Last Travel-Log from the Road – 10/4/12: Antique Archeology-Nashville Submitted by Carol
When we set out on our cross-country journey at the beginning of September, we knew we wanted to antique our way across America, but we weren’t exactly sure where we would go. We still have a few more days on the road, but I feel fairly certain that I won’t be summarizing those last days until we get back to New Jersey. Tonight, we’re in Dolly Parton’s hometown, Sevierville, TN. Earlier in the day, we passed by Nashville on Interstate 40, so we had to make a little detour and visit Mike Wolfe’s newest shop, Antique Archeology-Nashville. It seems sort of fitting that we bookended our trip with visits to the two American Pickers stores.
I really liked the Nashville store. First of all, it’s in a great old brick factory building, the Marathon Motor Works.
We were heading into Nashville on I-40 from west to east, and our GPS took us through the city, past Fisk University, for quite a few blocks. Getting back on I-40 was very easy. The whole Marathon Motors complex looks like something being re-purposed into a trendy shopping area. Next to the Pickers’ store, for instance, is a candy store.
Unlike the Iowa store, which had an intimate feel to it, the Nashville store is quite a bit larger. I’d say it has close to three times the square footage. If nothing else, it has very high ceilings. Whoever arranged the stock did a great job. It was almost like walking around through a really cool museum of wacky retro stuff. (And, since the prices were astronomically high, just like in the Iowa store, we knew we couldn’t afford anything, so it WAS like visiting a museum.) This is the view when you first walk into the store.
One of the recognizable things was the huge Piggly Wiggly head.
There was a fabulous canvas circus sideshow sign up on the ceiling. Who wouldn’t pay money to see a pig with an elephant’s trunk?
There were great advertising pieces, funky one-of-a-kind things like the giant bib overalls or the 1940’s slacks with the first names of Big Band music greats (Benny, Bing, Frankie, Dina, etc.), rusty bicycles and motor parts, and manikin heads sporting hats, helmets, and goggles.
As we did in the Iowa store, we searched for something small and affordable. It was tough. They had a lot of 1990’s music trade magazines that were supposedly picked from Mickey Gilley. Priced at $5, they fit the bill. We also found a wire basket with a handful of paper items in it for $5 each. There was an ad for the Chile pavilion at the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. (That’s the same exposition where William McKinley was shot by an assassin.) Five dollars didn’t seem too outrageous at all. Those were our “old” finds.
As with the Iowa store, there were plenty of t-shirts, hats, magnets, shot glasses, metal signs, paper fans, playing cards, etc., etc. for sale. (I particularly liked the baby onesie that said, “Future Picker” on it.) I’m sure sales of those items are the main source of revenue for the store. There definitely were a lot of shoppers – or at least “lookers” – at this shop. There were two counters for sales, one to the front left side of the store and one in the back, staffed by pleasant young people who looked like they could be college students. Based on what the young man who waited on me said, it sounds like Mike shows up about once a month at the store.
We’re glad we’ve seen both of the American Pickers’ shops. If you’re a fan of the show and ever get to LeClaire, Iowa or Nashville, Tennessee, do stop in. Then, when you watch the shows, you’ll have a reference point when they show interior/exterior shots. Believe me, things never look the same in person as what you imagined.
Travel-Log #8: Broad Summary (Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas) – Submitted by Carol on 10/3/12
Despite good intentions, I’ve discovered that keeping up on a blog while traveling the width of the country is no easy task. Whenever possible, we’ve tracked down and run into antique shops and malls in pursuit of a “find.” In many cases, we’ve come out of the shop with a bag in hand. Often, however, the day is so busy that photographing the object and then writing about it and the shop where it was found just doesn’t happen. We are now on the verge of crossing the Mississippi River on the homeward bound trip, and I need to catch up! My solution is to do a catch-all with the photographs I have. By no means am I going to mention every shop in every town that we’ve visited.
Before writing about the Now and Then Second Hand Store in Orange, CA, I left off with a blog about Abilene, KS. We visited a few other antique malls in Kansas and made some purchases, but I’m going to jump to the state of Colorado.
