Aloha Vintage

Despite changes in Hawaii throughout the years, the cultural warmth remains, and the market for Hawaiiana collectibles is still going strong.

The custom of native Hawaiians is to welcome visitors with a kiss and a flowered necklace that represents "Aloha," (love) and a wish for good luck. This is not merely a tradition, it represents the philosophy of warmth and love as a way of life. It was, and still is, a part of Hawaiian culture. But the quiet, country-like atmosphere is missed by those who once knew it from years past.

Reflecting on Hawaii as a child growing up in the ’60s, Cruz Nobleza, who visited the Islands in the summer with her Hawaiian-born father, described Hawaii as having been more quiet. "There were no freeways that went to the North Shore, it was all country roads," said Cruz, a freelance Hollywood hair-stylist and Hawaiiana dealer. "Now there are all kinds of freeways. You can get there in a half an hour. It’s like a smaller version of Waikiki now and there are people everywhere. It’s not as quaint as it used to be."

Due to the influx of Japanese customers coming in to the Islands there are many more designer stores. Honolulu, according to Cruz, has a particularly upscale Asian clientele.

Prices for vintage Hawaiiana collectibles have fluctuated as well. "At one point in time in the late ’90s, early 2000s, it was unbelievable the prices we were getting for things in this market," Cruz said. "Now, we’re lucky if we can get half the price of what they originally were."

According to Cruz, collector books on Hawaiiana are so over-priced that they can scarcely be bought today.

Prices have not stopped the demand for Hawaiiana, however. At least, not according to Mary Barbaro, the owner of Aloha Balboa, an antiques and vintage Hawaiiana store near Newport Beach, Calif.

"Over the past few years, the vintage Hawaiiana market dipped simply due to supply and demand," Barbaro said. "However, we have noticed a big boost in the market over the past 12 months which is exciting."

Aloha Balboa, housed in a 1920s Spanish style building at 215 Marine Ave. on Balboa Island, is only a year old. However, Barbaro and her partner Phil Hoofe have been in the antique business since 1992, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii and in Newport Beach, Calif.

"Our first year has been a great success as we have been very well received by the local residents of Newport, Laguna, Costa Mesa and especially on Balboa Island," Barbaro said.

Fast-selling items at Aloha Balboa include Hawaiian linens and barkcloth, lamps, jewelry, figurines, home decor and furnishing, ephemera and art. Shoppers come primarily from California, but customers from all over the USA, Europe and Japan shop there as well.

Other popular Hawaiiana items reflect the love natives still feel for the beach and surf, as well as the music and culture. They include historic surfboards from the early 1900s to the 1960s, as well as photographs of surfboards and surfing medals. Old Hawaiian song books and cook books, Hawaiian Garden-Mundorff Prints, and other antique photographs are also in demand.

Hawaii is still near and dear to Cruz’s heart and she travels there four to five times a year to visit relatives, as well as to sell her collectibles. She produced her tenth "Island+Beach" show in June 2008. The show consists of 40 dealers from the Mainland and Hawaii and attracts collectors worldwide. Cruz also sells Hawaiian items on her Web site