Copyright © Harry Rinker, LLC 2019

The Gateways to Collecting

The last live WHATCHA GOT? national syndication broadcast occurred on Sunday, June 23, 2019. This “second” WHATCHA GOT? national syndication began on Sunday, March 4, 2006. For over 13 years and 3 months, I did a live show every Sunday morning from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM Eastern Time. The locations included my homes in Brookfield (CT), Vera Cruz (PA), and Kentwood (MI), B&B, hotel, and motel rooms across America and in Germany, antiques and collectibles appearance sites, cruise ships, airplanes, telephone booths and telephones in numerous locations in airports, along the road, and friends’ homes in the United States, Germany, and elsewhere throughout Europe.

WHATCHA GOT? was an adventure. I ended it reluctantly. My wife Linda, who retires on July 15, and I plan to travel extensively. When I traveled previously, I had to take my portable radio studio equipment with me. On more than one occasion when checking into an airport boarding area, it created problems with TSA screeners. The equipment also was heavy and bulky. In the true confession department, I reached a point where sleeping in Sunday mornings was starting to have a strong appeal.

[Author’s Aside #1: WHATCHA GOT?’s death is a bit over exaggerated. WRTA in Altoona will do a once-a-month special WHATCHA GOT? edition and post it as a podcast. My website www.harryrinker.com will provide links to the podcast. WRTA also has call-in capability. I will do my best to list the date of the next live show on my website. I also am talking with several other radio stations about once-a-month special edition shows.]

Throughout its run, WHATCHA GOT? usually featured a live telephone guest interview with someone from the antiques and collectibles trade in the third segment of the second hour. Deciding whom I wanted to talk with one last time before going off the air was a difficult decision. The final three interviews were David Bausch, toy collector extraordinaire, Judith Miller, editor of the Miller price guides and author of some of the best reference books in the trade, and Duane Cerny, one of the owners of Chicago’s Broadway Antique Market (BAM and on my Top 5 US antiques malls list) and author of “Selling Dead People’s Things: Inexplicable True Tales: A Vintage Memoir.”

To borrow a phrase normally associated with Steve Martin, Duane Cerny is a “wild and crazy” guy. One is never certain what he is going to say next, which, of course, is why I like him so much. When inviting Duane to appear as my guest on the last WHATCHA GOT? syndicated broadcast, I told him I wanted to focus on the future of collecting.

[Author’s Aside #2: Assuming Genesis Communications allows the WHATCHA GOT? archive to remain on its website for a few months and hopefully years, I recommend going to www.gcnlive.com, click on “Archives” on the toolbar, scroll down to WHATCHA GOT?, click again, and select the June 23, 2019 show, Hour 2, and click on last time to listen to Duane and my conversation. The interview will occur approximately 25 to 30 minutes into the show.]

Duane is one tuned-in guy. His passion for antiques and collectibles, understanding of what is necessary if the trade is going to survive long-term, and marketing acumen are among the best I have encountered. Talking with Duane always takes me down new “why didn’t I think of that” paths. Once he starts talking, the new concepts spew so fast my notes are always two to three concepts behind.

Duane introduced the concept of Gateway Collectibles during our June 23, 2019 WHATCHA GOT? conversation. A Gateway Collectible is an object group that triggers the love of collecting for a specific generation. Duane identified several Gateway Collectibles that are triggering a renewed collecting interest among the Millennials and subsequent generations.

As I reviewed my notes of Duane’s list, I reflected back to the preceding generations, my generations, and the next two generations that separated us from the Millennials and later generations. What were the Gateway Collectibles that motivated the traditionalist, Baby Boomer, and subsequent generations of collectors to collect and how did they change?

The traditional collectors, those who began their collecting in the period from the 1920s through the early 1960s, has three major Gateway Collectibles. The first group were family treasures, whether historic or hand-me down. Traditionalist collectors placed a value on age and survival. Preserving family heirlooms as a documented link to the past also was a major influence. The second group were the antiques collected by those who came before them. There was a strong desire to duplicate what already was considered socially acceptable to collect. Many traditionalists were mentored by dealers, other collectibles, and influential members of the museum profession. The third group consisted of a select list of collecting categories that reflected socially acceptable good taste, aesthetic appreciation, and breeding among the country club set and the social elite. A love of antiques and financial success were closely linked.

Although I was born in 1941 and technically do not qualify as a Baby Boomer, I grew up during the first half of the Baby Boomer era. The traditionalists were members of the radio and movie, Depression era, and World War II generations. I am a member of the first of the television generation. As such, I always have had a foot in both camps—the traditionalist and the television generations.

In my previous analysis of the Gateway Collectibles of the television generations, I identified a specific collecting pattern. First, the Baby Boomers bought back their childhood treasures, primarily the toys with which they played. As their collecting interest expanded, they moved into movies, music, and television memories. Period clothing came next. The process was complete when they started to buy back the dinnerware, furniture, and stemware with which they grew up.

This Gateway Collectibles pattern governed the two Baby Boomer generations and Generation X. The earlier pattern dissolved with the Millennials. Interest in the past, especially in respect to things owned by their grandparents and parents, minimalized. Even the “Me” focus of the previous generation lessened. Adventure, entertainment, dining, and other interests replaced collecting as a major consideration.

Duane suggested this is changing, especially in large urban areas. He has identified a number of Gateway Collectibles that have renewed his faith in the long-term future of the antiques and collectibles market. His list and concepts are worth considering.

Duane’s key point is the renewed interest among young people in vinyl records. He sees this as a reaction to the sterile nature of the digital age. Clean, clear, and precise are not necessarily viewed as advantageous. There is a growing desire to hold and use the physical object.

Young people are not collecting vinyl records because of the images on the album covers, albeit these images apparently have a subliminal effect. They want to play the records, which means a renewed interest in Hi-Fi and stereo component systems. Does this mean that those old 1960s and 1970s home entertainment units will find a new life? I would not be surprised.

Once enamored with vinyl, the vinyl aficionado’s interest turns to period clothing. Period jewelry has become a desirable accessory. The current hot decades are the 1980s and 1990s. The 2000s are soon to follow.

Bar ware is another Gateway Collectibles for the younger generation. Duane noted that “drinking and smoking never go out of style.” While I am not as convinced as Duane is about smoking, I am in full agreement about drinking. Based on my personal observations, it is as popular or even more popular today than it was when I was a young adult.

Although these new young collectors may not collect with the same degree of intensity and passion as older collectors, the good news is that they are beginning to collect. Further, Duane pointed out a growing interest among many of BAM’s buyers in learning more about what they are buying.

I ended my conversation with Duane by telling him that when I get depressed about the future of collecting, I always make a trip to Chicago to visit BAM and the Randolph Street Market. It always renews my faith in the future of our business. If you have never taken such a trip, I strongly recommend it.

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.

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