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Highway House Calls

The “travelling road buyer” can come in many forms from “American Pickers” to large-scale operations comprised of many employees in major city hotels. We’ve some experience that resides somewhere in the middle of the spectrum as a small family outfit that would travel between towns, advertise in the local papers ahead of our attendance and set up in the hotel conference room awaiting prospective customers.

While this always created a fresh, new day of events unlike the one before, what really were the most interesting occasions were the called-upon house calls. We advertised that any customer with an accumulation of collectibles too large to haul in or who physically could not come see us had the option of scheduling one of us to come visit them at their residence for an evaluation and offer to purchase. These were my favorite for a number of reasons ranging through the personalities, architecture and the possible “treasure hunt”.

About 6 years ago in Butte, MT I was called upon to purchase 4 sousaphones, travelling cases and all. The gentleman oversaw the upkeep of the local Masonic lodge in town and upon completion of our business which, looking back, was mostly me hauling these beasts up 2 flights of tight stairs by myself, he was kind enough to give me the nickel tour of the building. An amazing 5 stories held more history than I could comprehend and a building built (if memory serves) in the 1910s exhibits a lot of character.

About 7 years ago, in Anamosa, IA during a slow buying afternoon, a fun, elderly gal (about 80) stopped by with a few coins to sell. “I have a whole jar back at home that I can’t carry in. Would you like to come price it?” Well, the day looked bleak otherwise so off I went. When I was settled, “Would you like some rhubarb wine,” she asked me. The next 3 hours were some of the fondest in recent fuzzy memory even though they were all modern pennies, worth only face value.

Most recently in Mount Vernon, IA, a man cleaning his parents’ estate invited us to pick and purchase what we liked. Working our way down and to the back of the basement, a door that led to a root cellar revealed what could be called a miniature antique store. Shelves were packed with all sorts of glass medicine bottles, vintage toys, marbles, picture frames, books, there were old inkwell desks, oddities of all descriptions and even an antique cash register near the door. That happened to be a fun space his folks set up back in the day that really showed the passion they held for antiques.

The items are fun but the stories and people are what make it worthwhile.

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