Florence, CO: We had never heard of Florence, Colorado, but we picked up a little booklet that listed Colorado antique shops, and we noticed that it billed itself as the antique center of the state. When we looked at the map, we realized that it would be within a few miles of our planned route. Naturally, we made that slight detour, and we’re glad we did. Not only were there multiple shops to check out, but we happened to visit on a Friday, the first day of an antique street fair. Below are photos of a few of the things we found.
The larger doll pictured is a 1940’s composition Madame Alexander doll in what appears to be her original clothes. She cost $5 at the street fair, a real bargain. The smaller doll is an inexpensive hard plastic doll from the 1950’s. Normally, I wouldn’t buy a doll like her, but she’s dressed in a really nicely detailed felt cowgirl outfit, so I look upon her as an appropriate souvenir of our trip. Discounted 40%, she ended up costing about $9.
Jim has been doing very well finding political items on this trip. Florence came through for him. He bought a very nice Benjamin Harrison pin in porcelain with a metal border, dated 1888, for $75.
Leadville, CO: This old mining town is at the highest elevation of any town in the U.S., and we were flying high with some of our purchases. The very first shop we went into was the winner. It was an old hardware store that retained all of its original fixtures, so the atmosphere alone was worth soaking up. We walked out with two pieces that we liked a lot and felt were reasonably priced.
This cardboard sign advertising KC Baking Powder has some condition problems and likely had something else hanging from it, but we love the image of the baker and we will find a place for it in our kitchen. Best of all, it only cost $25.
As those who know us know, we love to decorate for Christmas, and we love our Christmas tree with genuine Victorian/turn-of-the-century ornaments. I was hoping to find something to add to our collection, and Leadville came through. Pictured is a beautiful blown glass, hand-painted little girl’s head ornament. According to the shop owners, it came out of a local estate.
Virginia City, NV: Once again, an old Western mining town came through for us. Tourism is what’s keeping Virginia City alive. Mixed in with the bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops are several antique shops. We checked them all. At the last one, Jim was very happy to find three nice political/advertising pinback buttons priced at $35 for all three. Best of all, he doesn’t already have any of them!
The largest button is the most unique. It pictures Spanish-American War hero Admiral Dewey advertising soap. There’s also a nice Bryan-Sewall jugate from 1896 and a McKinley Club of NY button. It isn’t often that you find one of these nice vintage buttons at the average antique mall, let alone three.
We did do a little antiquing in California, principally in Orange, and we did purchase a few things. However, I have no photos, so we’re going to move on to Arizona.
Prescott, AZ: While staying in Sedona, we took the recommendation of an antique dealer we know and went antiquing in Prescott. Prescott is a neat town. It was the original capital of the Arizona Territory, and there’s an interesting museum complex, the Sharlot Hall Museum, to tour. The downtown business district, which surrounds the courthouse square, is vibrant and alive. About two blocks of it are devoted to antique shops. We can’t share Jim’s favorite find yet because it’s still wrapped up in paper in the back of the car, but he was very happy to find an original political cartoon that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in October 1950. It shows President Truman wearing the “cloak of secrecy” in regard to a meeting with Douglas MacArthur on Wake Island.
The other find we made there was an oyster tin right from our own neck of the woods.
These photos show the front and back of the Captain Jack’s Cape May Oysters tin. The back mentions the Maurice River, too. Actually, we like the back better than the front of this tin. Not only is it in better condition, but the graphics are more interesting. And we found it in Arizona – how weird!
We didn’t do any antiquing in New Mexico – none! We did stop briefly in Amarillo, TX, and we did buy a few small items there. Oklahoma was yielding a handful of small items, too, until we hit a shop in Shawnee, OK at the very end of the day. We were very pleased with the cardboard standee advertising sign for Remington rifles that we found for $40.
The sign is in overall very good condition for its age. On the lower left corner, it looks like there might be a tiny “31” and that might indicate that it dates to 1931. It sure looks like it’s from that time. What better gift for little boys than a rifle?
