What is it with me and antique malls, anyway?!

I have no idea why I am so obsessed, er, fascinated with ‘going antiquing’– and yes, it is a verb around my house. Granted, I was raised by a man who managed a furniture store, but that was retail, not antique. And my mom is completely unsentimental about possessions in general and antiques in particular– she will reminisce about some fabulous piece of furniture that was in the big house (NINE children!) in Sioux City, Iowa she grew up in 90-plus years ago and just as I am salivating over the thought of possibly inheriting such a treasure she shrugs and says, “Wonder whatever happened to that? Oh, well, it’s long gone by now.”

My two sisters, Liz and Carolyn both share my love of antique stores. Liz has a very discerning eye, and carefully adds a few things here and there– these days she is much more interested in spending her money on new things, for her beloved granddaughter Perri. Carolyn is as drawn to vintage dishes as I am, and though she has recovered nicely from a brief but colorful eBay addiction about five years ago, she still enjoys looking and is always up for an afternoon out browsing the aisles.

My own two girls have mixed reactions. Over the years, Madi Rose has slowly developed into quite the little antiquing companion and always has her eye out for several (typically quirky) things she likes to collect. For example: vintage sepia-toned family photographs particularly of old men, preferably with lots of facial hair, mutton-chop sideburns and a rakish air. I don’t get it either, but her bedroom walls are festooned with them. She is the BEST antique store photographer, and most of the pictures I use here are ones that she took. Charlotte, on the other hand… well, she’s still at the ‘I’d rather have dental surgery than spend 3 hours wandering around a dusty old store looking at things we’ll never even buy or waiting in the car with dad listening to my iPod when we could have been home by now if we didn’t have to keep stopping at every antique store sign that mom and Madi ALWAYS manage to spot even though we’re going 75 miles an hour down the highway’ stage. However I’m sure some day soon she will totally grow out of that phase and wake up some bright morning just begging to be taken to Franklin so we can spend the afternoon wandering the stores– just like I’m sure that some day soon Russ will suddenly develop a craving for mushrooms although he has thus far successfully managed NOT to, in spite of 34 years of me doggedly cooking with them anyway.

It could happen.

At any rate, with me? Antiquing is the emotional equivalent of a hot bath and a glass of wine– it soothes my soul, calms my busy mind and puts me in a zen-like state of deep contentment. It also simultaneously awakens the primeval hunter-gatherer instinct deep within my DNA, and I have a tendency to become a wee bit consumed by The Search. At any given time I have about three or four things in mind that I am “keeping an eye out for”– not necessarily actually collecting, just scanning the shelves and looking around the booths with the hopes of coming across that perfect little something or other I recently researched on the internet. The irony of course, is that even if I DO find it, I rarely buy it– but it sure is fun to stumble across! My current list of hopefuls include a hand-painted Bavarian or lusterware art deco tea set for one (preferably on a matching tray), vintage 50’s tablecloths (preferably with a fruit motif in a particular shade of blue that matches some of my dishes), Victorian silver napkin rings (preferably figural ones), and 1920’s era silk bed jackets. Yeah. I’m eclectic.

So what about you guys? Do other people’s old possessions hold any deep fascination for you or mildly creep you out? Are you a fellow aisle-wanderer, or are you the one sitting in the car checking your watch? And do you collect things? (Let me know, I’ll keep an eye out for you!)

**Here we are in Bell Buckle, watching a train roll slowly by and mentally preparing to storm the stores…

**This is the sight that gets my blood pumping– virgin ANTIQUE TERRITORY!!! (I think was in Kentucky.)

**A rainbow of Depression glass.

**One of my all-time favorite stores, Phillips General Store in Bell Buckle.

**I also love old chandelier prisms *makes mental note to add them to The List*

**These are the kind of little unexpected still life arrangements that just delight me– and Madi is so very good at capturing.

