Copyright © Harry Rinker, LLC 2016

To Infinity and Beyond: 30 Years and Still Going

“Rinker on Collectibles” was nearing its ninth anniversary when Walt Disney’s “Toy Story” premiered in general release on November 22, 1995. I researched the date because I was concerned that younger readers may not be familiar with “To Infinity And Beyond.” It is a generational phrase, meaning it has a limited memory span. I still remember the blank look on my university students’ faces when I used the phrase “Go ahead, make my day” (“Sudden Impact,” 1983) in one of my classes a few years past.

“Rinker on Collectibles” Column #1560 marks 30 years of published, numbered columns – 780 question and answer columns and 780 text (think piece / editorial) columns. The anniversary number date is deceptive. In the first decade of “Rinker on Collectibles,” I wrote several unnumbered, special edition columns and have vague memories of skipping a week or two. I made a mistake by not assigning a publication date to each column. I still follow the non-dating practice because the publication process for a column ranges from a week to a month depending upon the publication or website in/on which the column appears.

When I wrote Column #1040, I resolved to keep going for five years. Column #1300 arrived quicker than expected. At the time, I decided to end “Rinker on Collectibles” with Column #1500. When I reached that milestone, I realized I was only 60 columns away from a thirtieth anniversary column, only a year and two months in the future. I had time to decide “Rinker on Collectibles” long-term future.

When I wrote Column #1300, I shared my desire to keep writing so I could document three trends impacting the antiques and collectibles field: (1) the trade’s recovery from the 2008-2009 Great Recession, (2) the changes caused by the digital age, and (3) the increasing demise of traditional collectors and the price impact their collections would have when they enter the secondary market. I visited these topics on multiple occasions.

By 2011, it was evident that change rather than preservation of the status quo was the engine driving the antiques and collectibles trade and society as a whole. These new changes were unlike any previously experienced. The rapidity of change required analyzing and interpreting it monthly rather than semi-annually or quarterly.

I have no plans to end “Rinker on Collectibles” with this column. Like the Energizer bunny, I am going to keep going. I am not setting future number goals. Column #1600 is a given. Column #1700 is not, nor is #1820 (35 years), #2000, or #2080 (40 years).

[Author’s Aside: It is a common practice among cartoonists to take a temporary leave of absence for six months or a year. I have toyed with this idea on several occasions. Many current readers have never read my earlier columns. It would not be difficult to pick 26 or 52 of the best and run them again. I shared this possibility with my editors. Everyone agreed to the concept. Tempted though I was, I have too much pride to rely on past efforts. “Rinker on Collectibles” always has been fresh and will continue to be as long as I write it.]

When I started “Rinker on Collectibles,” I was one of the young bucks in the trade. In truth, I was approaching my 45th birthday. Although a dedicated accumulator, the term collector never applied to me, from an early age, I spent 15 years as a museum professional and did some appraising during the previous five years. I became directly involved in the antiques and collectibles trade when I assumed the editorship of “Warman’s Antiques and Their Prices” in 1981. I often speculate what my antiques and collectibles career would have been like had I started in the trade in my mid-20s. Although a moot point, I suspect I would have become an auctioneer or dealer rather than an educator and researcher.

I am a rarity, a term I would prefer not to use but understand its appropriateness in this instance, in the antiques and collectibles business. I sell information about antiques and collectibles and not objects. I use my time to research and learn the trade’s many histories—from biographies of the great auction houses, dealers, and collectors to the creation, production, marketing, and survival of objects. The antiques and collectibles trade is not comprised of inanimate objects as most assume. Antiques and collectibles are animate objects whose life force is understood by a select few, of which I count myself as one.

“Rinker on Collectibles” is about what I think. It has never been about what I want my readers to think. I expect readers to make up their own minds. It does not take readers long to understand that I am opinionated, a bit arrogant, and as my license plate reads a “NOITAL.” I make no apologies. My recommendation to a person who does not like to know what I think is simple. Do not read “Rinker on Collectibles.”

I am proud that “Rinker on Collectibles” usually is ahead of the curve in identifying and analyzing trends in the antiques and collectibles trade. Accused on occasion of setting market trends, if only I possessed such power, I write “Rinker on Collectibles” as a reporter and not as a soothsayer.

As I continue to age, I cannot avoid reflecting on my many accomplishments in the trade. “What is your greatest accomplishment” is a question I prefer to avoid. “Rinker on Collectibles” appears to be the obvious answer. I am not ready to validate such an assertion. I am proudest of the people in the trade who I have influenced. “Rinker on Collectibles” is only one of the many vehicles available to me to achieve this.

I resolved not too brag too much about “Rinker on Collectibles” when I began to write this column. However, there are four concepts behind the column of which I am very proud. First, every question used in the 780 question and answer columns was an actual question submitted by a reader. I never made up a single question. Second, my answers to questions were education focused, providing background information and explaining market trends that governed the prices presented. Third, I avoided repetition as much as possible in the text and question and answer columns. Finally, I developed a number of general theories to explain how the antiques and collectibles trade works. Although my writing is more qualitative than quantitative, I stand behind the conclusions I reached through extensive observations in the field and reading trade literature.

“Rinker on Collectibles” has continued for 30 years thanks to the support from a large number of people. First, I want to thank my readers—from those who are new to those who have followed the column for decades. I like to think there are some who were there at the beginning. “Rinker on Collectibles” always has been focused on educating and challenging its readers to think. I have never met any reader who said, “I agree with everything you have written.” If there is such a reader, I failed.

Second, I thank the editors and publishers who made and make “Rinker on Collectibles” available. My instructions to these individuals has not changed since I wrote my first column: “I write each column for me. Edit and change what you like. If you do not like a column, do not run it.” Many editors and publishers became friends. Some of my saddest moments occur when one of these friends leaves the profession.

Third, I reserve special thanks for Dana Morykan, my proofreader and critic of “Rinker on Collectibles” for over 25 years. Dana has caught more mistakes than I care to remember. Her “is this really what you mean” and “maybe you should think more about this” comments always make columns better. In respect for Dana, there are times when she does not agree with my opinions but faithfully proofs the column anyway. It is my hope she will continue her work until I write the last “Rinker on Collectibles” column.

After writing Column #1300, I wrote a series of columns identifying ten top changes that took place in the trade between Column #1040 and #1300. I will do the same for the first “Rinker on Collectibles” columns in year 31.

I conclude with a promise. “Rinker on Collectibles” will continue to provide the same high quality information and analysis evidenced through its first 30 years. By doing this, I hope to continue earning your confidence and support in the future.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Selected letters will be answered in this column.  Harry cannot provide personal answers.  Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned.  Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Point Court SE, Kentwood, MI  49512.  You also can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.

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 on the Internet at www.gcnlive.com.


back to top back to columns page