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This year's buying season is beginning. Although I enjoy Antiques Roadshow, as a person who attends estate sales and other sales in my area, I know that those tremendous finds and hand-me-downs are very hard to come by. Yet there are many intriguing and tempting things to buy at sales, and a dealer can bring in steady money with more affordable items. The stories about finds and the items themselves are memorable after they are gone. Here are a few of mine this last year.
There was a garage sale about three blocks from where I live. I didn’t find much there except for a box of George magazines, almost every one published, and all in excellent condition. I paid three dollars for the box. They began to sell pretty regularly so I bought more George’s as I came across them. Recently, I had an international sale totaling 21 of those magazines. The amount they have brought in is actually embarrassing to tell even if the magazine isn’t very available on the internet. It is about what I made on my second-last nice sale, a Haynes flute.
An estate sale was advertised. Besides a flute being listed, there were many musical items, and antique theater magazines. I arrived in time to be about the fifth to enter the sale. The mosquitoes were terrible that morning, the house was curtained with greenery, and I learned something new. A few women were huddled near the pine trees at the side of the porch steps. They claimed that mosquitoes stay away from pine.
Once inside, I asked where the flute was. It was on a chair in its case. The flute was totally gray with tarnish. It looked terrible, and that’s often the condition of flutes at estate sales. I looked at the markings, and had found what to me was a treasure – an old Haynes flute. The best, as it were. It played very well too, but before I sold it, I had it repaired and cleaned professionally. I was afraid I would be tempted to keep it, but I wasn’t. It was a closed hole flute and I just couldn’t play on one of those again. Yet the “golden age” 1931 Haynes tone was lovely.
Another great find to me was a signed Sean O’Faolain book, The Finest Stories of Sean O’Faolain, published in 1957. That was at a strange estate sale. The woman who inhabited a large house on Lake Superior had lived with her parents there. Highly collectible items were in a house that had been much neglected in recent years – and in a creepy way. The woman made phone calls to the police which were considered paranoid and disconnected from reality. She was wealthy. Anyway, I found some interesting regional things, and I found the O’Faolain book in a bookcase. I had read his short stories from the library while writing short stories. It wasn’t until I was standing in line to pay that I found his signature in the book, gone unnoticed to the estate dealers. They had quite a load of things to go through.
Tins. When I worked in a store that had both book dealers and antique dealers, I liked old tins with lovely art deco or art nouveau design. This was not a high-priced item usually but tins from before 1940 are very hard to find in good condition. Last spring, I attended the estate sale of an art professor. While I didn’t understand much of the art as far as dealing it on eBay, I had quite a time with the tin collection there. Collectible tins were on high shelves in every upstairs room. I sold most of them in a few months but here’s an example of one I still have. It was nice to walk out of a sale with a big light box, full of tins.
I had done a blog on old magazines previously. That is one of my favorite collecting areas. Woman’s World had so charming a children’s writer and photographer, that I mentioned in the blog how much I would like to find Harry Whittier Frees’ early edition books. This year I went to an estate sale at an elderly condominium and what contained very unusual Native American collectibles. Most of the attention went to those items, however though I was late, I found four of Frees’ books. They were extremely reasonable, and even more charming as full page photographs. Both the Kittens books are already gone, and now I have only his Puppies books. I am fascinated at his dedication to the photography subjects. I don’t know how he got the kittens and puppies into clothing and into poses, though have to wonder.