North Little Rock, AR: One frustration we’ve been having in particular on the return portion of our trip is encountering “antique” malls that have very few genuine antiques in them. They have faux antiques and decorator items, but that’s not what we’re looking for. When we saw an ad for the Twin City Antique Mall that asked the question, “Are you tired of antique malls that don’t have antiques in them?”, we knew that was the place for us – and it was. We came out with several items that we were very happy about.
Jim has a couple of these Roosevelt Bear plates already, but this was a different one, and it was priced at only $25. The inscription underneath says, “Teddy and Rosa on their way to the White House.” Above the bears it says, “We want to see our President Who’s always on the square and whose good rule of living is bear always and forbear.” It goes without saying that this plate dates to Teddy Roosevelt’s tenure in the White House.
This interesting bisque ashtray and match holder caught our eye. A cheap souvenir from Galveston, TX, most likely in the 1930’s, it shows a nattily dressed skeleton sitting in an armchair. It isn’t meant to be a Halloween decoration, but in our house it probably will be. We thought it was a good buy at $25.
The last thing we bought at Twin City was a cardboard advertising sign for a product called Papsin. We liked the graphics and the fact that it was hand-painted by a commercial artist from Fort Smith, AR. He even signed it on the front.
Whew! That was a lot of catching up to do. We still have several states left to cover. One more blog might do it. Of course, it might not get done until we actually get home.
Travel-Log #5: Now and Then Second Hand Store – Orange, CA 9/26/12 Submitted by Carol
As promised earlier, we are leap-frogging over several successful forays into antique shops earlier in the trip to report on another shop connected to a popular TV show.
Heading out on this trip, we knew we wanted to re-visit Orange, California. Seven years ago, we rushed through several antique malls there prior to boarding an airplane for home. We also knew that Orange was the home of the Now and Then Second Hand Store, which is owned by Jarrod Schulz and Brandi Passante of Storage Wars fame. (No, as expected, they were not there in person.)
We had no trouble locating the shop, which is in a strip mall at 810 N. Tustin in Orange.
The big truck parked out front is a dead give-away, too.
Inside, the shop was very neat. There were shelves of knickknacks, housewares, electronic things, holiday decorations, toys, etc. Glass cases held jewelry and Jarrod/Brandi merchandise such as autographed photos, playing cards, shot glasses, etc. We didn’t pay much attention to the furniture, but there was an entire room of it.
We were looking for vintage things, and there actually were some. Most items in the shop were probably between five and fifteen years old, but here and there something older popped up. I was leaning toward buying a tiny Woodstock (from Peanuts) bobble-head that was about forty years old and cost $19.99. That was a little more than it was worth, but I wanted a souvenir. Then Jim spotted a Rittgers plaster baseball player figurine for $14.99. He had some condition problems on one leg, but we know a restorer who can easily fix that. (Her name is Amy.)
A quick check on eBay turns up many Rittgers sculptures. Most date to the 1940’s (This one is dated 1941 right on his foot.) and have quirky, cartoonish faces. Many, but not all, have a sports theme. The baseball and boxing figures are quite collectible. Examples of our baseball figure brought anywhere from about $20 to $50. We didn’t steal him from Brandi and Jarrod, to be sure, but we felt that we got a good deal. Plus, he’s something we would have bought at any antique shop, show, or flea market at that price.
It was fun to visit a second shop connected with a well-known TV show on this trip. Unlike Antique Archeology in LeClaire, the Now and Then Second Hand Shop does not bill itself as an antique shop and, therefore, cannot ask the moon and the stars for its merchandise. Compared to thrift stores back home, we thought the prices were a bit high, but we didn’t visit any other California thrift stores for comparison. Still and all, our visit to the Now and Then Second Hand Store yielded something we liked, and that’s what it’s all about.
Travel-Log #4: Abilene, Kansas 9/12/12 Submitted by Carol
Since the last report, we have seen some fabulous museums.
First, we visited the Truman Presidential Library and Museum and the Truman house in Independence, Missouri on September 11.
