Monday, September 8, 2014

Cowboy Down - A Conversation Between Two Professional Thrift Shoppers - Part Seven - "The Journey"

Cowboy Down

A Conversation Between Two Professional Thrift Shoppers

Part Seven

"The Journey"

            “Soooo... ‘just there’ (like the sneakers) is what?  It’s that the object is physically ‘just there’ right before us.  Right?
            “And WE are THERE... before that object.”
            “So what you say about that is pretty insightful.”
            “You mean my ‘journey’?”
            “Right.  Explain that.”
            “Well... I’ve sort of reversed that; the what most people think is happening.  Most people think they show up at the thrift store and buy the object.  (In this case we’re buying real antiques or fine art).  They think that’s the journey.  THEY go there and buy the antique cheap.  I don’t see it that way.

            “What I see is that the journey isn’t MY journey to the thrift store to buy the antiques.  The journey is the how the antiques get to the thrift stores.  THEY are the ones who are traveling on a journey.  And that journey... through time... brings them by their circumstance, TO the thrift store.  And I’m, like, a ‘just happened by’ journey.  You know; a tiny little journey when compared to the antique’s journey to the thrift store.  And I just happen to be there.  Too.  And too... know (identify) that antique on its journey and, well... BUY IT... cheap.  Just like that.  It’s not ME being there.  It’s the antique being there.  THAT’S the JOURNEY.”
            “And we both stopped asking the ‘how’ of that journey decades ago.  We’ll never know the HOW of a journey.  I mean... I make conjectures all the time.  You know; logical deduction.  Logical possibilities.  Subjective deduction.  Any trail signs.  But:  The THING (object) gets there WITHOUT ME.  I’m just Mr. Wandering By.  Incorporated in my case.  And in yours.  We’re professional.  Mr. and Ms. Wander By, Inc..”
            “We’re more than wandering by I feel.  But that doesn’t change the object’s journey.  I gave up on figuring it out long ago but it still fascinates me.”

            “Ok... but what antique?”
            “Well... anyone will do but I want to use your whiskey taster.  You just did that (just found it).  And... it’s, like, pretty classic for finding an antique.  It shows the whole thing pretty good.  INCLUDING the journey part.  I mean; for real.”
            “Well... to someone who doesn’t know (what this object is)... it’s a little weird as a, well... THING.  But... I mean... your right.... IT IS a REAL antique.  It IS what we are looking for and find.  So.  Ok.”
            Now... we won’t explain what this object is at first.  We’ll talk about getting it; you finding it.”
            “Ok... like what?
            “You’re out there... one day last week... going to the thrift stores.  To the same ones you always go to.  Over and over.  And... like... you go into the same ones over and over that day like always.  And.. it’s been sort of a zero day so far.  And you don’t care because that’s the way it is.  Right so far?”
            “So... going in:  This is into one of those BOX STORE thrifts stores we have in Maine.  Lots of ‘em.  So... right there prospects are low.  Why?”

            “Well... they try to be ALL OVER their stuff as much as possible.  You know; screen it, look it up, put it on ebay.  What ever.  And there’s like FIFTY PEOPLE (employees) doing that so SOMEONE should, you know, FIND IT (identify an antique object).  Right?  But they don’t.  We know that.  They don’t know like we know.  So....  And they pass the buck too.  You know; the girl who just started ends up pricing a whole dump truck load for one ninety-nine ($1.99) each.  That’s why we have to keep going (to these thrift stores).  They get too much stuff to NOT mess it up.  So... you know... and... I can get in and out fast.  You know; true cowboy down thrifting.”
            “And that means eyes scanning shelves and shelves of bric-brac crud with PEOPLE in your way and, like... you gotta stick to the mission.  Our in-store visits are measured in minutes of scan time.
            “Right.  HOW FAST ARE YOU scan times.  It’s not hard for us.  The JOURNEY.  Like I said:  I’m not the one on the JOURNEY.  The ANTIQUE is.  I’m just wandering by.  Ha, ha.”

