JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: What do you collect?

Everyone should collect something? Why? It makes life a lot more interesting. Plus, it gives you something to talk about.

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Everyone should collect something? Why? It makes life a lot more interesting. Plus, it gives you something to talk about. You now are an authority on something.

If every young person collected something we would have better school attendance and higher graduation rates. Why? All of a sudden, learning becomes important. Because they are an authority about something, this gives them confidence. One good thing to collect is an antique. It can also be a good investment.

This list of "Antiques from A to L" (I will finish the list in my next column) will help you learn more about the fun of antique collecting plus give you a few tips. You may find a dollar item that may be worth $100 or $1,000 or more. If it can be done on the Antique Roadshow, you can do it right here at your neighbor’s garage sale.

A: An antique is anything over 100 years old. Many people refer to any old thing as an antique but, officially, it has to be over 100 years old. Caution, just because something is over 100 years old doesn't necessarily mean it is worth some money. That John Deere ashtray your daughter picked up out of the free box as she left the garage sale is worth more than just a few dollars.

Don’t forget to ask your parents or grandparents for any old advertising items like store door push bars. If I were younger, I would collect automotive items or autographs of famous people. Those are truly a part of history and the demand remains high.


B: Big Little Books were among the first popular books read by young people in the early 1900s. Big Little Books are still easily found. Cost depends on condition and title. Unique Black Americana items, rare butter molds or presses, Navajo blankets and mechanical banks are on the "hot" items list. And, don't forget beer items and old glass buttons.

C: Collectibles cover a wide range of items. The word "collectible" is used to distinguish it from an antique or a piece of memorabilia. A collectible is anything that is made as a collectible like baseball trading cards, collector plates, figurines and dolls, Danbury Mint diecast cars and tractors. Collectibles have no special purpose other than being a collectible.

If you had to invest in one collectible category, I would pick Coca-Cola. Sorry, cupid pictures have less value today. Clocks have also depreciated in value. Old baseball cards are still valuable. Look for ones prior to 1960. The same goes for comic books. Advertising crocks are still good especially when they give the name of the city. Old coins like silver dollars will always be good. High-end carnival glass is still very good.

D: If there is any damage to an antique or a collectible, the value is significantly reduced often to the point where you cannot give it away. Condition means a great deal. That goes for Disney items, depression glass and dairy bottles. Old wooden duck decoys have remained high in value where as duck stamp prints have diminished in value. By the way, a dollar bill is exactly six inches. That’s good to know when you need to measure something you are thinking of buying.

E: Today most dealers use eBay to check the current value of antiques. Guide books are still good to have as a resource but I have found that eBay gives a more accurate value. You can’t just look up an item to see what it is selling for, you have to look at what the item sold for. You can find everything at eBay including egg beaters, ephemera (paper items), and Elvis is there too. Yes, he is still around.

F: Be aware of frauds and fakes. How do you know? The best teacher is experience. In lieu of that, ask the person who is selling the item if they know anything about it. Antique dealers will identify items as old or new. If you don’t feel right about it, my advice is don't buy it.

Look for old farm toys, old Fisher-Price toys and unusual flower frogs. Sorry, put your common blue fruit jars back on the shelves. When you go looking for antiques, don’t forget a flashlight. Yes, wooden fishing lures are still hot and some patterns of flow-blue China.

G: "Fill it up" (i.e. your garage) with any old gasoline items you can find including maps, salt and pepper shakers, signs, and you name it. Anything that advertises a gasoline product (Phillips, Texaco, Shell etc.) has a buyer. Why? I guess guys just like gas as much as they do guns. You gals may rather invest in that usable old graniteware or German porcelain. Old board games are good if in good condition and if they are scarce.


H: Boo! The price people are getting for old Halloween items is enough to shock anyone. Paper mache, jack-o'-lantern, tin noise makers, wax candles, anything Halloween and old is as good as Hall and Hull pottery, head vases, and Howdy Doody toys. What about Hummel figurines? It’s a sad story but they just don’t command the value that made them a very hot item a decade or so ago but they still are beautiful.

I: We live in an area rich in Native American culture and history. American Indian artifacts are an excellent investment if you know what you are buying. Old beadwork, powwow bells, pipestone pipes, rugs, weapons, pots and photos are things to look for. Sorry old irons don’t have much value unless they are unique or you use them as a doorstop. Ink pens by Sheaffer, Eversharp and Parker are a different story. Ivory is wonderful to have but you can’t legally buy it or sell it.

J: Before you throw your “junk” away, call an antique dealer to take a look at it. You may be surprised. Collectors go for the weird and strange in anything. There are many Jewel Tea or Autumn Leaf dishes around especially the bowls. If you own an old working jukebox, you can almost name your price. Don’t forget jadeite dishes and gold jewelry. The higher the carat, the more valuable.

K: Every old home had half a dozen or more kerosene lamps. Aladdin and colored kerosene lamps are prized by collectors. Be careful of the reproductions. There are all kinds of primitive kitchen items to collect. Look for the ones that are unique and made of cast iron, brass and wood. Especially look for the “What is it?” type. Guys like knives of all sizes and shapes. Look for Remington, Case and Winchester brand names.

L: I was a fan of those early black and white TV programs that featured the “Masked man and his trusted companion, Tonto.” Next to Roy Rogers, the King of cowboys, Lone Ranger items are still collectible if they are in good shape and hard to find. How about Life and Look magazines? Sorry, they are fun to look at but not many people have an interest in them.

Old tin lunch boxes with familiar characters like G.I. Joe are more valuable when they also contain the thermos. Lightning rod balls are fun to collect. They come in different sizes, shapes and colors. Don’t leave home without your jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass. You won’t regret it.

Next time I will conclude the ABCs of antique collecting. Oops, I forgot to mention old ABC picture books and plates. Some of those old books, which are in poor condition, may have beautiful lithograph pictures, which can be framed and sold for more than the value of the book. Now, go out and start your collection.

Riddle: How did the mouse pass the final test? (Answer: It squeaked by. Yes, mouse traps, too, are collectible.)



Thanks to the Bemidji Lions and Red Lake Builders for sponsoring bookmarks and graduation booklets to be distributed to area students.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

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