In the late 1970s my wife and I were collectors of country store artifacts, and to support our hobby we became “weekend warrior dealers.”
Late one night we received a call from a customer from Philadelphia inviting us to his home, as he just purchased a quantity of small tin signs advertising a tobacco company. He knew they were saleable but wanted to sell the whole lot.
We made the trip and were met by his wife at the door who insisted we have lunch before even seeing these signs. This luncheon changed our collecting lives as we got into heavy historic facts.
My wife, a history major, was intrigued by our senior hosts knowledge and a statement by our customer, “Joe.” He said, “When you look around at our collection we, after all, are just temporary caretakers of history.”
This couple had a magnificent collection of 1900s graphics in the form of posters, packaging, and Heinz crocks. It was the latter that created the most interest. The rarity of these containers of the 57 brands were a sight to behold.
It was at that point that Joe made his statement, as he said he wanted to pass his collection on to the next caretaker. At this point of our hobby, we couldn’t afford to purchase his wares, so we bought the signs and returned home.
On our trip home, we discussed an alternate, that being old packaging of any product because of the graphics. Result: we outfitted a complete country store and enjoyed it for 20 some years. When it came time for a decision, “an exit strategy,” we contacted several younger collectors that would become the next “caretakers.”
This column was prompted by my coming upon several issues of 1980s Collectors Showcase, a high-quality glossy magazine that devoted each issue to collections of everything from ice cream scoops and Kewpie dolls to coffee cans and talcum powder tins and more. These items of beauty are no doubt no longer in the hands of the featured collector but with a new “caretaker.” They are somewhere!
We vividly recall a young lady that regularly visited our booth searching for any soap-related packaging, as she decorated her utility room with shelves of soap packages. Until you see the vast number of products, you soon realize the selection you had access to in your youth.
This young lady still has her soap collection and probably is looking for a new caretaker.
Joe, who passed on several years ago, sold his Heinz 57 crocks for many thousands to someone that we are certain is very proud of their temporary piece of history.
For today’s collectors, enjoy what you have but consider your long-term exit strategy. In the meantime, reminisce and add to your list of “do you remember” and relish the history of each.
Collecting can be so much fun when you consider the history of your collectible category.
Jerry Glenn, former owner of Legends and Reminisce gift shop, currently is appraising trading card collections.