Readers of this column no doubt recall the closing episodes of two very successful sitcoms, “Cheers” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” when Sam Malone and Lou Grant, respectively, simply turned out the lights and the screen went black.
This is our 72nd column for The Bluffton Sun and our farewell tidings.
It’s been our joy over the past several years to convey the many stories and historic nature of one’s collectibles. The best benefit has been the many long-term friendships formed. My wife Audrey and I collected many things for more than 60 years and can tell many wonderful stories, two of which we’ll share to close this column.
Over this period of time, I have looked up to four personalities in my writings because of their reality in life’s many pathways: Irma Bombeck, Molly Ivans, Ann Richards, and this paper’s editor, Lynne Hummell. They are concise, interesting, and most of all, inject a bit of humor into their musings along with reality.
After all these years I’ve been asked, “What advice can you give us?” I’m not very fond of the word “advice,” as it seems to me a bit condescending. I would much rather answer with a recommendation and or observations, allowing the questioner their choices.
Over the years, I’ve jotted some copious notes that have come our way as observations, along with a few sayings:
• “Water will seek its level,” when wondering of the value of a select collectible. Auctions will answer.
• “Tell the truth, so your story is the same,” when describing a select collectible. Exaggerating will trip you up.
• “You can’t pay too much for something good.” Our closing story will describe this adage.
• Competitive collecting or rivalries will probably lose friendships.
• Serious collectors must seek near mint condition for long-term investment.
• Before you purchase, do your research, and be confident in said item. Be safe, not sorry.
The happiest collectors live with their collection as décor or displayed to enjoy every day. If it is stored in boxes, it’s not much fun – and collecting should be challenging, exciting and satisfying.
My wife, daughter and I started collecting with a few food-related packages and advertising. The hobby grew to the point of being a feature chapter in noted New York author William Ketchum’s book, “American Collectibles.”
Mr. Ketchum asked Audrey at a show if he could visit our recreated country store (set up in our home), take photos, and interview her. He used one of his images for the book’s cover. His rationale as to why the book was a quick sell-out and why the second edition was a flop, in Mr. Ketchum’s own words, was because he changed the dust jacket.
One of our proudest moments came as a result of that book, when the curator of the world-famous Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, called Audrey to ask her for our assistance in a major project.
This was 1983 and the Biltmore Estate wanted to open to the public for the first time the lower-level kitchens, pantries, and servants’ quarters. The parameters were severe, as all items had to be documented pre-1923 – and all was needed in three months. Would we be willing?
Upon examining their wants, we knew had sources upon which we could rely. Therefore, we accepted, and we delivered. Even now, some 40 years later, if you visit this magnificent 125-room mansion, you’ll see our handiwork. Honestly, it was a great adventure!
The second, and our final story for The Bluffton Sun, came about in 1981 on a visit to Brimfield, Massachusetts, and the giant flea market. Upon visiting a booth of quality advertising posters and signs, I asked, “Do you have anything baseball”?
Audrey had strayed off to another area and did not see what I was about to do. The dealer said he had something special that he got in an old drug store. He reached under a counter and showed me a large brown envelope. He said before opening it, “It’s expensive and non-negotiable.”
He opened the envelope and in perfect condition was a triangular paper window corner sign in brilliant colors advertising Colgan’s Violet Chips endorsed by Honus Wagner. I gulped and said, “How much”? He confidently said, “$300.”
I immediately felt I knew someone that would want it, so I paid the price and did not tell the wife. I remember the saying, “You can’t pay too much for something good.”
I called my prospect and described the piece. There were no cell phone photos as in today’s deals, so he trusted me. I sold it to him for $600, but when the check arrived, it was for $1,000!
Why? My buyer was always honest, and he confessed he sold it for $2,500! Those transactions happened all in one week.
End of story? No, as a very large auction house recently sold this one-of-a-kind piece in the envelope for $45,000. A true story confirmed, 110 years old and in perfect condition. Once more, the sky’s the limit when something is that good.
I am writing this last column late at night and Audrey just came in and said, “Jerry, come to bed and turn out the light.”
And so, dear readers, our screen goes to black.
Jerry Glenn, former owner of Legends and Reminisce gift shop, currently is appraising trading card collections.