Many people ask me what I sell at Picture This Antiques. To my close friends and acquaintences, I can usually get away with "lots of neat old stuff", since they've heard me talk endlessly about my antiques and collectibles, but my potential new customers need a tad bit more information. So I typically start describing the collections of vintage print ads, framed early century photographs, great vintage furniture, unique ephemera, terrific sports memorabilia, and toys and games from the 1950's and 60's. As I've expanded the business, I've also added old 1940's record albums, antique devices, old and rare books, and an assortment of 'other' vintage items that appeal to the various collectors that visit.
Last fall, however, during one of my final sales events, I discovered the real answer. An elderly couple was perusing an assortment of paper and vintage programs when the woman picked up an item and exclaimed, "Bob, look at this!". They smiled, then chuckled, and I couldn't help but ask what was so special about what they were reviewing. " This is where we had our wedding," they began explaining as they displayed the old menu from the Paxton Inn. "It was a wonderful place, and we had a great time there. It's too bad the place is gone".
And THAT is what I really sell--memories of times and places past. I realized that bringing back these memories is what actually drew me to collecting antiques and ephemera in the first place, and it's what I love most about this business. Don't get me wrong, I certainly enjoy it when people actually buy my 'neat old stuff', but honestly, I most treasure seeing customers' reactions and sharing their stories when they come across that special item from their past and begin to relive the feelings and memories of days past. That's why I've strived to create a vintage 'atmosphere' of the past at my indoor sales--plenty of old music, lots of memorable items, and displays that are focussed on specific eras or events that bring the past back to life. Perhaps the best compliment I've ever received was from a gentleman who had lingered around at one of my sales, and finally told me "I don't want to leave, this is like a time machine".
That couple didn't buy the Paxton Inn menu, but that was okay. Another person actually came in later in the day and laughed at it, telling me that he and his wife were married there some 30-odd years ago. So I didn't get the item sold, but another person had visited us and left with a warm memory--which made it a very successful day!