Then, we went into Kansas City to see the Steamboat Arabia Museum. This was a priority on our itinerary, and we’re so glad we saw it. The Arabia was a steamboat on the Missouri River that sank in 1856. Everyone on board survived, but the ship’s cargo went to the bottom of the river and stayed there for over 130 years. The course of the river changed, and the ship ended up underneath a Kansas farm field. It was excavated in 1988 and yielded an unbelievable treasure – dozens and dozens of boxes and barrels containing all sorts of sundry items for mid-nineteenth century pioneers. Dishes and utensils, tools, buttons and Indian trade beads, bolts of fabric, hats, and boots, bottles, perfume, and more are all on display in a dizzying array that boggles the mind.
On September 12, we set off across Kansas and reached Abilene by late morning. Abilene was the boyhood home of Dwight Eisenhower, and his parents’ house, his presidential library, and his museum are all there to tour.
Downtown Abilene is a typical Midwestern business district. Most of the buildings date to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Thankfully, many of them are thriving because they’ve been turned into antique shops and malls. We wish we had had more time to browse through the Abilene shops. We saw about five or six of them, and got into about three. (According to one website, there are a dozen shops in the town.) Mud Creek Antiques and the Downtown Antique Mall were side by side, and we thought both of them were impressive and well worth a visit. We could have easily spent more than we did, but Jim bought two items that he’s quite pleased with, both at Mud Creek.
One of the first antiques that caught our eye when we walked in was a glass honeycomb fly/wasp catcher.
Made of ribbed glass in a beehive shape with openings at both the top and bottom, the fly catcher, which is about five or six inches in height, has a wire hanger at the top. It would have been plugged at the top. We don’t know if something was put inside to attract flies or wasps. I guess once they got in, they couldn’t figure how to get out. We thought $18 was a reasonable price for it.
This is what the bottom looks like. The hole has been drilled out.
The other item that really excited Jim was a cast iron advertising string holder. It’s the kind of country store item that we rarely see at an affordable price anymore.
This string holder looks like a little footed kettle with a small hole in the bottom. The ball of string would sit in the opening of the “pot” with the line of string coming out the bottom. It could have sat on a countertop, but there are also handles on the kettle, so it’s possible that it could have been strung up and hung from an overhead beam or a ceiling.
The neat thing about the string holder is the advertising. It says “S.S.S. for the Blood” on both sides. We had never heard of such a product, but it sounded like an early version of Geritol. Sure enough, once we were able to access the laptop, we googled it and there it was! S.S.S. for the Blood is a product that was first produced in 1826 and is still available today. Supposedly, the formula for the blood tonic comes from the Creek Indians. S.S.S. stands for Swift’s Southern Specific. Col. Charles Swift was the second person to possess the formula and offer it for sale. The S.S.S. Company is located in Atlanta, GA and is the oldest non-prescription drug manufacturer in the country. Often, the fun of antique collecting is doing the research and finding out obscure facts like these.
A string holder like this would probably date to about 1890-1910. Unfortunately, of course, antiques made of cast iron have often been reproduced. The classic cast iron beehive string holder certainly has been. That’s why collectors must proceed with caution when buying items like this. While Jim had little doubt that this string holder was the real deal, a check of eBay later on in the day showed that at least one string holder of this type has been reproduced. Numerous examples of a Jaxon Soap cast iron kettle-type string holder could be found on eBay. Obviously, a genuinely old string holder like that existed and someone unscrupulously copied it. We will certainly keep an eye out for more S.S.S. for the Blood string holders, but none have shown up on eBay recently, so that’s probably a good sign as to the authenticity of ours.
Travel-Log #3: Platte City, Missouri – 9/9/12 Submitted by Carol
After several hours of soaking up history in St. Joseph, Missouri and Atchison, Kansas (Pony Express Museum, Patee House, the house where Jesse James was killed, and Amelia Earhart’s birthplace), we were heading south along the Missouri River toward Kansas City and Independence when we stumbled upon the W. D. Pickers Antique Mall at Exit 20 of Interstate 29.
A giant, new, 10,000 square foot building with no personality whatsoever, it didn’t look like the kind of place where any antique bargain could be found. However, as we know from experience, an antique hunter can never tell where a great find will surface, so in we went. Many of the 120 dealers inside dealt with the kind of antiques and collectibles we like – toys, advertising, political items, paper things, holiday decorations, etc. For the most part, they knew their prices, too. However, every dealer offered a minimum of a ten percent discount, and many were offering twenty percent off, so that made the prices much more appealing.
