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

“So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
This dusty old dust is a-getting’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along”

—“So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh,” lyrics by Woody Guthrie

Linda’s and my move from Vera Cruz/Emmaus, Pa., to Brookfield, Conn., in June 2006 did not seem like a move. First, Linda planned to remain at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury for two years. When she finished, she would retire and we would return to Vera Cruz. Two years turned out to be four and one-half. Second, I did not sell 5093 Vera Cruz Road, the former Vera Cruz Elementary School, which contains an apartment, the offices and research center of Rinker Enterprises, and my collections. We returned to Vera Cruz on average three weeks of every month for the first two and one-half years we lived in Connecticut for the purpose of visiting with Linda’s mother Catherine. After Catherine passed away in February of 2009, we still maintained a pattern of visiting at least once, more often twice, a month.

In the fall of 2009, I made a decision to sell 5093 Vera Cruz Road. A process I thought would be over in a few months took 18. I sold “The School” on Dec. 15, 2010. While the new owner has rented me space for a year, I now face the inevitable “what is going to happen to all that stuff” decision.

In anticipation of a move, Linda, I, Ron Kemp, “Cap” Schmeltzle and others have been packing things for the past year. Linda and I moved our most prized possessions to Connecticut, realizing that while the move might be temporary, it was better than storing them at The School.

Fate has strange ways of intervening. In less than a week, Linda, me and our possessions, at least those that we plan to take along, will move from Brookfield and Vera Cruz to Michigan. I am making decisions—hard decisions—I never thought I would have to make. My initial hope was to retire and die in Vera Cruz.

The distance of the move has impacted the decision making process. Much of a move’s cost is based on weight—the greater the weight, the greater the cost. When we moved from Vera Cruz to Brookfield, we paid a mover to transport the larger pieces. We moved the smalls between Vera Cruz and Brookfield one carload at a time. This is not an option in our present situation. When Linda and I return “home” to Pennsylvania, we plan to fly and rent a car rather than drive.

We rented a 2,500 square foot townhouse in Brookfield. Because we planned a short stay, we moved a minimum of things. Yet, all the empty space soon filled up, much of it with items we bought while living in Brookfield. Linda keeps mumbling while packing: “How did we acquire all these things?” How is irrelevant. Did is the operable word.

The good news, depending on one’s point of view, is that we bought a 2,800 square foot home with a finished basement and two large storage areas in Kentwood, Mich. Not only can it house what we have in Brookfield, but also many of the furniture, fine arts, and decorative pieces currently stored in Vera Cruz.

The big question is: how long will Linda and I stay in Michigan? We plan to retire to Pennsylvania when Linda’s academic career ends. But, this is what we thought when we moved to Connecticut.

Davenport University asked Linda for a three- to five-year commitment. She agreed in principle. Given this, does it not make more sense to leave the greater bulk of our things in Pennsylvania and only take “what we need” to Michigan?

The answer is no; a big, bold no. I do not want to live without the things I love. I love Linda. Do not misinterpret this. As long as we are together, everything is fine. However, I also love my things. I want to be surrounded by them. I want to see them when I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. I want to use, hold, and enjoy them.

Things are a reflection of who we are. Our Connecticut furnishings reflected more Linda’s tastes than mine. I had no problem with this. It was temporary. Besides, I could always escape back to Vera Cruz.

Kentwood will be the first blending of our things. We created a decorative scheme that mixes family heirlooms, personal favorites, and joint purchases. The final selection of what we are taking required compromise. The Vera Cruz 1950s living setting with its 1962 Wurlitzer jukebox will remain behind. Some of Linda’s prints and artwork will be sacrificed in favor of my canal-theme paintings and prints and Fraktur.

When children, relatives and friends find out you are moving, everyone put in their dibs for things. It took convincing, but Linda finally accepted that “we come first.” Disappointment will reign, especially among some of the children. However, we were not ready to give up certain things and refused to be forced to do it. While I foresee problems if we sell rather than move some of these things when we leave Michigan, this is now and that is then. “It is time to move on” has multiple meanings in any move.

