Letters to the Editor: What did you collect in your childhood and how did that shape your interest in antiques?


When I was a young boy of probably 6-9 yrs old when I walked a long the sidewalks to school I used to pick up the empty & not so empty matchbooks with the figures of baseball players and various pretty pinups girls and naturally I hid them in a secret place. This was late forties and early fifties before I started playing sports. Also living in a Navy town  of New London, Connecticut during the war years I also checked the cigarette packs thrown away as sailors had a habit of putting  dollar bills in the cellophane covering of the packs. I did not get rich but I was able to support my baseball and football collecting also keeping my dentist happy w/ all the candy & gum that came w/ the finds…

Thanks for giving me some pleasant memories of my Huck Finn childhood.

Respectful & God Bless,

Richard G. Donovan Sr.

Hey Robyn,

I have been a collector of things since early on and still am, and always think I need more. I still have my childhood marbles, tho’ they are now mixed with ones I have bought as an adult, I sold the most Girl Scout cookies when I lived in Yazoo City, thanks to the Famous Jerry Clower, our neighbor, and won a stamp collecting book, and added to it for many years, unfortunately it disappeared at some point in one of our moves as I grew up.

I hunted many hours and found some nice arrow heads and still have some, and I still go from time to time and find one occasionally, where I go I find more shark’s teeth than arrowhead tho’. My brother and I collected Hot Wheels, arrow head, you name it, we were very close, and we would have “trade” feasts. We would go to each other’s rooms and gather what we really liked and wanted of each other’s and then get together in one room and trade item for item. It was really kewl.

Now as an adult I collect everything, from key chains to sports cards to drug rep pharmaceutical pens and items, and I am getting my mom into collecting stamps. Bought her a big batch off eBay for part of her Mother’s Day gift. I am contagious, people around me see all my collections and sometimes they fall victim to collecting as well. OK, back to eBay, thanks for the nice article.


Susan Wells


As a little girl, I’d roam with my twin to and from the far corners of the city in hot pursuit of treasures. We would frequent the dumps as well as the Indian mounds along the river bank.

One of the most exciting finds in our youth was an old metal bank shaped like a safe, filled with coins. It was like finding a pirate’s chest of doubloons. The coins were fascinating. None were rare, and for that matter, none were really old – mostly pennies, but we didn’t care. It was the chase and the hunt that gave us the thrill. Finding that bank sparked an interest in collecting coins so we collected and collected, never to find anything of significant value, however.

My twin and I went our separate ways once we grew into adults, and our interest waned in collecting coins. He stayed in Michigan, and I moved to New Orleans. Eventually my own interest broadened to include anything unusual that was an antique.

After going to garage sale after garage sale one day, I stopped at an outdoor flea market. I needed an antique fix and I didn’t care what it was, except it had to be unique. I found a coin. The merchant claimed it was a solid ounce of gold, and the date on it was 1780. It was the biggest gold coin I’d ever seen! My heart pounded so hard as I held it in my hand. The coin spoke to me, so I bought it. It was damaged, but if it were truly a rare coin, the $400 I traded for it would still be a good investment – after all, it had to be worth its weight in gold at the time.

The first thing I did was take it to a jeweler and had it tested not once, but three times. It was indeed solid gold.  I then researched it on the Internet and found out such a coin didn’t exist nor could exist, but there it was in my tightly closed grip. My coin was a 1780 Maria Theresa Thaler (MTT). MTTs historically have always been made of silver – famously so. The 1780 date has been minted on the coin right up into the 20th century on re strikes, which made my heart now sink.

According to a famous U.S. auction house, my MTT wasn’t even considered to be a counterfeit (which can still be quite valuable – the 1913 Liberty V nickle, now worth millions, is a counterfeit). The MTT was merely a medal and worth only its weight in gold, which at that time was considerably less than what I had traded for it. The auction house even said it was plated after personally examining the coin. I didn’t know what to think, and I had to find out as much as I could about it. It became an obsession. I couldn’t have been that much of an idiot!

Weeks bled into months of research and I accumulated a pile of e-mails and data several inches high. It wasn’t minted in Vienna where the silver MTT originated, but half way around the world I got my first positive response and the interest in it became enormous.

As it turned out, there were indeed a few solid gold MTTs minted that fit the description of my coin. Expert after expert gave their opinion and then I ran into Clara Semple. She was in the process of writing a book about MTTs.

Clara thought she might help solve some of my coin’s mystery and its origin and referred me to another expert named George Korenko. After several phone calls and snail mails, he excitedly concluded that my coin was made by a ruler in Yemen around the turn of the 20th century.

To date, the highest value attached to it (not to mention its historical value) is 10,000 pounds ($8,500) by a centuries old auction house in London – my ever elusive pirate’s doubloon was realized. It was discovered in New Orleans where Jean LaFitte himself once roamed the alleys of the French Quarter!

Clara’s book, “A Silver Legend” The Story of the Maria Theresa Thaler by the Barzan Press, was finally published and the coin I speak of is on page 105 with an entire page devoted to this coin. My flea market find is now famous.