**Yes, I am indeed a member of the First Church of The Antique Mall.


**These are Madi’s favorite kind of photos– the guy on the right might be a possibility for her collection, but I think he probably needs a handlebar moustache and foppish expression to really make the cut.

**This comes under the category of, “Wait– people actually BUY these? I grew up with a million of these!”

**Speaking of fruit motifs– if you are in the market, I can totally hook you up…

**This is one of those unexpected treasures you just never knew you wanted until you found it. And yes, we did buy it– it will be put to good use at the next Dirty Santa game at the Smedley family Christmas Eve gathering.

**And I’ll leave you with this lovely ‘antique’ image… (We DIDN’T buy this one!)

19 Responses

  1. MostlySunny

    I’m in the car…with my Kindle!

    My husband LOVES this stuff! We went through a phase of having those exact pictures that Madi likes on our walls. I always wondered why we had these people who we have no idea who they are prominently displayed. I’m definitely missing the “antique gene”, I guess.

  2. Antique Sandra from NH

    Hi, Love the story and the photo’s. NH is antique land too. Lots of local stores. Can think of no better way to spend a day. Have lots of antique furniture and “stuff”. Running out of room but once you’re addicted—-well! Keep the stories and photo’s coming. God bless. Sandra

  3. LindaB

    I don’t usually like to go to antique shops around here—-they’re boring to me. But I did go into one once with my daughter and was walking through thinking how boring it was when I came upon a table……..made of metal, painted white with red trim, and tubular legs……we had a table just like that when I was a baby! I remember my first birthday (yes, I know that’s weird), the cake my mother made, the dress she wore, and my dad putting change in the legs of that table to save for me. THERE IT WAS! I didn’t buy it, but I just stared at it for a while—it brought back so many memories. Good memories. I suppose if an antique item brings good memories and not bad, it’s a good thing, if you like having old pieces around you.

    Your antique shops look more interesting than ours. I have to make a trip to Tennessee and go to Bell Buckle some day! Do they have ice cream too? If I went to Gatlinburg, how much further is Bell Buckle? It’s not like Gatlinburg, is it……all touristy?

  4. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Gracious, I grew up in the midst of my parents collecting antiquest of every kind….and boy did I hate dusting. My mother’s brother was president of the Del-Mar-Va (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) Antique Association (or whatever it was called) and he used to bring dealers to my mother’s home so they culd see her house-full of furniture, pottery, glassware, etc. And she used them. Those $20 plus jelly glasses were on the table with the old pink camelia china whenever we had company. Daddy cleaned things up when needed and Saturday’s entertainment was attending sales in people’s yards in town and out in the country. When mother had to give up her home my children took many things, as did I, and antique dealers came and bought the rest. It was amazing how much money she made from her “investments.” I do enjoy the antiques I have, especially the things that belonged to my grandmother and great-grandmother…..and it’s an assortment of primitive to victorian with even an English potty chair trown in which looks like a table where it sits. Yep, my aunt and I used to haunt antique shops everywhere…all over the country. At first, my husband fought stopping at shops along the highway, but later gave in and would take a nap in the car while I fed my cravikng. I have wall pockets all over the house holding flowers, pens and pencils, or nothing. Oak tables with claw feet are in my sunroom and under my computer in a bedroom, wash stands, marble-top tables, electric oil lamps, figurines, etc., etc. The fact is now that at my age some of the things my husband and I bought through the years as new are quickly becoming antiques. Hmmmm, but whose counting?