I am an accumulator. I dislike the term hoarder, although many who know me would say it applies. I saved much of my high school and college homework. It is not being moved to Michigan. There are dozens of boxes filled with the research I did to answer the questions that appeared in “Rinker on Collectibles” Q & A columns. This is not moving to Michigan either. The big question is whether it is moving to the dump/landfill. I saved it in anticipation of a time when I would separate the material and place it in the subject folders in my research file cabinets now stacked in a row in the auditorium of The School with multiple layers of boxes filed on top of them. “The longer you keep something, the harder it is to throw it out” applies. I also have to make a decision because four and one-half years worth of Q & A column answers are located in Brookfield.

I love my things, but I worship my reference library. I spent 30 years creating one of the most comprehensive antiques and collectibles research libraries in America. I know of only one better. It belongs to She Who Will Not Be Named who lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio. The reference library contains more than just books. It also includes more than a dozen vertical files filled with more than 15 years of clippings from trade papers and periodicals filed by subject matter. Four drawers in one cabinet contain catalogs from reproduction houses and other materials relating to authenticating. There is an extensive collection of old trade catalogs. The auction house catalogs date back to the 1920s. There are more than a hundred boxes filled with copies of trade periodicals and magazines, most of which are no longer publishing. An on-site auction would last a day, if not longer. I do not want to break it up, but where am I going to find a buyer? I considered approaching several libraries, but I doubt if they would accept it without a donation of additional funds to maintain it. I cannot afford to move or store it.

The biggest question of all is: can I continue to serve the antiques and collectibles trade without a reference library? At the moment, I still have to consult a reference book for one out of every three questions I answer in my Q & A columns. Further, I do not trust much of the information on the Internet. Earlier today I watched a video that contained the claim that the information in Wikipedia is as reliable as that found in the Encyclopedia Britannia. I do not believe this, not even for one second.

Thus far, I have packed three archival file boxes marked “Material to be sorted through.” I did not sort through it during the four and one-half years it resided or was created in Connecticut. While I have resolved to do so in Michigan, I wonder when I am going to find time. I already am making plans to return to teaching and starting a new business. The only good news is that there are seven medium-sized Home Depot boxes that read “Paper Scrap / Garbage,” the result of a preliminary sort in Connecticut.

The saga of my move, the sale of The School, and my decisions regarding what to sell, keep, or toss will continue. I wrote a book about the last topic so I know what I should do. Should and do are very different words. The next “Rinker on Collectibles” column will chronicle the move from Connecticut to Michigan. If all goes according to plan, I will be writing it from Linda’s and my new home in Kentwood.


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. 2011

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  • Linda

    Have you considered hiring a service to scan your reference materials? No doubt it would be costly, but then the materials would be online and available more readily to you for searching (and perhaps more marketable should you choose to sell one day). Many school systems are doing exactly this – a friend of mine’s parents do this now that they retired from teaching/administration. School systems hire them to archive years and years of print materials so the schools can avoid storage cost and hassle.

    Good luck to you in this endeavor! Having gone through my mom’s collection when she passed, I can only imagine how hard it is to part with items that you have a personal connection with.

  • Hi Harry, I find that if I haven’t used a reference source in two years it’s not likely I ever will again. Even if I did, the chance of remembering where it was in time to make the search cost effective would be almost nil. For that reason I’ve digitized everything but reference books since 1996, anything I have is just a couple of seconds away via a quick search in my archive database. It’s much better to start from scratch though, from experience I can tell you the enormity of transferring an existing reference section is very daunting.

  • Bob

    Hy Harry…I have the same problem, however I can’t just scan my 60 year old collection, it consists of 600 antique tools that I cannot take from Pennsylvania to California. Talk about weight & distance ! Any suggestions as to where they can be sold as one lot would be appreciated. If they were kept all together, rather than chopped up I’d allow them to go very inexpensively.

  • Hello Harry,

    I write with interest of your connection to your years of
    work and compilation of information.

    I am going through a situation which is simulat to yours.
    The differance is that I have to downsize due to health
    reasons. Last Febraury I suffered a heart attack and ended
    up in the hospital. It was at the hospital that my heart
    decided to take a break and I died not once, not twice but
    three seperate times. I woke up some three days later in
    the intensive care unit on life support.Upon coming awake,
    I instantly remembered everything that happened during the
    doctors efforts to keep me alive including hearing and
    feeling my rib bones crack as they performed cpr on me.
    Believe me when I say that I never want to go through that

    I have been collecting all of my life also. However, more
    so since I became disabled and could not perform the
    duties of the job that I had had for over 16 years as a
    deputy sheriff.

