Category: Arsenal News

Personal Lessons Learned

The following article published in Antique Trader’s March 4, 2015 magazine.

While closing down another year in antique paradise, I pondered what I’d done right, what I could have done better and what I flat out did wrong over the past twelve months.

But first I need to share some background information. What I have always done right is hire professionals to perform the jobs where I have no training. The bottom line is, I know what I don’t know, which is why I keep an attorney on retainer, a general contractor on speed dial and pay our accountant’s invoice within ten days of receipt. This last point is especially important because I do not balance our checkbook. Horror of horrors, I pay someone to do this. Why? Because I hate doing it, not because I can’t. And if I hate doing something, the chore rarely gets done in a timely manner. Knowing this flaw in my character, paying our accountant to perform this mundane task is not only a tax write-off, but saves me a lot of money on Excedrin. This is a fine example of self-awareness leading to an accurate assessment.

So let me get back to what I did right this past year.

I hired an SEO (that’s Search Engine Optimization) specialist to help me tinker with the website. Why? Again, I go back to my statement about hating to do something. Delegating this out has worked wonders for our website, building our visibility and resulting in some good new customers. Awareness and assessment at its best.

Which leads me to what I could have done better. Jay and I are a bit lax when it comes to capturing data on our random, walk-in customers. Because we’re in a tourist town, the effort to attain this information on folks who spend $50 to $200 would be fruitless. Most of these sales are “one hit wonders,” people who are buying a souvenir while on vacation. No matter how many email blasts we send out, we’ll never see or hear from them again. Another example of awareness and assessment.

However, we could get better about tracking those who spend $500 – $1,500. Gaining this data can be tricky however, and requires finesse because most people hate to give it out, especially at the point of sale. It’s kind of like being held hostage. “Give me your email address and home phone number, or else!”

Here’s a case in point. I hate it when I’ve been standing in line for twelve minutes at a big box store, lugging several heavy things without the benefit of a shopping cart. Because I originally stopped in just for a box of light bulbs I now find myself lugging two bags of ice melt, a 20 foot extension cord and the light bulbs, which I’m trying desperately not to drop. Who would have had the foresight to get a cart just to buy light bulbs?

Anyway, after what seems like hours, because I ALWAYS pick the wrong line, sweat begins to pool under my arms and trickle down my temples because I’m wearing a heavy coat, scarf and hat (remember the ice melt). When the cashier stops everything to ask me for my home phone number and zip code, I snarl, “No!” Everyone within ten feet takes a giant step back. This is another case of self-awareness and self-assessment. I get cranky when I’m hot.

But to get back on point, Jay and I need to improve how we can capture this information without seeming nosy or invasive. I just haven’t figured out how and I’m open to suggestions. So this falls under the category of being aware of a problem, albeit without a solution or assessment.

As far as what I did wrong, I’m afraid this list is longer than I care to admit. The most glaring thing is allowing an anonymous person to yank my chain via email.

It started off innocuous enough. She emailed me to say she’d been in the store the previous month, seen a ring and wanted to buy it. Neither Jay nor I remembered her, but that’s not unusual. We are baby boomers and we see hundreds of people every month during tourist season. She provided the inventory number, description and price of the ring. It was tagged at $795.

Then things started to get dicey or at least weird. She replied that she really, REALLY wanted to buy the ring. She LOVED it (her emphasis), but she couldn’t afford $795, she could only afford to pay $250, but because she really wanted it, I would sell the ring to her for this discounted price, right?

I don’t think so. And who writes like that?

I emailed her back with my best price. She replied it was still too much money and reiterated she could only spend $250 and I should be happy to accept this amount.

Happy is not the word I would use here. I wrote, “I’m not in business to lose money.” And yes, at this point I was very much aware of my tone.

She lashed back, “How DARE you reply in such a rude manner! And what a sarcastic witch (word substituted) you are.”

Knowing she’d gotten my goat and realizing I was getting hot under the collar, at that point I truly believed my response to her tirade was appropriate.

“You offer 70% off the tagged price and I’M the rude one? LOL.” For those who don’t know, LOL is short for “laughing out loud.” In other words, I mocked her. Some quick words of advice – never, ever, mock a member of the “millennial” generation.