We walked out with three items that we were quite happy about: a Roosevelt-Truman bumper sticker from 1944, a plastic patriotic WWII pin with an eagle, a shield, and the word “Son” on it, and a large, approximately five-inch tall bisque long-billed Donald Duck figurine.
Jim learned early on in his political items collecting that Truman pieces are relatively rare, especially among 20th century candidates. He had joked before the trip that he hoped to find a Truman piece in Missouri. Lo and behold, there was the Roosevelt-Truman bumper sticker. The price of $30 may seem steep, but it’s the first one Jim has ever seen. After all, bumper stickers aren’t the type of thing usually saved for posterity. A nice, large Truman button for $30 would have been better, but collectors know to take what they can get.
For the past several years, both Jim and I have been looking for affordable WWII home front collectibles. As the “Greatest Generation” passes on, the younger generations are becoming more fascinated by this dramatic period in history and more appreciative of what their parents and grandparents went through and accomplished.
I don’t know how many women actually wore the patriotic jewelry from the 1940’s that I see at flea markets and in antique shops, but it’s very interesting and colorful. I thought that this pin made of early plastic and accented with sparkling jewels was a good buy at $12. Obviously, it was intended to be worn by a mother whose son was in the service.
The most expensive item we bought was the bisque long-billed Donald Duck. This jaunty guy stands relatively tall at about five inches. His paint is excellent (Many of these bisque figurines have severely faded paint.) and he’s marked “Walt Disney” and “Made in Japan.” Donald Duck had a long bill for only a few years. He started out that way in 1934, but it was already shrinking by 1937, so it’s pretty easy to date these figurines. We especially liked this Donald because we don’t ever remember seeing one this size playing a violin. He cost $58. That may seem expensive, but we’ve seen comparable pieces for more than $100 on numerous occasions.
Lesson to be learned from our experience at W. D. Pickers: Don’t overlook large, interstate antique malls. There may not be as many bargains as can be found at a flea market, but good quality items at affordable prices are not that unusual.
Travel Log #2: LeClaire, Iowa 9/7/12 Reported by Carol
We entered LeClaire, Iowa, which is just north of Interstate 80 and on the banks of the Mississippi River, at about 9:45 a.m. I was taking note of the price of gas at a BP station when Jim shouted, “There they are!” I thought he meant that he had seen Mike and Frank, the American Pickers, out and about in their van. Actually, he had spotted Antique Archeology, which sits uphill just behind the BP station.
There was the familiar 1950 Nash out front. And there was the shop itself. Ten minutes before opening, the small parking area was already filling up with fans of the show like us. Most were out-of-staters, and most were at least middle-aged.
Suddenly, the “closed” sign was turned around and said, “open.” Then the garage door opened and a young female employee (No, not Danielle. Apparently she only works after hours.) wheeled out the familiar little electric car. I was busy snapping pictures, but Jim was already inside the shop. It’s divided into two sections. The original office portion of the old garage is where they sell all sorts of souvenirs: caps and t-shirts, shot glasses, tote bags, banks, magnets, etc. Were they reasonably priced? No. A basic postcard of Mike cost $3. T-shirts averaged about $22. Did we leave with some items? Of course.
The work area of the garage is where the antiques are sold. Did we recognize items that were picked on the show? Yes, we did. Were they expensive? Yes, they were. Do not expect bargains at Antique Archeology. Remember the huge pile of moon landing souvenir felt pennants that were picked a couple of seasons ago? You could buy one for $40. Remember the toy metal police cars that were picked earlier this season? Several were out for sale at $100 each. Some items in this area were very familiar but were marked “not for sale.” High up on a shelf were those goofy Laurel and Hardy heads that Mike and Frank wore a season or two ago, but no one was taking them home.
We did, however, find one little thing to purchase. In a basket were a few dozen small metal license plates that had been cereal premiums in the 1950’s. They were priced at $10 each. We knew this was a little more than they were worth, but they were in good condition. And they were small, which is a prerequisite for almost everything we purchase on this trip. We had hoped to find an Iowa plate, but, alas, had to settle for our home state of New Jersey.