            “Ok so your rolling along on shelf scan and like what?  Two isles eight shelves in?”
            “Yeah like that.”
            “And BOOM.”
            “Right.  Second shelf down in the center sort of one thing back.”
            “So right there.  This is important.  What are we talking... three seconds?”
            “Yeah.  Maybe”
            “But it’s in your hand by four seconds.”
            “Oh yeah.”
            “And your BACK to scanning already.  You know; looking for more (any antiques – not more of the same object).”
            “And you already know TOTALLY what you’ve found.  You know; easy fifty... sixty bucks profit.  You know EXACTLY what the antique is.  EXACTLY.”
            “Well... not as exactly as you do.  But.  I mean.  I know the market.  I know what it is.  There’s little stuff that I don’t know... but, like, you do.  That’s the thing about you.  You bring a real lot right there.  In those first seconds.  I do that but not, you know, CRAZY MAN like you.”
            “You mean I’m cowboy down.”
            “Your cowboy down alright.  They ought to lock the place down when your in there.”
            “That’s a compliment?”
            “For you it is.”

            “Ok... so... what are we talking about.  OK:  It’s this TINY little piece of yellow glass.  Like... an inch tall.  ONE INCH.  Sitting on the shelf with a price tag on it.  OK... so... JOURNEY.  Right here is, like... not only did this tiny antique make it to the thrift store but someone actually retrieved it from a mound of stuff, put a ninety-nine cent price sticker on it and put it out on the shelf in this BOX STORE size thrift store.  I mean:  Talk about JOURNEY.  That; just THAT there for that antique is JOURNEY by itself.  And then your puffy pink little hand picks it up.  A NEW JOURNEY BEGINS.
            “And I AM THERE.  ON the space walk.  In outer space.”
            “It is cool.  But... like... it’s over for us in, like, maybe twenty seconds total.  The best part; making the find and KNOWING you are (the ‘space walk’).  That’s the best part of all of this.”
            “Right.  Then your, like, looking at it a later.  It’s yours.  It’s over.  It’s not the same as the find; those first five seconds.”

            “Ok.  So what we just described is what we are actually trying to do AND actually doing in thrift stores.  That seconds long procedure of finding a real antique dirt cheap is the IT; what we are doing there and why we are there and... the absolute... now decades long... surprise to both of us that we can actually do this; that there is a very steady unending supply of exactly that; real antiques that, on their journeys, end up for sale cheap in thrift stores and we buy them by wandering by.”
            “Right, right.  But... there’s a ‘behind that’... and you know it.”
            “Yes.  This is where the ‘just wandering by’ goes... bye-bye.  Most people cannot do what we’re doing even if they try really hard and, well, occasionally get lucky.”
            “And that’s because?”
            “Of what we know (about antiques and art).”

            “Ok, so... this is where this particular object is a really good example again.  When was it, for you, that you learned what the (whiskey) taster was?”
            “When?  I don’t know:  Years ago.”
            “But no specific recall?”
            “So... how (did you learn)?”
            “Well... I’d become interested in Early American glass.  I know that.  And I was doing antiques shows.  And I started looking at early glass that was for sale at the shows.  You know; look, handle, price (early American glass items).  Probably that’s where I first encountered a (whiskey) taster.  You know; Sandwich glass miniatures.  The toys.  And the colored glass.  That the colored glass was way more in demand (by collectors) than the clear.  I liked the stuff too.  I was interested in it.  I was always looking at it.”
            “So you sort of self-educated yourself.”
            “Pretty much.”
            “Did you ever look at a (reference) book?”
            “Ah... well... not at first.  Then I did get one; a book.  Lee’s (Sandwich Glass).  But... you know... it’s not very good.”
            “It’s good.  You just didn’t read it.  Don’t blame the book.”
            “Yeah... well... the pictures are lousy.  You know... I HAVE the book but I never really use it.”
            “So your knowledge of this whiskey taster, when you saw it on the shelf was, like, from years of being an antiques dealer.  You’d seen them before; seen them for sale.”
            “Ok so... you have Barlow – Kaiser right?”

