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Collector-mania trips

Columnist looks at how compulsions don't make sense until a person develops one, or more
Gord Turner

Do you have friends who are obsessed with collecting certain things? Perhaps it’s old coins, first-edition books, navy memorabilia, or old soda pop bottles. These friends spend time on the Internet checking their sources, and often they know every website related to their special interest. Often, they travel widely to get to shows where their items are being auctioned or are for sale.

My brother-in-law collects many old things, but he is primarily interested in old cars. Sometimes we joke that he bought his farm so he’d have a place to store his many vehicles. He will drive through winter storms from Alberta to southern Nevada to pick up a particular 1954 Chev, and sometimes he will make similar trips just to buy available parts for his host of vehicles.

Recently, we visited his farm and viewed his collection of about 150 vehicles, all needing some form of repair.  Some, of course, he has purchased for parts for the better vehicles in his menagerie. It’s an impressive display, but he will need two or three lifetimes to get them in shape.

I have friends who collect unfinished old furniture and who travel widely to do so. They think nothing of shipping home “ancient” furniture they’ve discovered in Indian Head, Saskatchewan, or Olds, Alberta. In fact, some of what they pick up I would consider derelict furniture, hardly worth sending to the dump.

These friends, however, are also adept at fixing these pieces. They know how to piece together old wood, what type of sanding is required, and which oil to use to restore wood grains. I’ve seen a chair I wouldn’t pay a dime for become a much-sought-after item after 10 days of restoration and love spent on it.

My wife is one of these collectors, and her fixation is on types of glassware. She looks for four or five types of glassware, some going back to the Depression. One of these started many years ago because I acquired an Iris and Herringbone butter dish that belonged to my grandparents. Over the years, we have found every dish possible within this pattern.

One of my wife’s collecting projects was for one of our daughters-in-law. She liked green Jade King glassware, but except for a few coffee mugs, she couldn’t find any.  So my wife took the gathering of a 12 place set as her goal and began looking. Initially, she bought a few pieces on Ebay. Then she decided we had to travel to complete this set.

Over a couple of years, we traveled to many of the antique and collectible stores in Western Canada. We also visited major U.S. antique spots including Cashmere, WA and  Kalispell, MT. Recently, we spent part of our vacation in Ontario hunting for glassware in out-of-the-way collectible shops in places such as Desoronto, Belleville, Port Hope, and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

It has become a bit of a joke between us as we plan our various trips throughout the year. I always set aside a week or two to travel to an area where we ramble from town to village and check out every possible antique shop. Some of these are outstanding to visit, and though we may buy nothing, we enjoy looking at the odds and ends they have acquired. Others are no better than glorified junk stores, replete with clutter and smells. Still, all the collectors I know would rather enter these shops in hopes of finding something than not. In their minds, they believe the golden grail of whatever they’re seeking could be on an isolated shelf or a deserted back lot. And finding a rare or elusive piece is always an exciting event to a collector.