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Rinker on Collectibles: Twenty-Five Years and Counting

by Harry Rinker (01/03/12).

“Rinker on Collectibles” is 25. When the average life expectancy in the United State is approaching 80 years, 25 years is young. In the year leading up to my 25th birthday, my graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis ended, my brother and father died, I bought my first house and I was four months into my first full-time job as director of Archival Research for Historic Bethlehem, Inc. It was a long time ago—multiple careers, three wives, two children, five stepchildren, and nine grandchildren.

In a weekly columnist’s terms, 25 years is a lifetime. Although 45 when the first “Rinker on Collectibles” appeared in “Joel Sater’s Antiques & Auction News,” my level of naiveté still astonishes me. I remember pooh-poohing a friend who advised me to think twice about undertaking the responsibility of a weekly column: How much trouble can it be? I replied. As the Dutch proverb states: “We grow too soon old and too late smart.”

Having recounted “Rinker on Collectibles” history in past columns, I have no intention of repeating it. It is this intense desire on my part to avoid repetition that has made writing “Rinker on Collectibles” a challenge. Offering fresh insight or reinterpreting something written previously in a new way was easier when writing text columns 15 years ago than now.

[Author’s Aside #1: Dana Morykan has edited, proofed, and made suggestions for improvement to “Rinker on Collectibles” for more than 20 years. Her contributions deserve recognition. Dana also is the webmaster for harryrinker.com. I have instructed Dana to post Column #1,040 on there for those readers who wish to learn more about this column’s history.]

Another “Rinker on Collectibles” column challenge is its length. Weekly columns typically range between 600 and 750 words. I decided I would rather write what I wanted to write rather than restrict myself to a specific word count. “Rinker on Collectibles” averages between 1,250 and 1,500 words per column. I try hard not to think about the possibility that I actually have written 50 rather than 25 years worth of columns.

According to friends, the tone of “Rinker on Collectibles” has changed, especially since I married Linda eight years ago. While I deny my supposed mellowness, I am aware that I have become less adversarial and more focused on providing suggestions to assist the survival of the antiques and collectibles community in these difficult economic times.

In the months leading up to the writing of this column, I have wrestled with the question of when “Rinker on Collectibles” should end. When asked about this in the past, I jokingly responded: “My goal is to outlast Connie Swaim.” Although still listed as managing editor on the masthead of AntiqueWeek, Connie now spends more time working at a pet shelter than in AntiqueWeek’s editorial offices. I felt safe using Connie as an improbable departure goal. She is younger and someone, I felt, who was so in love with the trade that “burn out” was impossible.

My two other stock responses to when “Rinker on Collectibles” will end are: (1) when I no longer have anything valid to offer; and (2) when it stops being fun. As indicated earlier, it is becoming more difficult to find text column topics. My “stew list,” a list of column ideas about which I am thinking, used to consist of 15 to 20 topics. Now, five is a high number.

[Author’s Aside #2: Several leading cartoonists have taken a six- to 12-month hiatus, running previously drawn strips while spending time relaxing and refreshing themselves. I have rejected similar suggestions from my editors and plan to remain defiant. When it is time to end “Rinker on Collectibles,” it will end.]

This is hardly a fun time in the antiques and collectibles business. Times are tough. Anyone who does not admit this is a fool. Survival is the order of the day. While I never thought of fun in relative terms, it is. The antiques and collectibles trade still is fun, perhaps not in the same way it was in the 1980s and 1990s, but fun nevertheless. The people and stories associated with the trade make it fun. Both remain plentiful and apparent.

Early in my career, one of my goals was to write “Rinker on Collectibles” for 20 years. When I reached that milestone, I revised the goal to 25 years. Having met this goal, what happens next?

In the Freshman Seminar I just finishing teaching at Davenport University, I helped my students set short-term (2 to 5 years), intermediate-term (8 to 10 years) and long-term (15 years) goals. When you are 18 to 20, these ranges are realistic. The view changes when one is 70. If realistic, goals are shorter.

“Quit while you are ahead” and “you have run a good race” kept repeating in my mind as Column #1,300 neared. Fortunately or unfortunately, time will tell, my pride (or ego) is such that I am not ready to concede that “Rinker on Collectibles” is finished. While I occasionally dread the weekly deadline, I am not ready to give it up.

A goal of five more years is not realistic. I am not ready to assume this burden. An additional year is too short. What is an achievable number?

[Author’s Aside #3: My accountant has been after me for years to set a retirement date. When I moved to Michigan, I had to dissolve Rinker Enterprises, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation. This necessity provided the leverage for my accountant to insist upon a retirement date and my creation of a retirement plan. I agreed. I will retire in 2026, when I turn 85. A plan has been put into place to make this possible.]

Column #1,500 is my next “Rinker on Collectibles” goal. It will require another 3 years and 10 months to reach. If I am going to achieve it, I need help from my readers. First, I need suggestions for text columns. What topics would you like me to explore? E-mail your thoughts to harrylrinker@aol.com.

Second, as “Rinker on Collectibles” approached its 20th anniversary in late December 2006, I wrote two columns focusing on the Top Ten changes in the antiques and collectibles field between 1986 and 2006. They were in ascending order of importance:

10. End of Collecting as a Hobby
9. Developing of a Collecting Consciousness
8. Grading Revolution
7. Value Revolution
6. Consolidation—Newspapers, Periodicals, Publishing Houses and Shows
5. Information Explosion
4. Globalization of Collecting
3. eBay
2. Collectibles Achieve a Life of Their Own
1. Demographic Changes

Although only five years have transpired between 2007 and 2012, the impact on the antiques and collectibles industry during these years has been profound. I am in the process of finalizing a new Top Ten list identifying events and trends that chronicle this change. My intent is to write a series of two “Rinker on Collectibles” columns focusing on this list.

Once again, I am turning to my readers to ask for their input. What events and trends would you put on the list? E-mail your recommendations to harrylrinker@aol.com.

Finally, “Rinker on Collectibles” would not have existed for 25 years if not for you, its loyal readers. I express my profound thanks and gratitude for your support, encouragement, and occasional disparaging remarks. The primary goal of “Rinker on Collectibles” was and remains to create thought and discussion within the trade. I look forward to continuing to do this.

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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.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2012

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One Response to “Rinker on Collectibles: Twenty-Five Years and Counting”

  1. Lisa Mull says:

    Dear Harry:

    I am relatively new to selling my collectibles (2004), and your pithy comments and intelligent insights have been invaluable to me. I am SO glad to read that you will continue your column for another 15 years. By then I hope to be as well-informed as you were when you started writing “Rinker on Collectibles.”

    Congratulations on 25 years! I look forward to the next 15…or more….

    Lisa Mull
    Lisa’s Bits & Collectibles

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