RINKER ON COLLECTIBLES — Column #1040 Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2007
Twenty Years and Counting
“Rinker on Collectibles” is officially twenty years old. This is the one thousand fortieth column I have written. Among my accomplishments in the antiques and collectibles trade, this milestone stands apart. Had I realized twenty years ago the time and energy writing a weekly column entailed, I might never have launched the column. Fortunately, my “how hard can it be” attitude prevailed.
When “Rinker on Collectibles” first began, it was a marked departure from the typical antiques columns of the mid-1980s. First, it focused only on objects made after 1900, with special emphasis on objects made after 1945. Today such an approach hardly seems revolutionary. This was not the case in the mid-1980s when “collectibles” were still struggling for equal recognition with “antiques.”
Second, “Rinker on Collectibles” alternated weekly between a question and answer column and a text column. My goal was to challenge the standard method of answering queries and to begin providing “how the trade works” information to the general public.
In the mid-1980s, antiques columns utilized a question and answer format. The questions were short and so were the answers. Answers were factual, rarely analyzing the circumstances that led to the answer. Columns contained a photograph or two. The leading column concluded with a list of five to ten price listings.
I decided readers deserved to know more. As a result, I expanded the answers to the questions I received. I provided historical background, discussed value factors, and analyzed the specific, and sometimes the general, market trends. When I took information from a reference source, whether book or individual, I cited the source. I never included photographs, largely because most letters arrived without photographs and of those that did, more than seventy-five percent were not of publishable quality. Not once did I pad the column with price information from any of the price guides that I edited.
In the twenty years that I have written “Rinker on Collectibles,” I never once made up a question that appeared in this column. I am especially proud of this fact. Every letter I answered came from a reader.
Initially, the text columns were designed to analyze a specific collecting category. They covered a wide range of topics including the objects collected in the category, collecting keys, collecting concerns, and current and long-term market prospects. I am certain there are many in the trade who wished I had stuck to this approach.
This approach lasted less than year. As I became more familiar with how the secondary collectibles market worked and realized how little “insider” information had been shared with the general public, I made the decision to write about how the market works, discuss general trends with emphasis on the forces directing them, and offer my opinions about some of the things I found. I and my editors found that my opinions often did not sit well with some of my readers. My name appeared in letters to the editor far more often than it did on the masthead of my column.
I also did another thing that infuriated some in the trade. I decided to poke fun at the trade from time to time. Even in the twenty-first century, the traditionalists in the trade have trouble laughing at the trade’s daily happenings. The antiques and collectibles field is loaded with humor if you know where to look.
Any business is much more enjoyable when it is fun rather than serious. For the past twenty years, I have had fun. My continuing involvement in the trade is based on a simple premise—if what I do ever stops being fun, I am going to quit. I am having fun now and strongly suspect I still will be ten years from now.
Thus far, two compilations of “Rinker on Collectibles” text columns have been published: Rinker on Collectibles (Wallace-Homestead: 1989) and How To Think Like a Collector (Emmis Books, 2005). Comparing the first to the second shows the tremendous growth “Rinker on Collectibles” has achieved.
My text columns seem to impact readers differently. I have my favorites. Much to my surprise, my readers’ favorite columns differ from my list. Given the diversity of individuals and objects in the collectibles field, this should have been expected.
I am most proud of the columns which challenged and redefined the definition of antiques, collectibles, and desirables. One of my goals is to keep “Rinker on Collectibles” on the cutting edge of developments within the trade. I look forward to the time when I feel comfortable writing and defending the concept that an antique is anything made before 1980. At the moment, I am sticking to my 1963 date.
Over the years, I have developed a number of Rinker’s Rules. Of these, I am most proud of Rinker’s Thirty Year Rule—“For the first thirty years of anything’s life, all its value is speculative.” It still applies. The recent Beanie Babies craze is an excellent case in point.
There is one Rinker’s Rule that I talk about more than any other, albeit mostly at personal appearances rather than in print. It is simple and basic—“You do not wrap an antique or collectible up in anything with which you would not wipe your derriere (or whatever version of the term you might use).” Readers of my column, know the word I most often use is a three letter word starting with an “a” and ending with an “s.”
During the past twenty years, I have written several columns dealing with issues such as how to properly ship and pack collectibles, keys to identifying period, reproduction (exact copies), copycats (stylistic copies), fantasy items (forms and shapes that did not exist historically), and fakes, how to salvage objects that have been water damaged, and most recently a series of four columns on globalization. You will find several of these series on my website, www.harryrinker.com.
As I traveled abroad, I shared my adventures and findings. I wrote about the trend toward globalization of collecting before the arrival of the Internet and eBay. In the years ahead, I plan to visit even more countries and new areas within countries that I have visited. Watch for my reports.
I would be remiss in my reminiscences if I did not comment on the controversies “Rinker on Collectibles” has engendered over the years. It was never my goal to write a column that pleased everyone. In fact, I claimed on more than one occasion that my real goal was to piss off every reader at least once a year. Some will argue that I exceeded my goal.
In truth, my primary goal for the “Rinker on Collectibles” text columns was to get people to think. Although I made it clear repeatedly that all I was offering was my opinion, many interpreted my writing as gospel. I am neither saint nor devil. I am opinionated, controversial, and, occasionally, obnoxious.
Over the years, I have never responded to my critics. I saw no need. I had my say. They were entitled to theirs’. Readers were free to pick the position with which they agreed.
Norman Martinus, my very good friend and co-author of Warman’s Paper, recently told me that he felt “Rinker on Collectibles” had mellowed considerably over the past several years. I was not pleased. “Rinker on Collectibles” is best when it has a rough and cutting edge. Look for its return in the months ahead.
A few special thanks are in order. Dana Morykan has done yeoman (I’d rather be damned than find a politically correct term to use here) service in proofing more than half of these columns. Farm and Dairy’s Antique Collector and Auction Guide and AntiqueWeek, trade publications, and The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), a daily, are the papers that have run this column the longest.
Finally, thanks to you, my readers, for your loyalty. I trust I have served you well in the past. I look forward to serving you with the three Vs—vim, vigor, and vinegar—in the future.
Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out www.harryrinker.com.
You can listen and participate in Whatcha Got, Harry’s antiques and collectibles radio call-in show, on Sunday mornings between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM Eastern Time. If you cannot find it on a station in your area, Whatcha Got streams live and is archived on the Internet at www.goldenbroadcasters.com.
HOW TO THINK LIKE A COLLECTOR (Emmis Books, 2005; $14.95), Harry’s new book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via www.harryrinker.com.