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Antique Shopping Should be Fun

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Author: Frank Arcilesi

Someone once advised me that if you're going to go shopping for antiques, 'stick to shops that are true to the business.' That meant, of course, turn your nose up at flea markets and those quaint little places off the beaten path that feature a few more items, other than the 100-year-old tiffany lamp with the requisite patina on the base--things like Hawaiian shirts and scented candles on the side.

Well shucks neighbor, definitely don't pay attention to any of that talk, or else you'll miss out on all the fun. High end antiquing is for the serious professional, but don't consider it fun, and for me, fun is what it's all about. I tossed out my stuffy collar long ago and now I just take my cowboy hat and boots, with me in them, to whatever nifty little place, wherever it is, that has some good old stuff to sell.

Of course if you are a serious collector, you'd better bone up on whatever it is that you're collecting, or else take the Kovels with you, anytime you go out on that antiquing excursion.

I'll admit that I do have a penchant for items of the 50's, especially fine fountain pens and those colorful transistor and tube radios of that era. Bulova transistor radios are my favorite. That's right—the watch company—they made radios in the 50's.

My condo is running out of room to display my radio collection. Last count there were about 50 or so in various nooks and crannies (sometimes I have trouble finding my cat who likes to share the nooks and crannies with them). And yes, most of them work.

But whenever I come across one of these gems, I've got a pretty good idea of what it's worth. I've done my research and so should you if you want to become serious about collecting items from a particular niche of our past.

There are plenty of excellent books around. The local library is a great place to start. There are plenty of good reference books for the novice who wants a broad view of collectibles. Specific books on any particular segment of the market such as dolls, collectible glass, matchbox cars, and just about anything else are also available, but getting a broad view of collecting is best at first—and fun. You'll be surprised at what sorts of things people collect.

But niche collecting is not the point of this article. I'm not always looking for radios nor do I wish to. Just taking a leisurely weekend drive through the American countryside on the hunt for one of these quaint shops is part of the fun, especially if you have no agenda as to what you're looking for.

My motto is, "If you like it, buy it." I've bought random items such as old key chains, John Deere memorabilia, cufflinks, an old 45 RPM record player, vintage pencils, Carnival glass, and Coke memorabilia, just to mention a few, just because I liked them. And none of the items were budget busters—all were relatively inexpensive.

Now it doesn't matter what part of this fine great country you live in, those antique "emporiums" are out there, replete with those wonderful people who own them. Mall antique shops are fine but I'm interested in something with a bit more character, thank you. I've met some fine and interesting characters out there in those one-owner shops.

I'm on the East coast and I travel throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania on my quest for that next shop I haven't been to yet. Sometimes if you ask some of the locals at a gas station, convenience store or restaurant, you'll get valuable leads as to where a great little shop is located in the area.

One thing you should always keep in mind—don't let the looks of it from the outside deter you from stopping and going in. And if it looks like a barn, or an old railroad station, it probably is, so definitely don't miss the opportunity to take a few shots with the digital before you go inside for some easy browsing.

The people who own these shops are usually knowledgeable and friendly, and you'll find that the folks who visit them are just as friendly. Heck, that's what it's all about—that human experience, as they say.

Now just because we're feeling all friendly and have gotten that warm and fuzzy feeling inside after we've browsed around—that doesn't mean we can't get down to business. That price tag on that old lamp or that collection of PEZ candy dispensers is just your invitation for some friendly bargaining--I said friendly, not nasty.

Pleasantly asking if the price on the tag is firm is a good way to start. You'll usually discover that the answer is 'no,' and if your willing to pay with cash, that's even better when you begin your bargaining process.

Don't make the mistake though of degrading the item as a way to get the price down—not a good idea. That's a sure way to cool things down fast. Offer 20% less than what's on the tag. You probably won't get it but more often than not, you can get at least 10% off your newly found gem.

I've even offered one price for a group of items that I'm interested in. After you've done it a few times, you'll find that bargaining can be fun. That's the whole idea.

Okay, now where's my cowboy hat—hope the cat didn't get it. Time for another weekend excursion.

About the author: Frank V. Arcilesi is the author of the 5 star romance novel 'Every Day a Bird Learns How to Fly' ( and and numerous short stories (available on Kindle)

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