Gas prices and the slow economy may be bad for dealers right now, but not for collectors, because finding treasures seem to be at a high. People are strapped for cash, and they’re digging around in grandma’s attic for things to sell. Last week I found a rare hand-painted porcelain button with embossed gold edging from the late 1700s for two bucks, and a patina rich hand-carved ivory monkey in a lotus blossom that appears to be centuries old for, again, two bucks with only an hour separating the finds!!!

I’m still foraging around, but not just in dumps or river banks. I’m finding long ago abandoned treasures in my own backyard and the neighbor’s yard as well. You never know what you’ll find and when you’ll find it so don’t give up.


P J Ash


I’m a long-term subscriber, originally to TOY SHOP then the nice merge with ANTIQUES TRADER. I also get the other trades; Big Reel and Classic Images, which all focus on my collecting pursuit; Films, Super and Standard 8mm Shorts. Hence the moniker “Shorty” – Got that as a kid because I would buy the little headline editions of 8mm releases and the kids nicknamed me Shorty, so it stuck ever since.

Since the ’60s I’ve been a stalwart devotee to film, certain LPs, books and selected toys. I’m eclectic in what I want and research a lot of areas.

Why do we collect? It’s for most of the reasons you and others mentioned, mostly the throwback to childhood. The ’60s remain synonymous with nostalgia, due mostly to Famous Monsters publication in 1958 and several documentary films made about old film permeated through the late ’50s into the ’60s, absorbing our minds with creative insight. Add to this the film distributors who released so much for our pleasure.

Well, I maintained that love all these years and continue, though I must say I am nearing completion of many items. As I recreate my past, I look to the present with some happiness and towards the future with much hope.
Please stay in touch.

via e-mail

The effect of rising gas prices:

Dear Robyn:

Unfortunately, rising gas prices certainly will have an effect on how far I might travel to attend an antique fair or visit an antique district in another town or city. However, there are a number of good antique shows on Long Island that I will attend this season.

I collect antique snuff boxes and antique walking sticks. And, as I find treasures at antique fairs and stores in my vicinity, or during my travels, I do sell some as I continue to refine my collections. I sell on eBay, and though some of the changes in eBay were not welcome, the site does still offer the amateur dealer such as I an opportunity to reach thousands of potential customers interested in the items I list. I also make occasional purchases on eBay to add a special snuff box or stick to the fold.

That said, it is still my greatest joy to go out and see the items for myself, feel the texture and craftsmanship, and hold history in my hands – sometimes imaging who the original owner might have been; under what circumstances was the item most used and how did it find its way to me.

In addition, I hope that the pieces of history I come across and make part of my collections will be appreciated by my grandchildren and their children and beyond. Who knows, it might even trigger an interest in collecting – not for the money or (alleged) profit – but for the love of those things from our past, often made with skillful care and not manufactured in mass proportions simply as a business.


via email

Orphan Annie feedback:


I wish to thank you for the excellent article on collecting Orphan Annie by Mark Rich in the April 23rd issue. I have been a subscriber for several years, and this is the first article that really hit home for me. I have a fairly large collection of Annie memorabilia and am still looking for more to add to my collection. 

If any of your readers that are Annie devotees see this, I would like to hear from them. Perhaps we could even make a trade or buy and sell. My email address is Modelmac08@Clearwire.net. I enjoy your publication, keep up the good work.

G. B. McGowan
Dayton, OH

Marbles feedback:

Dear editor:

I enjoyed the article on marbles in your June 11 issue, but as a collector (however moderate) for over 40 years, I want to offer a few corrections. While American makers probably made attempts to compete in the marble industry in the 19th century, the vast majority of fancy marbles (painted china and porcelain, glass, and agate) were produced in Germany from about 1850 until World War I. Prior to about 1850, American marbles were relatively plain clay and limestone. The American marble industry did not take off until the beginning of the 20th century.

As to dating agate marbles, while not absolute, it is generally accepted that those with very fine “facets” were made before WWI. Your readers may be interested in two well-researched books by Richard Gartley and Jeff Carskadden, titled Colonial Period and Early 19th-Century Children’s Toy Marbles (1998), and Chinas: Hand-painted Marbles of the Late 19th Century (1990).

Finally, it was unfortunate that so much emphasis was placed on the monetary values. Just a very few marbles are worth the high prices listed, but that does not detract from the beauty of the common ones. An antique jar filled with colorful marbles is a delight in a windowsill or used as a bookend.

Mary Kwas
Fayetteville, Ark.

P.S. The Toy & Miniature Museum in Kansas City, Mo., www.toyandminiaturemuseum.org, also has an outstanding marble collection that fills an entire room.

Hello from Northwest Arkansas:

You are singing my song with my words. It is a labor of love to tie the family names and dates with the memorabilia. There are ties to the antique item that puts the face on each name on the chart.

You (and the Antique Trader readers) are cordially invited to inspect the end result of a few generations (Bayfield, Wis., Hayward and Ashland). Here is a museum dedicated to honor the family.

Our culture is being so cheapened that as we feature family heritage, we are helping to restore the dignity of our ancestors. Be sure to collect all the handwriting. I’m using Palmer Method Penmanship – our grandmother used “Spencerian.”

Best wishes and please come for a visit.

Muriel Schmidt
Family Heritage Museum
Eureka Springs, Ark.

To learn more about the museum, call 479-253-5444 or visit www.familyheritagemuseum.com.