Because after that, the proverbial poop really hit the fan. Calling me a rude witch was just her getting warmed up. In addition to the name calling, she promised to tell the entire world what happened. And true to her word, she has smeared me on several travel-rating sites, even using Twitter as part of her arsenal.

Admittedly, this episode was not one of my finest moments. I am now aware that using sarcasm on an unknown person wasn’t the right thing to do. In all honesty, it was a stupid thing to do. I am also aware that I shouldn’t allow anyone to irk me as much as she did. I wonder how many self-assessments I’ll get to reflect upon next year.

 

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Premise Behind Wall of Shame

For those who may not know, I write a column for Antique Trader magazine entitled, The Buck Stops Here, where I talk about the wild and crazy things that happen to us, especially me, working as a Civil War artifact dealer.

A few months back, I wrote a piece entitled, “Wall of Shame,” which focused on the different types of scams people have tried to pull on us over the years. The “Wall of Shame” column reaped many reactions and responses, ranging from incredulous to helpful advice on how to handle these cretins. Based on the popularity of the piece, I have decided to continue writing about these shameful people. For example, there’s an eye surgeon in Minnesota who reversed the charges on his credit card after we’d already issued him a credit, thus giving himself a $17,000 short term loan from our checkbook. Nice guy, right?

Besides giving me a place to vent, the idea behind this blog is two-fold. First, we want folks to realize how difficult our jobs are. It’s not all fun and games dealing with John Q. Public, especially when he’s on vacation. Many of them forget to pack their manners along in their suitcases. The other reason is to warn fellow dealers about these nefarious types. It is my intention to describe these people as best as I can, short of naming names, so that not only will the culprit know he’s reading about himself, but his brother-in-law will recognize him, too.

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Birthstone Jewelry Sale!

For 2015, we will have each month’s birthstone on sale. That means during January, all garnets are 20% off. In February, amethysts will be on sale. And to honor the month of love for Valentine’s Day, diamond jewelry will also be on sale in February at 20% off. So if you’ve been waiting for us to have a sale, this is the year. The sale will only last as long as the month does. We’ll also throw in some special items just to make it fun.

Use our easy 90 layaway program for your purchase and remember, we ship anywhere!

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Hallmarks Aid in Validating Victorian Jewelry Value

Published in Antique Trader Magazine, August 21, 2014

Collecting Victorian jewelry can be fun and frustrating, especially for the novice collector.

The fun part is obvious – what woman doesn’t want a new bauble? The frustrating part stems from several factors, beginning with missing hallmarks on most American-made items, which is typical of the Victorian era. Hallmarks provide collectors with a myriad of information, such as what type of metal was used to make the item, plus when and where it was made. Things get even more confusing because stones may be genuine, a doublet, synthetic or a spinel. A brief history lesson is in order before delving into these points in more detail.

Bohemian Garnet

A perfect example of Bohemian garnets set with tsavorite garnets to mimic the richer look of rubies and emeralds.

Items made from 1837 until 1901 are considered “Victorian” because these are the years Queen Victoria reigned. Because this spans more than six decades, antique jewelry collectors break the Victorian era down into three distinct time periods. The early portion is known as the Romantic period and dates from 1837 until 1860. The Grand period, with the styles and accessories most associated with Queen Victoria, begins in 1861 (the start of our Civil War) and lasts until 1880. The final years are the Aesthetic period and cover 1881 until Victoria’s death in 1901. Because fashions did not change as rapidly as today, it is common to find a piece of jewelry dated or hallmarked from the Grand period but resembling the earlier Romantic era, blurring or blending the two styles. Here’s where some of the frustration of collecting kicks in – how to date a piece that lacks a hallmark and looks like it could be from two different eras?

