Rinker on Collectibles: So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh – Part II

Linda’s office is located just off the entrance foyer in our new home in Kentwood, Mich. Since her office is meticulous and mine consists of stacks and stacks of papers, we decided it was best to locate my office in the basement, a choice further necessitated by our plans to entertain colleagues, friends and neighbors. There is no sense starting off an evening with a bad impression of our housekeeping.

I bought a large, second-hand Kimball International U-shaped desk unit in Connecticut. Prior to the move, I had not seen visible surface except near the computer monitor and docking station for more than three years. Kevin, my Connecticut computer consultant, came by the day we moved and stood in awe of the empty surfaces. Three weeks after our move to Michigan, surface visibility is less than a quarter of the available space and the paper piles grow daily.

Directly in front of me, blocking my view of the basement windows, are two rows of archival file boxes (12 boxes wide by seven boxes high) and a third row of small and medium size Home Depot boxes (equal in height and width to the first two rows) filled with books I acquired while in Connecticut. These boxes represent my “I still want to know yuh” material.

What antiques and collectibles did Linda and I bring to Michigan? The material breaks down into five basic categories: (1) family heirlooms; (2) personal items; (3) collections we started together or since we were together; (4) Vera Cruz apartment collections; and (5) odds and ends we did not have time to sort through before leaving Connecticut.

We have a goal to use as many of the antiques and collectibles as possible for the purpose for which they were made. Only some will be displayed, falling into the too-valuable-to-be-used category. I definitely will not be using the dark blue, Historical Staffordshire, American historical view, Erie Canal chamber pot; at least not for its original purpose. Incorporating it into a table centerpiece display is a possibility.

My great-grandparent Knoble’s Victorian cottage bedroom suite (matching bed, dresser with mirror, washstand, rocking chair, two side chairs, and end table) fill one of the guest rooms. Nine Frakturs (birth and baptismal certificates) from my family await their place on the wall. The Knoble stipple-painted blanket chest is in the recreation area. Linda’s mother’s family dry sink is in the kitchen dining area. The stained class chandelier that first hung in Uncle Dave (my grandfather Prosser’s brother) and Aunt Dora’s house near the corner of North and Center Street in Bethlehem, Pa., now hangs in our dining area above the table that came down through cousin Morgan J. Rinker III’s family.

All the family Bibles, genealogical records and pictures made it to Michigan. The copier in Linda’s office is a scanner. This summer’s number-one priority project is to organize and begin scanning these records. My goal is to have discs ready for distribution to our children and my cousins by Christmas.

Our parents’ dinnerware, stemware and flatware are ready for use. Linda’s mother’s Franciscan Desert Rose pattern china is in the bottom portion of the dry sink. My parent’s Grindley’s “Scenes from Constable” dinnerware, two sets of silver-plated flatware and glassware are in the base of the dining room Dutch hutch.

My personal items are largely antiques and collectibles. I prefer old over new. Linda’s reproduction furniture is intermixed with the antiques and collectibles. The Chippendale-style highboy, Hepplewhite-style sideboard and Duncan Phyfe-style dining room table are now a “second” dining room in the basement. She looked me in the eye in Connecticut and said, “I am ready to give them up.” She was not telling the truth. Linda was willing to cast these aside so I could have a “purist” home; one filled only with antiques and collectibles. This is why I love her. Life is short and I understand the importance of being surrounded by the things one loves. Hence, Linda’s reproduction furniture came to Kentwood, as well it should have.

All the Erzgebirge (German) smokers (räuchermanner), nutcrackers, angels, figurines, music boxes and Christmas ornaments, old and new, moved with us. There are more than a dozen archival file boxes filled with the material. Each year we travel to the Erzgebirge, we say “no more.” Each year we return with two filled suitcases. We face a “what are we going to do with them” situation. For the moment, the answer is to store what we do not display. “Store” is the operable word. Linda keeps saying “we have enough to open a store.” She is correct.

The two rows of archival file boxes facing me contain the Vera Cruz collections. In my Carl’s Hill Road home in Zionsville and The School (the former Vera Cruz Elementary School), I had special cabinets built to display the dark blue, American canal views Historical Staffordshire and teapot collections. I displayed the light transfer American historical views Historical Staffordshire in the big Dutch hutch.

Linda and I agreed that we would not build permanent display cabinets in Kentwood. We are having storage shelves capable of holding archival file boxes built in one storage room and deep book shelf-type shelves along two walls in the other. The rooms are heated and have humidifiers/dehumidifiers. Many of the Vera Cruz collections will be stored there until I decide their fate.

The best of the dark blue American canal views Historical Staffordshire pieces are slated for display in the big Dutch hutch in the dining room. The best of the light transfer American historical views Historical Staffordshire will move to the smaller Dutch hutch in the kitchen dining area. I have to find another home for the pewter collection previously housed in it.

The difficulty is deciding how I am going to live without at least some of the other Vera Cruz collections being on display. The must-see list includes the Castleford teapot from the teapot collection, a piece or two from the carnival chalkware collection, several pieces of German retro pottery (the collection contains almost 100 pieces), a corner display of ceramic, glass, and enameled copper pieces from the Modernist collection, at least three Christmas trees (the Prosser family feather tree, the 1950s aluminum tree and the artificial tree containing the Christmas ornament collection that Linda and I have collected), the “Harry” name collection, my childhood banks—if I do not stop, the list will continue to the end of this column. I need to be cognizant of making promises to myself that I cannot keep.

The odds and ends are a major problem. We moved dozens of archival file boxes containing papers pertaining to the MFA in Creative and Professional Writing courses I took at Western Connecticut State University, five years of “WHATCHA GOT?” material and boxes relating to projects I began and plan to return to someday. This paper nightmare will be compounded when the five file cabinets that remain to be moved from Vera Cruz arrive. I simply have got to stop saving this stuff.

Odds and ends are housed in more than 20 boxes. If they are put in storage, Linda and I will never open them. We swear our next move will only be the things we “really” want. I will be doing a great deal of swearing when I work my way through the odds and ends boxes and ask the inevitable “why did we move this” question.

Kentwood is full, not a truth I am happy about nor want to admit. A friend offered to drive a mid-size U-Haul truck, provided I load it, from The School to Kentwood. Alas, I am staring the “to what end” question straight in the face. There is no place to put anything more. What remains at The School in Vera Cruz has to be sold, stored or trashed. Stored is rapidly becoming a non-option.

It is the proverbial decision time in the pits. The date has been set—the first two full weeks in March. Hundreds of collections, including more than 5,000 jigsaw puzzles, Hopalong Cassidy collectibles and my American canal era memorabilia remain at The School. There is no crying towel big enough for what I am about to face.

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Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site..

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site..

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

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  1. Hi Harry,
    Just wanted to tell you I can sympathize. We recently moved from Ohio to Nevada. Very similar to how you “packed”, our possessions we brought are in the same categories you describe. My mother moved with us, and as her and I are collectors, we had several thousand pounds of “stuff”.

    In any case your story reads like the last month of my life. We had said that after we moved we would go through the items and decide what stays and what goes … what gets sold on ebay, at auction, and what gets kept for use or boxed back up for my children when they get older.

    Well, … the good news is I have gotten through 1/10 of the boxes and have sold some of it, display some pieces, and picked some to keep. The not so good news is I miss some of the pieces I sold, and I am now finding myself on the fence about many of the pieces I pulled out to sell.

    Then again, I am also thinking about all the new pieces I can buy if I sell some of the collections we haven’t had out in years.

    What a dilemma.

    Good luck to you and your ventures. I wish I could say it doesn’t “hurt” a little. (((smile)))

    Jennifer