Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Got Any Jesus?

Every once in awhile, I take a turn at using my limited active retail selling skills and work a day as a floor walker in the shop we sell in. This is an established general merchandise antique mall in Southern Wisconsin that has three floors of selling space belonging to about 50 dealers. Husbola and I sell from two large spaces on the 1st floor and have been in the shop about 5 years I think. The shop owners like to have dealers staff the shop and I enjoy the odd day of taking my turn wandering to help customers, open cases and wrap purchases as needed.

Late last Autumn, while wandering the second floor, a customer walked up to me and simply said, "Got any Jesus?" That was it. I suppose being a preacher's kid and enthusiastic church volunteer--a more theologically based and creative answer should have come to mind--but I stared blankly and said ,"Excuse me?"
"Jesus, JESUS--you know THE Jesus--framed pictures of Jesus--the Last Supper, praying, arms out--you know J-E-S-U-S". The fellow was agitated and impatient.
"Yes-yes--I know Jesus--weeeelllll--yes-let me show you what we have." He and I headed off to look at the mall's offerings.

What he was looking for--and collects--are those early 20th century framed prints that used to grace many homes and Sunday school rooms--Jesus at the table with his disciples--Jesus alone in the Garden--or Jesus with arms outstretched with little lambs and kiddies. All six feet tall of handsomeness--complete with brown naturally wavy hair and blue eyes and clean robes. That Jesus. All the better if they are in their original frames--with no foxing or mildew marks and good unfaded color. The mall had one print--and it was not in the best condition.

My surly customer looked at what we had for sale--"No-No--I already have that Jesus--I am looking for the unusual Jesus." And off he went.

I couldn't help but think if I was a preaching pastor--somehow this would make for good sermon fodder.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Grandpa Went to School With John Wayne

Local house estate sales can be a great way to find treasures without having to travel very far from home. I look for local sales conducted by reputable estate sale companies as they want to stay in business and value their reputation. These are easily found on line and by checking local newspapers on line as well.
However--I do keep my eyes open for the odd sale that is organized and priced by family members of the deceased. These can be gold mines for good things at attractive prices. Ebay and the Antiques Roadshow has created a more careful seller these days--the last thing you want to do is attend a sale put on by amateur heirs who think everything Grandpa touched is worth a million. Sentimental value and real value are two very different things. The best thing is to find a sale where the heirs have not done any homework--they just want to "unload the stuff" and get a move on.
One summer day, I happened upon a local sale--run by the family selling what appeared to be just junk. I did not arrive early--but after it had opened--and everything seemed to be picked over. I was glad I had not wasted time standing in line for an admittance number to this one. As I was leaving--I noticed a stack of old school yearbooks on the sofa. I never look at yearbooks--but because of the age and interesting cover I decided to pick one up. It was from California Someplace. Who cares? Well out pops a handwritten note in pencil "Grandpa went to high school with John Wayne"
Hmmmm.
Being an old movie buff I knew that John Wayne before he was John Wayne was Marion Morrison. Paging through the notebook--there he was--at a dance--his senior picture-in a football uniform. Gorgeous Young John. The book was priced high for an old yearbook at $30.00--but why not? I put that baby on ebay that afternoon and $1200 later--a California collector was happy and needless to say I was stunned. And happy.
Moral to the story--check yearbooks for famous people. Subsequent sales of MY college yearbooks--complete with Brian "Kato" Kaelin in all of his glory--reaped a great reward. But on that one--timing was everything!! (Thank you OJ!)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bin Diving

In England and most of the UK, our american "trash" is called "rubbish" and is not thrown out in garbage cans, but instead in rubbish bins. Really big volumes of rubbish or construction throw outs are not tossed into "dumpsters" but into "skips". Husbola and I discovered years ago that a person who really scours the shops and fairs and shows for the hidden antiques treasure is called a Bin Diver. How very visual to think of an over eager antiquer seeing something flowing out of the top of a dumpster and then diving in after it. Have you ever done it? Come on--'fess up--I certainly have. Be honest with yourself--have you ever driven past a neighbors curbside garbage collection and seen something that made you slow down or even stop? Have you ever driven past something at the curb and turned around and driven past it going the other way--maybe slower this time--to see if you really saw what you think you saw? I have--I admit it--and yes--I have stopped--thrown open my hatchback and popped it inside my Jeep.

In the last 15 years, it has been one of my favourite projects to work on a very large church rummage sale. I actually would use that as an excuse to stop at assembled curbside treasures, clucking my tongue--"they shouldn't be throwing this out--it could be sold for the common good at the CHURCH RUMMAGE SALE." Ah ha-yep-you betcha--that is what I said. Most of the great "finds' have found there way to the church sale. However--yes I admit it--Confessions of an American Bin Diver--we have items in our home--in use today--from our neighbor's trash.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

January is a Long Month

What does an antique dealer do in a long cold month--when interesting auctions seem to have dried up and the weather adds the uncertainty of attending a show at some distance. And do you really want to sit in a cold car waiting for an estate sale to open? Actually in the last twenty years--on New Year's Day--there has developed a plethora of auctions held on the holiday--our favourite trade journals are full of sales.
Husbola and I hesitate to attend auctions on "big holidays"--including 4th of July, Labor Day or Thanksgiving weekend among others. We have attended in the past--but you can be assured of much larger than normal crowds--people are sick of their relatives--and you will probably spend more money than you planned. Mostly--these auctions are consignment auctions, or "dealer dump" or huge collections of collectibles that have fallen out of favor. Please please--no more collections of toy tractors, arcade toys, depression glass or flow blue china!! It makes this Lady Antique Dealer dream of warm weather and good honest to goodness estate auction held in a big shady farm yard.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Maiden Voyage

Why "Lady Antique Dealer" as a blog title? Several years ago, on one of our antique buying trips to England, I read a wonderful classified ad in an antiques trade paper that said "Lady Antiques Dealer Desires to Buy Your Old Things. Enquiries to Mrs. W. (phone number)" Could anything be more "English" than that? I wonder why Mrs. W felt the need to indicate her sex and then not give her complete surname?? She may have thought potential sellers would trust her more if she was female rather than male. But then not to indicate her full name? She felt the need to solicit goods--but then not to identify herself? Many possibilities--member of the witness protection program? Shilling for the oldest profession? Regardless--clever advertisement and I have adopted it.

Sad Farewell Beautiful Lady of Paris

Adieu Belle Dame.... View from the beautiful blooming park behind the cathedral.