Hallmarks are tiny markings placed on jewelry by the maker. They contain a wealth of information such as who made the item (known as the maker’s mark), what year it was assayed (or taxed), thus providing the item’s approximate age, and the metal used, such as 18 or 22 karat gold. Not until after 1854 did the United Kingdom create gold hallmarks for the lower gold content more commonly used today such as 9 karat, 12 karat and 15 karat. This change in gold content coincides with the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the middle class. Hallmarks became a mainstay for British pieces, but American jewelers were not required to hallmark their items. One mistaken assumption about hallmarks is that the British government required jewelers to hallmark their pieces to prove the taxes had been paid on the material, primarily gold and silver. It wasn’t the Crown who required these hallmarks, but the Guilds. Think of a Guild as an early version of the trade union. These organizations provided helpful services to the consumer, such as standardizing the gold content of pieces. When an item was stamped 18 karat gold for example, it contained 750 parts gold (or 75 percent gold) versus the lesser 14 karat which is only 58 percent gold. This protected the public from unscrupulous tradesmen while holding the jewelers accountable for their hallmarks. Hallmarks always included the maker’s mark, telling the Guilds as well as the consumer who made the piece

Guilds also created the formal position of “apprentice,” providing quality training for the next generation of craftsmen. By limiting the number of apprentices in training, this ensured enough work for future jewelers. To be apprenticed into any Guild was an honorable and noteworthy career move, guaranteeing the family a prosperous future. During the Victorian era in Great Britain, it was considered “unseemly” for a jeweler to advertise his merchandise. His “maker’s mark” portion of the hallmark became extremely important because it was how consumers identified his work. Jewelers often displayed their “mark” in their shop window making it easier for clients to locate them. Hallmarks are found in discreet places on jewelry, such as inside a ring’s band or on the pin portion of a brooch. These areas tend to wear first however, sometimes rendering the hallmarks illegible and adding to the collector’s woes. To further compound this problem, American made jewelry rarely had a hallmark of any kind before 1900, and when an item was hallmarked it was usually only for the gold content. Makers’ marks were rare because advertising was perfectly acceptable in the United States. Peruse any old newspaper or magazine from the Victorian era and find dozens of ads hawking merchandise. One of the most famous craftsmen to “hallmark” his work was Tiffany, who made it fashionable to sign items, beginning with his stained glass lamps. Signing his jewelry came later.

blue spinel versus the true sapphire

Can you tell which item above is the blue spinel versus the true sapphire? Both are set in white gold and surrounded by diamonds, but the sapphire is on the left and the blue spinel on the right.

Since most of the Victorian era coincided with the Industrial Revolution, a new generation of consumers — “the middle class” — was born. This “class” consisted of successful merchants, tradesmen, lawyers, doctors and executives who managed the factories. Because Americans eschewed the strict codes of propriety prevalent in Europe, money and all its trappings created a new kind of aristocracy in the United States. The pockets of the American middle class weren’t quite as deep as their British aristocratic cousins, however, so a market for goods that were similar to the finer European items, but not quite as expensive, was born. Smart tradesmen picked up on this trend and fashioned jewelry from 9-, 10- and 12-karat gold versus the more expensive 18 and 22 karat. The market for gold-plated pieces, known as rolled gold, also grew. Rolled gold can be so heavily plated that it may test positive as 9 karat or 37.5 percent gold, so collectors must tread carefully. Another less costly jewelry material was vermeil, which utilized a thin gold plate over sterling silver. Though vermeil has existed for centuries, it was mainly used by royal families because the base is sterling silver — still a precious metal. During the Industrial Revolution, many American-made items were fashioned in vermeil. When the light gold plating wore off, the owner still had an attractive silver piece.

To stretch the dollar even further, jewelers often brushed or “washed” a thin layer of gold over a cheaper base metal, usually brass. This wash soon wore off, however. Pieces made of brass with a gold wash were very common during the Romantic and Aesthetic periods and helps today’s collector date a piece. Note that there never was a hallmark created for rolled gold and gold washed items. Vermeil pieces would bear the sterling mark. American jewelers rarely made vermeil pieces of jewelry, preferring to sell the cheaper rolled gold and gold washed items instead.

Besides the confusion over metals, semi-precious stones made their way into pieces in lieu of their higher priced counterparts such as diamonds, rubies and emeralds. White topaz or rock crystals frequently substituted for diamonds while bohemian garnets doubled as rubies, green garnets as emeralds and so on. Green garnets come from two very different minerals, the tsavorite and demantoid. Tsavorites are a lighter green and less expensive than the rare demantoid garnet with its dark green color. Demantoid garnets were used sparingly in jewelry during the Victorian era. Though dear, they were still friendlier on the wallet than a genuine emerald.

