The Lucky 13 Of Collecting: Antiquing Gear You Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

Most collectors already have accepted the fact that on any given day they may wind up looking for collectibles; summer brings an unexpected garage sale or flea market sign, but winter also has church rummage sales, thrift shops, and antique malls. So, Boy Scout or not, be prepared!

1. A List Of Specific Items You Seek — And, Where Appropriate, Their Measurements: How many times have your forgotten exactly which volume you are missing from that one set of books? A specific magazine issue date or issue number? The measurements of that lamp you need a shade for? The measurements for replacement dresser pulls? The maximum width a bookshelf of desk can be in order for it to fit in that space in the office? Write these things down, put the list(s) in your wallet, and you’ll be prepared when you spot a potential fit.

2. A Pencil And A Small Pad Of Paper: You never know when you’ll be given a lead (an address, a phone number, a book title), be told information (age of item, maker, etc.), etc. that you’ll want to remember. It’s much easier, and less frustrating, to write it down than to chant it to yourself over & over again on the way out — only to forget it a few minutes later when you bump into a friend, drop your car keys, get a phone call etc. This also helps you track your spending at auctions where there are no stickers and the tickets are very generalized.

If your list is on white paper, or you’ve a small pad of paper, you’ve killed two birds with one stone…

3. A White 3 x 5 notecard or small white hanky: Insert these into clear glassware and crystal to better examine prints, engravings, etc.

4. Pocket Tape Measures: Incredibly practical for measuring everything on your list, but, when needed for large pieces, the size of your trunk and car doors as well. (Those of you who have been-there-and-done-that know what I mean!) And just look at these beauties from Kyle Designs!

5. Magnifying Glass: Otherwise known as ‘the loop’, a small portable (and discrete) magnifying tool allows you to better inspect items for everything from maker marks & signatures to flaws & repairs on everything from pottery to coins, stamps to jewelry. A collector can neither have too many jeweler’s loupes or leave home without them.

6. Black Light Keychain: Make it easier to identify repairs in porcelain and paintings, date textiles and ephemera, authenticate vintage glass and painted cast iron, etc., with a take-it-everywhere Ultra-violet Mini Light.

7. Penlight And/Or Small Flashlight: Some places have poor lighting — and, as the more adventurous know, some of the best places (barns, attics, outbuildings, etc.) have very little light at all.

8. A Small Magnet: Applying a magnet is a safe way to test if the object is actually metal, such as cast iron, or just made to appear that way. (Do not store the magnet in your wallet or near your credit/debit cards as it will demagnetize the data strips! Keep it in your pocket – or other pocket.)

9. Tools: Yes, actual tools! In the vehicle, two standard screw drivers (flat and Phillips) to remove the legs from furniture pieces so they fit in the van, to remove baskets from bicycles, even draw pulls and other hardware (if the seller allows it, but isn’t prepared). And a hammer (for when things are especially rusty and the screwdriver needs a bit of help).

If you collect antique pocket watches, clocks, and other other things which may need to be more seriously studied, small screwdrivers, cutting blades, and pins may be required. (The Poor Man’s Watch Forum has an excellent page on this.)

10. An Empty Box Or Two In The Trunk: Don’t let your treasures roll around in the trunk or backseat. Having a place to secure antiques and collectibles is not only safer for them while you travel and transport them into the house, but boxed they are more certain to be carried into the house. (Also, full boxes may be your signal to stop for the day lol)

11. A Box Of Newspaper And/Or Other Packing Material In The Trunk: Even if you aren’t buying glassware or fragile figurines, wrapping your new old treasures spares you the heartache of discovering that metal sign A has scratched the painted surface of sign B.

12. Folding Shopping Carts: Even if you have your boxes, metal or canvas carts are great for collectors who haunt block rummage sales, auctions, and flea markets, allowing you to keep everything with you at all times.

13. Cash In Your Wallet. Naturally obvious, but often overlooked, many places (especially individual sellers, churches, and many thrift shoppes) will not accept debit cards or even local checks. Save yourself some heartache (or a rushed anxious trip to the ATM) and carry a few bills on you.

Did I miss something you don’t leave home without? Please, do tell!

Image Credits: Photo via The Poor Man’s Watch Forum.

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Deanna is the founder of Inherited Values, among other sites. She is also an antique dealer.

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