  5. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Just need to mention how y’all missed out on some real bargins. At those home sales, there would be bushel baskets of dishes and you would buy, sight unseen, a whole basket at the auction for a quarter or fifty cents. Mother bought me a flow-blue pitchen, bowl, soap dish, etc., for $125, which was a real steal back then. My uncle, the antique dealer picked me up a rocker for $14 that was a beauty. And he used to tell me when I went to aution sales to watch the antique dealers and keep bidding against them but stop with your one last bid after their last bid because they knew the value and what they were going to be able to sell it for. Pretty good tip. But, of course,that doesn’t help in an antique shop. My uncle in his shop had an assortment of different colored depression glass, but I always thought it wasn’t very pretty. Maybe it’s because I remembered it during the depression. It sure surprised me when it became a bit valuable. I believe mother must have had at least one of everything imaginable. Did I tell you (and I know I did but it is worth repeating) I hated dusting. For a long time after I married my mother wold complain about my place being so sterile. She meant I had nothing sitting around on my tables or anywhere else. I had to gradually grow into it. Now, I’m back to not being too thrilled about dusting again.

  6. Shella

    I LOVE antiquing, too. My great-grandparents came from Norway and built a big farmhouse with a large attic. My grandpa eventually took over the farm and raised his family there. Items that belonged to both my great-grandparents and my grandparents were stored – and left untouched for years – up in the attic. When grandma was in her 80s, her six children decided it was time to empty the attic. Before that happened, though, each child got to pick one item that he/she REALLY wanted. One uncle chose the old family Bible, printed in Norwegian, with handwritten notes. My father chose a brass bell that had been on a cow that was part of my great-grandma’s dowry. My father also ended up with many other wonderful old family items: a handmade china cabinet, an old trunk, lots of old tools, dishes and toys, an old (wool!) swimsuit, handwritten journals documenting the cost of running the family farm, and so on. The items became part of our home and our lives. And also started my love for “going antiquing.” I, too, love old dishes – and struggle to keep my addiction under control. One of my favorite items of all time, though, is a family item that almost got tossed away. It now hangs in my home on an old, handmade wooden hanger. What looked like a dirty, scrunched-up rag turned out to be a handmade slip – with tiny, precise stitches, pleats, handmade lace and unbelievable attention to detail – that is truly fabulous.

  7. Gramma Jac

    I love antiquing although I don’t go often–it hurts my pocketbook!!! I collect teapots and tea paraphernalia, then it kind of depends on what hits my “quirky” or “cool” meter!

    My husband doesn’t go often, but when he does, I can’t get him out of the store. He says he can see where it would be REALLY addicting! He is from Blue River, WI and we once found a blue and yellow butter box (just the waxy cardboard like you get butter in now) that says “Blue River Butter” (and is from there)–it became my “inspiration piece” and I decorated my whole office around it. At Christmas, I found a yellow table for that room, with the right amount of “distressing”!

    My oldest son isn’t too into visiting antique stores (tho’ I suspect they would be better than dental surgery to him!) and my 16 year old doesn’t mind, but is in and out pretty quickly. My youngest son (21) has always been a shopper and does like antiquing; he’s a photographer and has a collection of antique cameras!

    My oldest daughter totally LOVES antique stores and always has. She was upset when, however, by the time she was 20 or so, she could find Strawberry Shortcake and other stuff from HER childhood–she did NOT think she was an antique yet!! She collects many things including Girl Scout stuff, but her most wonderful collection is anything “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (Or actually “A Visit from St. Nicholas”)–which includes over 150 books with different artists’ renditions! She married a Californian whose Dad collects Boy Scout books; plus Lee (her husband) collects different editions of Treasure Island. We couldn’t believe she met someone who, like her, collects editions of ONE book!

    Funny tho’ that I did NOT inherit my love of antiques! My Gramma (who raised me) couldn’t care less! She has a rectangular glass refrigerator dish that is an antique; she keeps celery/carrot sticks in it. I saw one like it for $25 in a store once and told her about it. She said (in her “colorful” way–excuse my language) “Hell, I’d sell mine for twenty!!”

  8. ginnh

    Read you all the time and have only commented a couple times but I couldn’t believe you said your mom was from Sioux City, Iowa. I was born and raised there. As far as antiques – I have the same mix in my family. Hubby not so much, daughter number 1 not so much, daughter number 2 is right in there with me looking at all the really good stuff.