Jewelers also utilized doublets in lieu of large, expensive stones. Though doublets have been around since the 18th century, their use increased dramatically during the Victorian era. Doublets are “stones” that have a thin sliver or layer of the precious stone on top which is then fused or glued to a larger piece of colored glass or a semi-precious stone below, simulating something much more expensive at a fraction of the price.

To the trained eye, the fused or glued seams of the doublet stones are easily discernible. Knowing this, jewelers rarely mounted a doublet in the high claw setting so popular during the Aesthetic period. Instead, doublets were usually set into the metal, much like the bezel or invisible settings of today.

Vermail earring

Vermail Earring

Synthetic stones have been around since the 1700s, but required special skills to manufacturer that many jewelers refused to learn. But when the affluent middle class started scoffing up these affordable lookalikes, jewelers soon learned the rudiments of creating synthetics, especially for sapphires. There was no good substitute for the deep blue of the sapphire except glass, which rarely fooled anyone.

Besides synthetics, spinels often substituted for rubies. Spinels were mined in British-occupied Burma and Sri Lanka at the time and were often referred to as “balas rubies.” This name was intentionally meant to fool the unsuspecting consumer. In 1830, the Guilds stepped in and developed the technology that allowed gemologists to distinguish rubies and spinels as separate minerals. But education and training was slow to travel across the great pond during the early 1800s, so many spinels were sold as rubies during the Victorian era, especially in the United States.

So how does someone start a Victorian jewelry collection, especially with no hallmarks?The best teacher of early American made jewelry is experience. Pick the brains of the dealer who owns the item and buy some good reference books with extensive photographs. Begin a collection with only hallmarked pieces. They may cost more up front, but save hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars in the end.

Melanie Thomas of Arsenal of The Alleghenys About our columnist: Melanie C. Thomas has 20 years experience researching, buying and selling military memorabilia. She and her husband run Arsenal of the Alleghenys, a Civil War artifact shop in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Call her at: 717-334-1122.
Email at: arsenal-1@embarqmail.com
Visit: www.arsenalofthealleghenys.com.

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Wall of Shame – published in June, Antique Trader

Wall of Shame seems like a Fair Idea

Column “The Buck Stops Here” by contributing editor Melanie Thomas published in Antique Trader Magazine June 2014

Remember going into stores as a kid and seeing copies of bounced checks pinned to the wall behind the cash register? They were seen everywhere – at the beauty parlor, the local pharmacy, even the grocery store. Always posted in a prominent place to embarrass the signer, these chits lingered until the check was made good or the bulletin board ran out of room. Whatever happened to that practice? I want to revive this custom on a grander, more global scale. Why don’t I create a new tab on our website and call it the Wall of Shame, scan copies of these rubber checks and then post them here? Then these worthless pieces of paper could be viewed and snickered over by our viewers and maybe cause one of the writers to think twice before taking advantage of another unsuspecting merchant.

I want to do this, I really do, but my lawyer won’t let me. Oh, I could do it alright, but I could also get my butt sued in the bargain. Why? How come the folks “back then” didn’t worry about a lawsuit? Is it because “back then” people had a sense of personal responsibility combined with a smidgen of pride, ultimately feeling accountable for their actions? From what I recall, those thumb-tacked checks didn’t stay posted very long. Not so much anymore. We live in a world where it’s OK for someone to write us a bad check and steal our merchandise, yet I’m the one who can wind up in trouble for trying to warn others about this miscreant’s behavior. Does anyone else see the injustice here? Probably because credit cards weren’t around much when I was a little kid, the modern day spin on the bounced check scenario is the reversed credit card scam. Here’s how it works. Someone finds our website and froths at the mouth over several items and negotiates a discounted, packaged deal buying two, usually three things. We then run the charge and ship the pieces out, only to get a phone call a few days later to be told item one and two were not exactly what they expected, but they LOVE item three, which they want to keep at the discounted price, of course.

