We were thrilled to welcome the crew from WMUR’s NH Chronicle to the shop today! Several Antique Alley shops will be featured as broadcast locations for upcoming shows. As regular viewers, we are happy to report that the whole crew is as even more fun in person!
Our days rarely unfold as expected and this week’s “on the road Tuesday” was no exception. We started out with plans to hit two of our regular haunts, a favorite antiques shop and a consignment shop that was holding four 1970s Steel Case chairs for us. As we headed out, we called two of our favorite pickers to see if we could come by to look at their recent acquisitions…so our 2-stop day was now a 3-stop day. After an hour and a half in the antiques shop, we left with a 1960s crystal rock lamp, a few pieces of vintage clothing, records (of course), a 1950s cat statue, some jewelry, and other assorted smalls. At our second stop, we loaded the Steel Case chairs and then spent an hour picking everything from vintage Dickies coveralls & a 1960s faux leopard coat to industrial gauges & a 1950s siamese cat lamp. As we were loading our purchases, our friend/shop owner said “Hey, do you have time to make another stop? There’s a man in town who has some great beer lights and bar stools in his basement. I haven’t been able to get there and I’d love to give you the call.” So we called our picker friends to delay our arrival time and we set out to meet Rocco (and visit his basement).
Rocco was a charming, wheelchair bound gentleman who was waiting for us when we arrived. He told us that he had lost his wife two years earlier but he was making the best of it. After telling us about the parties they used to have in his 1960s man-cave, he sent us down to the basement to see it in person. With Rocco’s approval, we found a screw driver and removed two 1960s Budweiser lanterns and a Knickerbocker light from the cement wall behind the bar. We also bought 4 vintage wooden slat bar stools and a pair of kitschy plaster statues (a pirate and his busty sidekick). Rocco showed Don his LP collection (opera, classical, and jazz vocal) and told us about his favorite operas. He tried to persuade us to stay for cocktails but we still had another stop to make and we try not to BWI (buy while intoxicated).
So off we went to our fourth stop of the day! We hadn’t seen these folks since last spring and discovered that a prostate cancer battle had sidelined their picking. But they had just received a cancer-free report and were ready to get back on the hunt. Despite being sidelined for 4 months, they still had some great things for us including an industrial mannequin, a pair of 19th century iron handcuffs, a cement greenman plaque, some Roseville pottery, and a 1980s jewelry mannequin head. After we paid them, we left them with a wish list and headed for home.
So our 2-stop day turned into a 4-stop day. Fortunately, my picker instincts told me that we should take the truck and the van…and we filled both! But more than the hunt, the best thing about our road trips is seeing old friends and making new friends. Because in this business, it’s all about the story.
So how to we get the big stuff to you? If you’re local, and you’re not in a hurry, we can generally deliver larger pieces (as long as we can work delivery into our schedule). If you’re not close by, we do have a number of local shippers that offer delivery up and down the east coast and to some locations between New Hampshire and California. And then, there’s option three! In the case of our hammerhead shark, the buyer called and asked if we could deliver to his cabin in Maine (about 2 hours away). I told our buyer that my son Beau might be willing to deliver and we agreed on a price of $200. Hoping to get the shark to his cabin in time for a family party, the buyer offered to throw in 2 cases of beer for next day delivery…needless to say, Beau and the shark hit the road the next morning! So how are we with customer service? Well, we do our best!
As most of our regulars know, Don & I are on the road on Tuesdays and Saturdays doing our house calls. (Yes, you are correct, we do work 7 days a week during the busy season!) This week we had to split up in order to get everything done. Don had back-to-back record calls and I had a pick up in Portsmouth that filled my van with a collection of English antiques including a beautiful oak corner cabinet; a marble top commode with tile back splash; a tall filing cabinet with shelves, drawers, and a pull-down tambour cover; as well as a Louisiana drop-front writing desk and a carved oak coal hod. We managed to squeeze a couple of pieces in the back barn but the rest had to go into the storage barn (which, despite an early summer purge, is filling up fast). As has been the case since he graduated from college, I was fortunate to have the company of my fabulous assistant, Beau Pingree. Smart, handsome, and all muscle!
We’ve become increasingly enamored with record hype stickers during the past several years. Hype stickers are the cover stickers that record companies use to highlight specific tracks on an LP or to draw attention to other attributes like Grammy Awards, multiple LPs, musicians featured on the recording, etc. We read lots of blogs on new vinyl that disregard these stickers but we strongly disagree! In fact, we encourage buyers to seek out covers and shrink with these stickers intact. In the world of vintage vinyl, hype stickers add a “cool factor” that gives insight into the pressing and reminds us of the old fashioned “point of purchase” promotional efforts of various record companies.
