous tins and bottles of kitchen and other household products are equally celebrated for their rarity and quaintness.  Back in the sixties we rebellious types bemoaned our materialistic throwaway society.  No archeology site is complete without it’s midden.  We celebrate junk by viewing it in a new light.

The average antique shop is not a palace of treasured items built by the best craftsman of times past.  genuine Chippendale is apt to already be in a museum or some stinking rich guys mansion.  Instead we have the horse collar from the days of slow transportation,  The typewriter from the days of slow communication, soda fountain stools from the days before fast food.  When my father was a boy no aircraft flew past the speed of sound. When my Grandfather was a boy there were no airplanes.  He plowed with a horse  and when he grew up he took a slow boat to Europe to fight in The Great War.

Maybe the slower pace of the past meant less luxury and harder work.  Although the reports I see on the news are indicating that Americans spend more time at work and of course the two wage earner family is becoming a necessity in this economy.  We are definitely on the go  and have adapted to a hurried lifestyle.

This became apparent to me a couple of years ago when I found myself in a situation where I was required to use an old rotary dial phone.  They were the only thing available in my world until about 1968.  I placed my finger in the hole corresponding to the first number and rotated the dial.  Then I let it return to the starting position.  This continued for all eight digits in the telephone number.  Half way through this process it occurred to me that the whole thing was very annoying.  Why should I be annoyed at a stupid old phone?

It wasn’t the effort of dialing that put me off.  My fingers were not weak.  I didn’t lack faith that the call would go through.  It was simply having to wait for the dial to return to the starting position before dialing the next number.  It was robbing me of precious seconds.  So, how pathetic am I?  I wonder if my Grandson will look back on the cell phone and think, ” how quaint?  Imagine pushing all those buttons.  Where did they find the time?”

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