While we didn’t score any bargains at Antique Archeology, we didn’t expect to. We scored an experience. American Pickers has become a cultural icon; even people who never go out hunting for antiques love this show. We appreciate what Mike and Frank have done for antique collecting. More and more people, especially younger people, are discovering the fun of “the hunt” thanks to them. Frankly, I don’t blame them for cashing in on their fame while they can. If you’re ever in LeClaire, Iowa, be sure to check out their shop.
That said, make sure you don’t leave town without checking out some of the other shops, too. We would especially recommend the Big River Antique Mall at 423 N. Cody Road on the other end of town.
This antique mall contained some really fabulous stuff, particularly when it came to antique advertising items. They were pricey, to be sure, but the quality was outstanding. There were plenty of moderately-priced items as well. We left the shop with two items that we liked a lot and that we felt were reasonable in cost.
The first was an adorable bobble-head clown. He’s in excellent condition and was marked “Japan” on the bottom, so he probably dates to the 1950’s. And he only cost $18.
The other item we purchased was a cardboard sign that advertised the Marx Brothers movie, Animal Crackers, which would date it to the 1930’s. It would have been used on a bus or trolley. Most of these signs would have been tossed out shortly after use. This one, while not in perfect condition, seemed like an excellent buy at $16, and it’s small enough that we might actually be able to find a place to display it when we get home.
Travel-Log #1: Galesburg, Il 9/6/12: Reported by Carol
We left home yesterday and headed west through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana; thirteen hours and 681 miles later, we arrived in Brownsburg, Indiana. What a frustration to watch billboards advertising antique malls flash by us on I-70! The huge Heart of Ohio Antique Mall was visible from the road, but we couldn’t stop. We promised ourselves that we would return to Ohio specifically to do some antiquing in a year of two.
This morning we drove to Springfield, Illinois, arriving shortly before noon. We spent a couple of hours in the new Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum. After a quick lunch, we got on Route 97 and drove for at least two hours through farmland and small towns, arriving in Galesburg, Illinois at 4:30. That meant we had exactly a half hour to tear through the impressive three-story Galesburg Antiques Mall Co. at 349 E. Main Street.
As you can imagine, we never made it past the first floor. We did, however, find several things to purchase. Unfortunately, I can’t report on the things that will become Christmas or birthday presents for Amy. I can say, however, that I was happy with several 1940’s Metronome magazines for $2 each, and Jim picked out a vintage Coca-Cola cribbage board (pictured below) for $8.
At 5 pm, the store closed and we were back in the car scanning the papers we picked up to see if any of the other local antique shops stayed open later. Eureka! There was one that didn’t close until 6 pm. Over to the Hawthorne Centre Antique Mall at 2188 Veterans Drive we went. It didn’t look very promising from the outside, but inside, the shopkeeper was friendly and there were a number of open booths with a variety of antiques and collectibles in them.
We decided to purchase a nineteenth century temperance plate (pictured). It was apparently part of a series because the dealer had about ten of these plates, a couple in damaged condition for $18 each and several in good condition for $75 each. The one we purchased was in between. It has an old staple repair on the reverse, but displays well from the front and was priced at $35. The inscription on it reads: The Bottle – Plate VII – The husband in a state of furious drunkenness kills his wife with the instrument of all their misery. The disheveled husband, with one shoe missing, is being restrained by a policeman while a doctor, perhaps, attends to his dead wife whose skirt and one limp hand show on the left of the plate. A broken bottle lies between them. This English transfer plate has a few spots of hand-painted color. The only mark on the back is a number 8.
Considering that we only had an hour and a half to work with, we were quite happy with both stops in Galesburg, Illinois. There are other shops in the town as well. We wish we had more time to visit Carl Sandberg’s birthplace and tour the Orpheum Theater. Such are the frustrations of working with a tight timeline.
Tomorrow, we are heading into Iowa. Yes, we do plan to visit Antique Archeology, home of the “American Pickers.” Stay tuned.