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Ron & Donna Miller - Publishers

Talking Shop...

Publisher & Editor, Donna Miller

It’s the time of year when our church hosts its annual rummage sale - a fact which probably shows up in this column every April, since it’s held in March and I’m usually involved. This is a big event at the
First Presbytherian Church of McMinnville, Oregon, because this year marked its 80th anniversary.

That’s a lot of rummage to pass through the doors and out into the community again.
We don’t have any of those original women who started the sale to raise money for missions - and that’s still the goal - but I know we have at least 2 women still helping who have done it for 50 years! Imagine!

My assignment, based on nothing more than the fact that as editor of an antiques and collectibles newspaper I’m supposed to know about such things, is to handle what is called the “good junque.” Most of our prices are in the $1-$3 range. The good “junque” is of better quality than the hundreds of 25¢ mugs.

Antique pickers are naturally one of our best customers. And they’re a good reflection of what is moving in the market. I had a huge box full of silverplate serving pieces; no one wanted them. On the other hand, I had an equally large box of really beat up, worn copper items. The copper all disappeared within the first half hour of the sale.

There was little interest in glass items. We had a set of 12 Tiffin crystal goblets with platinum rims for $10. They didn’t even go in the bag sale on the closing day, where everything that would fit in a grocery bag could be had for $5.

In other departments, the kitchen items sold out; the knick knack table sold next to nothing; the bedding and linens sold out; the decorative items were basically untouched. Tools and furniture disappeared; Christmas items were ignored. The trend is obvious: people are buying useful items.
I’m generalizing somewhat, because some things sold from all areas, and we probably sold half of the thousand books we started with, but you get the idea. I’m ignoring the whole subject of the clothing - some sells, some doesn’t.

One of the perks of helping with the sale is the chance to find things for ourselves. I have a new walking stick, a velvet dress for my granddaughter and an antique ironing board. I found a back scratcher to replace the one we left in a hotel, some books for my brother and a carved wooden bear with a salmon in its mouth that I think our son might like. I don’t think Ron bought anything for himself, except for the several pieces of pie that were served during the sale days.
I haven’t seen Ron’s column yet - and wouldn’t be surprised if it contains some more observations about the 80 years of rummaging that have taken place at FPC. I hope his thoughts, if he does share them, don’t contradict mine!

Donna Miller

Travel And Antique Shopping
Are More Fun Than
Buying On The Computer

Publisher, Ron MillerWe’ve seen a lot of change in the antiques and collectible world since we entered it 30 plus years ago. Looking back, it is amazing that we came to it knowing so little and are now able to claim (valid or not) that we know something about it.

What we know for sure is there is little about the old stuff world that is the same.

It probably started to change with the creation of eBay. It seems to me that, before eBay, the values and the availability of collectible items was so much different and collections were so less complete that it encouraged travel.

I think we are now missing those serious collectors.

Of course, it might be unfair to blame the internet, because new generations don’t seem to be interested in collecting. In addition, the idea that you could buy almost anything and sell it later at a higher value has gone by the wayside. We see the internet today as not as good a place to buy or sell but it still seems very popular.

I’d like to encourage you to find a good time share facility to buy and use so that you can get off the couch and back to hunting for treasures. (I know time shares have a bad rep with many people because of aggressive sales tactics, etc., but we’ve used them for travel for over 30 years and find them the best possible way to vacation. We unpack our bags for a week, and find all the antique shops in an area, and we have plenty of room to sort and store our finds until we head for home.) And there’s room to take your kids or friends with you and show them how much pleasure you can get out of seeing what shops and shows have to offer.

We were already enamored of timeshares in the early days of owning Old Stuff so it wasn’t much of a push to add antique shops and even shows to our travel plans. We would pick a part of the country we would like to visit and time it appropriately so that we could check out shows like those in Brimfield in Massachusetts.

We did a lot of buying in those days and stuffed suitcases with stuff. We were mostly buying, not collecting, because we were buying things that we liked and thought somebody else would like also. We have never considered ourselves collectors. We were really just learning (still are!).

Packing suitcases ended when TSA started rummaging through them and leaving our carefully wrapped treasures too vulnerable for breakage. We started making more driving trips and that promoted more buying and was surely good for the industry. We even made several trips pulling a trailer so that we could buy even more.

I don’t know what it is going to take to develop more buyers, whether they are collectors or otherwise, but I’m quite sure you’ll find value in expanding your horizons by combining travel with your collecting experience.

In reality, the antiques business and the timeshare industry have a lot in common. They both have an aging population and lots of opportunity for a new generation to take over.

May the force be with us and them!

Ron Miller


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