Remembering the Good Old Days of the Early 1990s

By Chris Hughes
WorthPoint Worthologist

I found this Zanesville matte green vase model 795 on a road trip in Missouri. I’m taking far fewer road trips now that items like this are easier to find on the Internet.

I found this Zanesville matte green vase model 795 on a road trip in Missouri. I’m taking far fewer road trips now that items like this are easier to find on the Internet.

Over the last two decades the Internet has increasingly impacted culture and commerce, but for most of us in the antiques and collectibles world, its integration into everyday life has been a relatively recent phenomenon.

My “good old days” began in the early 1990’s, when I spent countless hours driving my station wagon through dusty towns in the Midwest in search of antiques and collectibles. As many of you may recall, this was when even the smallest town had at least one antique shop or thrift store with treasures to be had. Armed with only a road atlas and time to kill, I hunted and gathered with great success. But as the Internet continued to expand, antiques and collectibles commerce changed.

By the mid to late 1990’s, I witnessed many antique shops partitioning their inventory into online vs. in-store sales. Some shops were disappearing all together, opting to sell online exclusively. I couldn’t blame them because I was also selling online and marveling over its convenience. Not everyone welcomed this transformation, but no one could argue it was inevitable and for many necessary.

Today, my motivation to take road trips has diminished because there are now fewer shops and, all too often, I return empty handed. It’s a relief that I’m able to satiate my thrill of the hunt on the Internet, but I miss the social element of talking shop and forging friendships with storeowners and fellow auction goers.

At WorthPoint, I’ve had a role in developing site features and products for 2009. A primary focus has been recreating that atmosphere I long for from my road trip days, where collectors and dealers can freely talk with each other and share information. WorthPoint sees opportunities for better online communication being demonstrated on successful networking sites like Linkedin, Facebook and MySpace. Our product development team has drawn inspiration from these sites to incorporate new social features found on every WorthPoint member profile. These new features are fun and make your collecting life more productive, and hopefully profitable.

I am interested in hearing from others. Do you miss the good old days? Do you sense the need for an online collecting community? How are you adjusting to these times from buying and selling in person to buying and selling online?

Chris Hughes is a Worthologist who specializes in militaria and World War II collectibles.

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  • I go back quite a bit farther than most in the Antique biz, about 1959. It was a fledgling of a business then in Canada, our start in it was as a branch of the cabinetmaking business, which in the late 50’s was dying off. The difference from then to now is like night and day, at that time there was very little in the way of reference material, no price guides or sources of current values other than attending the local auctions religiously or buying auction catalogs from the “Big Houses” Sotheby’s or Christies.

    What I miss most is how business used to transpire and the people you had to deal with. To make a dollar one had grease palms, do favors, swap & trade your way up the ladder. Back then the bottom end of the scale was the ” Picker”, colorful characters, most of them survived by picking up stuff where ever they could find it and selling it on ” Up the Chain” for a quick profit.

    How well you treated your Pickers made a great deal of difference in your bottom line, treat them well, buy stuff off them occasionally you didn’t want and you got first pick on their route. Cross them and they would ” Bid you up” at the next auction or worse yet “warn off” other pickers from dealing with you.

    Today there are very few Pickers about, I’ve only got two on my list today, and they do it now mainly out of the thrill of the deal rather than an occupation ;~)There’s lots more to tell, but that’s another story.

  • Hey Chris, nice article. I agree that there’s nothing like finding that old shop that seems to be trapped in time.
    Up here in New England there are still a great many of them around thankfully.
    It was great to see Mike W’s comment here about the importance of the “Picker”.
    The picker is the most important person in the antiques world and does not get the respect they deserve. Many people have never even heard the term, but pickers are still out there and operating in the same way.
    If anyone is interested, they can hear a bit my friend “Willie the Picker” did for episode 3 of The AuctionWally Show, here’s the link:

    Thanks for pointing out this important facet of the antiques business that must be preserved. Without the independent shop owner, we are in trouble.


  • Wally,
    Thanks for reading. In my parts, pickers have incorporated the internet into their business model, where they work out an arrangement with an ebay lister to handle the listing, e-commerce and shipping for their goods. This frees up their time to hunt. These are the guys who are waiting in line since 6AM for a 9AM tag sale.

  • Carol Horvath

    Enjoyed this article and loved the Willie the Picker piece. I, personally, love to go to shops. We still have a bunch here in Ohio, although some have totally closed to do online business only.

    It is much easier to get a good deal and the interaction and just putzing around handling stuff is fun. Granted it is more difficult to find really good buys anymore because of the internet. Lots of options; even more competition. Just like looking for a job. For me, online is just not the same. I just go by instinct–sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong and I always recall–fondly or otherwise–the ones that got away :)!

  • Chris Hughes


    Thank you for reading. I agree that a deal can be had when bartering in a shop with a dealer, but I’ve also found that online dealers create opportunities for a bargain.

    Two weeks ago, I bought an item online that was unknowingly priced at least 2/3 below market value. There are deals to be had everywhere, especially in this economy!

    I also like to recall the items that got away because it keeps me charged up, hoping to get a second chance if a comparable item pops up.


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