Entertaining and informational, “Mantiques: A Manly Guide to Cool Stuff” introduces readers to several collecting categories deemed masculine enough to raise the testosterone level in any room.
From vintage barware to early technetronic curiosities, Eric Bradley, editor of the best-selling Antique Trader Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide explores the collections that express the curators’ “inner shirtlessness,” interjecting humor all along the way. A formerly unknown comic in the public relations world, Bradley shares his insights into this new way of curating a collection to express individuality and character.
Antique Trader: You’ve been published many times before, but this is a new subject for you and a new format. What inspired you to write the “Manly Guide to Cool Stuff”?
Eric Bradley: Taxidermy ’gator heads weren’t getting the respect they deserved. Seriously, there are thousands of collectibles that mainly appeal to the testosterone set, and this is the first book that pulls together this diversity under one title.
You’ve got vintage cars in the same book as mystical stones, sexy pin-ups, motorcycles made of wicker, novelty guns, beer signs and a 100-year-old pencil sharpener. The word ‘mantique’ helps classify all these things, and shop owners have figured that out. Literally dozens of entrepreneurs have opened shops across the country and all of them share the same name: Mantiques. It was time to document the emergence of these shops to show how truly diverse collecting really is.
It wasn’t until I started interviewing collectors that I saw another trend emerge: Young and old collect different things but they collect for the same reason: relationships. Carlos, a collector who fills his home with mid-century modern finds, creates a stage for parties and gatherings. Tim, a 30-something collector, fills his basement with vintage arcade games and old video game consoles in order to host a dozen friends at the same time.
So although each collector pursues completely different things, each tells a story on how his passion brought them closer to family and friends. I think that’s important and is really at the heart of why people collect in the first place.
A.T.: Obviously, you had to narrow the subject matter for “Mantiques” considerably, since there are immeasurable collecting categories from which to choose. How did you select the topics to include?
E.B.: For a collecting subject that by its nature defies labels, narrowing a book down to 16 chapters was painful. I still feel it when it rains! We started with 28 chapters and narrowed it down to the 16 top subjects that make up the funky, funny “mantiques” shop or flea market. You know the kind: a taxidermy black bear wearing a fez over here, John Deere sign over there, old guitars, vintage video game cartridges stacked near pinback buttons – a real treasure hunt.
I tracked down some of the most impressive collections you’ll ever see. For instance, Dan Graf in Newburyport, Mass., put an addition on his garage to create a museum dedicated to regional decoy carvers, and Benny Jack Hinkle III transforms his Dallas apartment into a living museum of oddities. One way I worked around the limitations was to compile seemingly disparate (yet interesting) objects under one chapter to show how they might all belong in a single collection. In the Barware chapter, there’s a pair of brass knuckles next to a Three Stooges poster for “Three Little Beers,” and a Narragansett Ale tray illustrated by Dr. Seuss. I’d love to hang with a guy who has that type of funky stuff in his collection.
A.T.: “Mantiques” is funny and irreverent. Who do you think will most enjoy it? Why?
E.B.: This book’s a fun read for everyone who understands what it truly means to be a collector or who likes to learn about odd-ball stuff. Guys are naturally drawn to it, but even women find they can’t put it down (although some chapters raise a few eyebrows). Everyone who understands collecting wants to spend time with this book.
It’s also fun if you like reading short stories about the price people are willing to pay and the lengths people are willing to go to live with and enjoy one-of-a-kind objects. Everyone gets it.
A.T.: What makes an antique a “mantique”?
E.B.: Well, it helps if it smells funny. Generally speaking though, a mantique is a collectible primarily pursued by men. Most of the times, a mantique is either greasy, racy, sharp, rusty and/or funny – and even valuable if it’s all of those things combined! Incidentally, the word “mantique” to label or market collectibles like this was first used back in the 1970s in New York and even in California. It’s only now that shop owners are using the term to market to guys.
A.T.: If money were no object, what would be on your “must-collect” list?
E.B.: I have a thing for tramp art, mineral specimens and pin-up art from the 1950s. But even if I had millions to spend on these wonderful things, I still wouldn’t give up my favorite hobby: collecting wooden boxes to old bizarre odds and ends that no one in their right mind should keep. I have a sealed packet of hair gel from the 1960s labeled “Kung-Fu Pomade.” Why do I own this? No, seriously: My wife would love to know.
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