    OH, how I love thrift shops, especially in the winter when
    in the location where I live, if one were to hold a garage
    sale, inless they had a heated garage, it would be
    necassary to build a huge bonfire to try and stay warm.

    Anyway, after returning home from the hospital, my
    children convinced me that it was going to be necassary
    that I move closer to medical assistance in case of an
    emergency. Currently I am over 25 miles from the closest
    medical facility.

    With everything considered, I decided that my children
    were right and I started my journy selling items on ebay.
    I am using ebay as I do at least have some say as to
    weather some of my treasured items will go ridiculously

    Even with having that control, it is at times hard to put
    the most favorite items up for auction. And when there are
    those times when the bids are low, I have to winder if
    anyone else can see the value of the item as I see it.
    But then too, I also enjoy holding the items and admiring
    the craftsmanship of some of them and I feel that is where
    a great deal of the value comes from.

    Almost a year layer, the anniversary of last February is
    coming fast. My progress is not what i would have liked it
    to have been by now and I can forsee that come spring when
    the garage sale season is here again, I will be lugging
    boxes of treasures to tghe garage for the big sale.

    I wanted to write you just to let you know that you are
    not alone with your love of your things that you have
    collected. And I do believe that having the fellings
    towards the things that one has put time and effort into
    collecting is natural. And who knows, perhaps one day when
    I get moved closer to town, I will start my excursions to
    the weekly garage sales again. I certainly hope so.

  • Harry,

    I so much enjoy your articles and hope that you continue doing them from Michigan even with all the new interests you will be pursuing. I am from Grand Rapids, now living in NC, and really miss it there. The State is beautiful to explore and I hope your “things” don’t take up too much of the time you could use to enjoy your life while there.

    I have to agree with Mike’s statement; the rule of organization is if you haven’t used it in a year, throw it out cause you probably never will. If all your research had been organized at the time it might be of use, but as it is it’s a daunting task.

    I would try selling the entire collection of notes/clippings. Maybe Christie’s Auction House could find a buyer! Or what about Craig’s List? You could even try inexpensive ads in antique journals. Your library of books/magazines will be of much more use to you than all the lose paperwork that is not organized. But even there a lot of printed material becomes out dated in many instances.

    My husband is from Communist controlled Hungary and grew up saving everything, because eventually they used it for some make shift thing. He can’t get ride of the saving pattern and it is so frustrating to me that each time I need something that is saved, he has no clue where it is in all his stuff. What use is it all? I’ve heard it questioned; do you own things or do they own you? Once I was approached by a hoarder to help him sell his stuff. My husband and I couldn’t believe how he was living. There was a small aisle through the entire house and around the bed with stuff stacked to the ceiling. He had a huge storage building where we had to walk over stuff in order to get inside. We went away with just a couple bags of things because everything was just too valuable in his eyes he was worried he might not get the real value for. Yes, that is extreme and obviously the man was sick. Yes, all of us “normal” people have our treasures we’ve saved and enjoyed through life; but anyone that has gone through a tragedy and loses everything (which is happening in one place after another these days) will tell you they have learned what is really important in life.

    The Bible says, ‘to the making of many books there is no end’. Sometimes we just need a reminder of the more important things in life, wouldn’t you agree? This move is a good thing. A time for reflection and change. I will be eager to read your recap of your move!

    Susan Busa

  • Dear Mr.Rinker,

    I think the scanning of your material is a great idea,
    given by Linda. Is that Linda your wife?
    I would like to add to Linda’s idea. To cut down on the cost
    and because you and your wife are associated w/schools and
    teaching in some capacity,would it not make for a great
    project for students garnering for careers in research,
    orginization,librarians,statistitions etc… Don’t these
    students have to complete a project on some massive scale
    for a considerable amount of their grade? If I were you
    it is what I would do. Your material would be respected
    and treated accordingly, much more so than hiring people
    off the street. Students would have much more of an investment in doing a thorough job. Money is great but
    you need someone w/passion for what the job at hand is.
    Thanks for Your Time and Considerations. Sincerely,ns

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