            “Yeah.  Most of ‘em (a multi-volume set with decades long publishing history).  I think I do.  It’s hard to tell.  Those books are great for identification but I get real confused about which book is which.”
            “They’re also ‘new’ to us; books that appeared well after we learned early glass.”
            “Yeah.  Right.”
            “So, like, it’s not the first book you think of.  But when you do... it’s the right book.  I mean:  It pictures what you found in color.  Most times.  I mean.  Ok....:  It PROVES that what you found is WHAT you found.  I mean... I don’t NEED that but to SHOW SOMEONE what I found; those books do that great.  So here, we can SHOW A PICTURE of what you found; the whiskey taster.  But it should be understood that WE don’t need to see the picture in the book.  We already know what it is and did that back in the first three seconds.  Right?

            “So... I’m showing the whiskey taster photograph... to people who would have, basically... MISSED the taster on the shelf at the thrift store; walked right by it.  Right?
            “Absolutely.  That’s it right there.  That’s WHY I got it.”

            “A reference book is a reference book and, to us, ‘IN THE BOOK’ is already known WHEN we find it.  But I just want to go a little further with the reference book thing.  Like... HOW I use it.  I had to think about this.  I had to think back, using your whiskey taster, to, like, WHEN I was really clear on a reference source for tasters.  That’s a... REFERENCE SOURCE... for them, NOT an actual taster.  I was, like, WHEN did I have THAT.  I mean, for real; when did I first have a book that I used to verify a whiskey taster.  So... I figured it out.  It was in 1974 when I got (bought by subscription) the Bourne (auction company) Wakefield Collection catalog.  It became, in its day, THE value guide.  I still have mine.  I went and looked at it.  You can still buy ‘em.  It’s still just as good today as it was in 1974.  I... ah... never use it.  Haven’t touched in years.  I mean; no one else even knows about that sale these days.  But... well:  What’s really important to understand is that I... ME... know all about that catalog and have it and... what’s that?  Like... that’s FORTY YEARS today (2014).  So... when I... ME... finds a whiskey taster, that; the Wakefield Collection from 1974, is THERE TOO when I find it.  I mean... I’m STILL using what I learned forty years ago NOW... when I’m in the thrift shop.  Buying antiques.  Most people aren’t doing that.”

            “Nobody’s doing that.  Trust me.  You know... I don’t have Wakefield but I have looked at it and your right:  That has tasters in it.   It is a classic reference.”
            “Yeah.  It has three.  I looked ‘em up.  One thirty, one ten and eighty (dollars respectively).  Purple, blue... better colors than yours (canary yellow).  Yours is still good.  They gotta have it (one in that color).  Yours is ribbed too (horizontal decoration).  They don’t call ‘em tasters there (“cordial – miniature goblet”).  Barlow-K does the whole taster thing (heritage of different titles) and calls ‘em toy spooners.  Ok; today their toy spooners.  When I started they were whiskey tasters.  Hey:  That’s another thing right here.  The reference books:  THEY have a history too.  They’re histories of the stuff but THEY have a history too;  a historiography; books about the history of the subject have a HISTORY too.  That’s... I mean:  We’re getting too advanced (for the reader)?”

            “What ever.  If they’re gonna compete with you their gonna have to know their reference book better than you do.  Ha, ha.  Otherwise... they won’t even know what happened it that thrift store right in front of them.”
            “They don’t.  That’s the truth.  We pick off the antiques all the time and no one even SLIGHTLY notices.  A to Z no one notices.  All the way to the car.”
            “Yeah, it’s not like you can SHOW them.  They’d think you were an IDIOT.”
            “Ok... Let’s show ‘em another example; go through all this again.”
            “Look:  This is about what we actually do.  Right here right now.  We are describing what we actually do in the thrift stores.”

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