  9. rachelbaker

    As far as I know ‘antique malls’ are very rare in England. I’ve never seen one, and would have said that there weren’t any but then I saw something similar on television last week. We generally have ‘antique shops’ which are lovely but small (very small). There are few things more pleasurable than looking round an antique shop in a small village in the middle of the English countryside, but it doesn’t take very long.

    You do EVERYTHING on a bigger scale, and I would love to explore one of these places. I actually think it is something that both Jon and I would enjoy – the kids would cause havoc though (frightening images of destruction in my mind). I have enjoyed my few experiences in auction rooms.

    I really love carved wooden objects, especially boxes. One day I would love to own a really nice writing bureau with lots of secret drawers!

  10. KellyBurton

    I am genrally overwhelmed in places like this. I think part of it is being on the pre-school plastic era in our current household, and also not knowing where we’ll be living next and when. I want a cool variety of historic things, but mostly, I want order, which means dishes put away and Barbies placed in their cheery pink bins. When I’m, ready to embark on this exciting journey, I’m hanging on to the back of your stylish jacket.

    For now, I give you BIG PROPS for the word “festooned.” xo

  11. rockin robyn

    Love Love Love!!! to go antiquing…. It started out going “yardling” (that’s going to yard sales – in case you needed a translation). Early saturday morning yard sales with my girlfriend <<>>, her husband (he was great at taxi-ing us from neighborhood to neighborhood), sometimes her sister would go and sometimes we would drag the grandson along… poor lil guy!!! Boy how I loved looking through peoples “stuff” they were selling and alot of times seeing the same things we used to have when I was a kid… I think that is what it’s all about – it’s a “fond memories” hobby!

    Then my cousins wife introduced me to antiquing and I was hooked. There are antique places all over PA… where ever I go now I always look for a near-by antique shop. Sometimes its a winner and sometimes it’s a dud. But it is so fun to look and get lost in someone elses memory items and I have taken quite a few home.

    Best thing I found so far was a childs toy guitar. Not a plastic cheap thing like you would find today — no, no, no!! It’s wooden and made a small scale for a child. Mostly collect frog pieces (carvings, glass, ceramic etc.) and music stuff – instruments, pictures or music artwork.

    Can you say American Pickers! History Channel!!!

  12. jd2008

    Oh my sweet Lord. Where’ve you BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!?!?!

    I LOVE antiquing….

    I’m always on the lookout for a bottle identical to the one Jeannie had on I Dream of Jeannie.

    I also love to find good vinyl records of artists I love.

    Sure wish Charlo would get into the antiquing mood….

  13. melisa

    I do enjoy antiquing when we visit family in Tennessee (antique store on every corner!), and I LOVE depression glass, but I don’t enjoy spending money. :) I usually don’t come home with anything but pictures!

  14. VA-Cathy

    You have made me feel so much better!! I love the “looking”. I always felt like I was wasting time or just making myself feel worse because I couldn’t afford to buy. Knowing that you do more looking than buying makes me feel much better. I have a friend that collects rolling pins. I have gone several times to a place near here that they say is an inside flea market. It is much more organized and orderly than any flea market I ever went to growing up. Much more like an antique store. I have found quite a few there. At first I didn’t know exactly what kind she would like but I bought one that the handles were worn, but at one time green. I was waiting for her birthday to give it to her and we were talking about them. She said, if you ever find one with green handles, that’s the kind you want to buy. Paydirt!! I think I paid $10 for it. Maybe I can con my 17 year old daughter to take an interest with me. She’s planning to go to TN to college this fall. Would be a great weekend for us.

    Is there anything that if you did find it, you would definitely buy?

  15. Vincent_Smith

    You really need to come to Bell Buckle, Tennessee during the annual Arts and Crafts festival in October. It is a small antique town of less than 500 people (town proper) and vendors from all over the world converge for one weekend out of the year bringing 10,000-20,000 antique & arts enthusiasts. If intreested, email me and I can give you the dates and directions to the one this year.