In terms of the collectability and value of hype stickers, think of it this way: to what extent does the value of an LP increase if it has it’s original inserts? how much does the value of an LP increase if it is still in its original shrink? what is the value of new vinyl if it still has its original download card? From our perspective, if you’re choosing between a cover with a hype sticker and a cover without a hype sticker–buy the sticker. If you are opening a sealed LP with a hype sticker, keep the shrink in tact and sleeve the cover. Remember, it’s always the things that people throw away that become sought after.
The antiques business is a trendy one driven by social media, design trends, television shows, and nostalgia. Victorian furniture, fine china, and antique textiles (the mainstays of antiques shops ten years ago) have fallen out of favor and been replaced by mid-century modern furniture, vintage clothing, and industrial pieces. As a result, the values of many traditional antiques have plummeted. A blue decorated stoneware crock worth $500 10 years ago is worth half of that today. So with a marketplace that’s constantly changing, how can you determine the current value of your old stuff?
It’s simple–internet sales.
ebay is a great source for current market values of antiques and collectables. But since anyone can list anything for any price, it’s critical to search “sold” items. (In this business, the only price that matters is the price a person is willing to pay.) When you’re on ebay you’ll find the filter for “sold” items on the left hand side of the screen (lower left corner of this photo). Search with keywords that describe your item, select the “sold” filter, and you’ll see actual price similar items have sold for (these prices will be in green). These figures will give you a reasonable assessment of current market value–then you can decide whether or not you want to sell and what a fair price would be (depending on whether you are selling to a dealer or a retail customer).
When we first started selling records, Goldmine was the source for all things vinyl. The Goldmine Guide set record values; Goldmine Magazine connected sellers & buyers; and the Goldmine Rating System set the standard. Though many things have changed (thanks to the internet and web sites like Discogs & ebay), one factor has remained the same–the Goldmine Rating System. As a buyer, it’s critical to understand the rating system of your seller. If your dealer is using Goldmine ratings, as we do, this is the deal:
Records should always have two grades–one for the cover and one for the record.
SEALED: A sealed record will be MINT/UNPLAYED but should be graded for the cover as well (condition of shrink; cut-outs, seam splits, ringwear).
MINT: A mint record is an open but unplayed record in perfect condition with no evidence of wear. A mint cover is open but perfect (no cut-outs, no spine or seam wear, no ringwear).
NEAR MINT: A near mint record will play beautifully but may have minor surface or spindle wear (no scratches). A near mint cover may have minor wear but no cut-outs, splits, ringwear.
VG+: A VG+ record will play nicely but may have minor noise in the lead in or trail-off and may have a minor scratch or scuff. A VG+ cover may have typical wear but any obvious issues (cut-outs) should be noted.
VG: A VG record will play without skipping and will have some background noise and visual wear. A VG cover will have visible wear (ringwear, some seam wear or the start of a center split, some spine wear).
Records that fall below VG are graded FAIR or POOR. Records in this condition should be play-graded and issues to both the cover and the record should be fully described. The only poor/fair records that we sell are records that are records that are rare finds in any condition.
In addition to records, Don has been collecting music-related posters since he was a kid. The walls in our house are filled to capacity but that still leaves hundreds in storage. One of our winter goals was to get some of his collection out for sale in the shop. We’ve managed to add about 100 posters to the inventory in the record room. (Unrolling tubes of posters that have been stored for years has been more fun than Christmas morning!) Most of these posters are promotional and include everything from Zeppelin to The Dead to Bob Marley. Prices are reasonable ($15 to $150).
You never know what the day will bring. We hit the road on Tuesday to look at a record collection that was part of an estate in Massachusetts. The record collection was vast but in poor condition. However, as is often the case, we found other treasures! Stepping into this house was like a visit to the 1600s. A run-down but fascinating two story home circa 1680. The ceilings were so low, Don could barely stand up. Amongst the animal poop and the stacks of debris, we found a beautiful trencher, 2 antique leather hassocks, and a cobbler’s bench. Then, thanks to our iphone flashlights, I crawled into the eaves and found period clothing including a man’s wool suit & vest wrapped in paper and a wedding dress wrapped in a sheet (circa 1810). It’s always amazing to me to find textiles that have survived in attics and eaves for centuries but it really does happen! Unfortunately, the wedding dress had been a home to some mice but there were lots of other beautiful articles of early ladies clothing in excellent condition. The executor of the estate gifted the wedding dress to me because he couldn’t bare to toss it in the dumpster. So I’ll see what I can do with it!
Don and I spend our Tuesdays and Saturdays on the road picking. Yesterday was spent in an old house in Nashua where we dug out an industrial cart, old metal locker baskets, hardware, lighting, vintage clothing, vintage jewelry, old sports paper (Red Sox programs, sports cards), record albums…and lots more. But the coolest find of all? A vintage Wayne Lynch surfboard! This week, we are off schedule with a Friday house call in New London. (Hopefully we’ll get all of yesterday’s finds sorted and priced before Friday, but this time of year inventory tends to come in faster than we can manage!) So when we say “new inventory daily,” we’re not kidding! Hope to see you soon.