  16. auburn60

    I like to go and look but I’m a pretty quick study…I know within a few minutes if anything is going to catch my attention. I especially like when I find something that reminds me of furniture or other stuff that sat in my grandparents or great-aunts houses. I guess that means if the object in question evokes a feeling of nostalgia then I’m hooked.

    We have several shops close to where I live. I walk through them ever so often. I like looking at china, old light fixtures and sconces, and massive pieces of furniture that will not fit in my house. But none of those things compare to the things we’ve collected that have been in our family. There’s something kind of sacred about those things to me.

  17. Janice

    I like antiquing, but I won’t spend hours doing it. I look for teapots. My husband, David, who just passed, and I went to Bell Buckle just after we were married. They were having a big celebration. Never saw so many tables of crafts and what-nots in my life!! The clock he bought is still aitting on his bookcase. We always planned to go back, but his parents became ill, and after they passedwe took care of his invalid brother. We were going in May for our anniversary and to the horse parks (what can I say, I have always been a horse nut). I may still go. David will be with me in spirit.

    When we moved in August, we cleaned out the attic of his parents house. We found three trunks of his grand- and great grandparents. They were full of old photos and papers. I am just now going through them. If I find any of men with beards or handle-bar mustaches, I’ll send them your way, Tori!

    Thank you everyone for your prayers and sympathy. I am making it one day at a time.

  18. JanetB

    God bless you, Janice.

    I’m still (relatively) young – late 40’s…but my parents were born in the 20’s, grew up in the Depression, & were married 2 months before Pearl Harbor. I have the first piece of furniture they bought as a married couple – a wooden bookcase with slatted shelves. Wouldn’t trade it for anything – have no idea if it’s worth anything or not, but it doesn’t matter.
    Mom’s mother died a few years before I was born…there wasn’t much stuff to hand down, but I do have a glass fruit bowl…and an unfinished afghan that she was crocheting when she died.
    Mom’s younger sister, Max, though – she was the garage sale/auction/antique store queen. One of my fondest memories growing up was spending the weekend at Max & Ray’s house (outside St Louis) & getting up early Saturday morning to go to an auction somewhere. Usually, it was on a farm out in the middle of nowhere…Max loved old dishes, figurines & such…but mostly, we just looked for the odd. The best times were when she would buy a big box of junk for $2, then we would pour through it in the car on the way back to her house. Christmas ornaments, pictures, tools, dishes, books, toys…never knew what would be in there.
    When I was about 9, we went to an auction…I spotted a little red jewelry box that I just HAD to have…it was stuffed full of costume jewelry – heaven for a little girl! Max helped me bid on it – and I got it! After going through the treasures inside, we found a silver locket, a pair of silver earrings (the screw-on kind), and a pair of handpainted earrings – glass bulbs covering tiny little blue birds. I still have all of those, as well as the box.
    I do enjoy browsing at the antique stores now & then, but I’m really only interested in things that have sentimental value to me. Most of my family is in Heaven now, so using their things just brings them a little bit closer to me. I have my mom’s old, ugly green Club cookware…and a set of beautiful old dishes that Max gave me…on Thanksgiving, we use both of those to remember the good times – as well as to make new memories. (And that big Club Dutch oven makes the best potato soup ever.)

    In that display of old photos…the woman with the bun in the dark dress looks very similar to a picture I’ve seen of my husband’s grandmother. Her name was Myrtle – just in case Madi’s interested. :)

    Oh – and Momma Lloyd? I really hate dusting, too. Patooey.

  19. pluckycharmed

    I LOVED this. I ran away from home recently, too. But I just ate lunch and shopped. I meant to write a lot and put it all up on my blog.


    I just ate lunch and shopped.

    After a year with a new husband and six sons, it was all I had in me.

    I look forward to reading more.


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