Customers like this really stink and we usually smell them coming. We then have to decide if we’re willing to let the buyer keep the one item, try to negotiate a higher price for said item or inform the buyer to send everything back, which is our usual way of dealing with this situation. That’s right: We’d rather have it all back than sell one discounted item. We’re not falling for that old trick any more. A highly compensated medical professional pulled this scheme on us not too long ago. When given the above choices, he opted to send everything back. Upon receipt, we promptly refunded all monies on his credit card. But this guy was a real pro. He waited exactly 31 days after we processed his refund to contact his credit card company to reverse the charges again, giving himself a $17,300 interest-free loan against our bank balance. Apparently, he knew the customer service reps at his credit card company could only see a 30-day transaction history on their screens, so when he asked for the reversal they failed to note we had already issued him a full credit. It took 10 business days to get our money back. Nice guy, huh? Would you want this man to be your doctor? Me neither. Then there’s the New York tourist who purchased an 1885 Wells Fargo shotgun. He fell in love with it while in our store, paid with a credit card and left, proudly cradling the shotgun in his arms, probably lost in some fantasy about being Doc Holliday. Anyway, either he had a bad case of buyer’s remorse or his wife gave him a hard time, I don’t know. All I do know is three weeks later the gun was back on our doorstep with one small problem. Though the shipper’s box was in pristine condition, the shotgun had obviously been dropped on a very hard surface because the butt plate and stock were chipped to smithereens, rendering the shotgun’s collectible value worthless. Perhaps his wife attempted to bludgeon him and missed, hitting something like a concrete block wall in their basement.

 This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine  Learn about subscribing to Antique Trader magazine for just $1 per issue and even less with a digital subscription!

The New Yorker claimed the damage must have happened during the return shipment. As I stated earlier, the box was perfect. He filed an insurance claim against the shipper and wanted us, specifically me, to tell the shipper the box was crushed, thus damaging the shotgun; in a nutshell, he wanted me to lie and say it was the shipper’s fault. Refusing to commit a felony on his behalf (I’m kinda funny that way), Mr. New York gave me a tongue lashing that left blood running from my ears. He also tried to reverse the charge on his credit card, but this time I was two steps ahead of him. I’d already called our credit card processor and told them what was going on, reiterating the antique was so badly damaged its value was basically nil. I also sent them photographs of the shotgun both before Mr. New York left the store with it and after it came back. They nipped this attempted insurance fraud in the bud. Besides using our website for redress, I am aware the court system is at my disposal, where I can file a complaint and convince a judge these clowns owe us money. The judge agrees and then signs a document known as a judgment, stating how much we are owed. Guess how many judgments I’ve been able to collect on over the past 20 years – that’s right – zip, zilch, nada. There’s not much satisfaction in zero. So, let’s get back to my Wall of Shame. What if I post these scenarios on our website, omitting names of course, but filling in enough details that if this person read the piece he’d recognize himself? And maybe his brother-in-law will recognize him, too. This sounds fair to me. And though no one ever promised me the world was fair, how about a little payback every now and then?

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If it’s heart-shaped, it Must be Valentine’s Day!

Our item of the Month, not the week, is this gorgeous heart-shaped aquamarine from the Art Deco era. Purchase this item before Valentine’s Day and receive a 10% discount. And yes, you can always use our layaway plan. Look at inventory number 665 under the Art Deco tab or go to our Item of the Week!

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Importance of Gettysburg History

Published in Antique Trader, October 16, 2013
http://www.antiquetrader.com/featured/import-of-gettysburg-history-is-lost-on-many

Living in a tourist town creates unique challenges. Visitors wreak havoc with the local traffic patterns for example, causing unnecessary snarls and the occasional fender bender. Favorite restaurants get mobbed, interfering not only with our social lives but our hunger pangs. And then there are those who have no clue what all the fuss is about and wish they were anywhere but where they are, in the tiny hamlet known as Gettysburg.

More than 120 antique dealers from the North and the South converged on Lincoln Square Sept. 28 for the Gettysburg Fall Outdoor Antique Show, which is sponsored by the Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants Association (www.gettysburgretailmerchants.org).

The 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg stretched the patience and fortitude of most residents. The smart ones left town. Besides the normal heat and humidity, an inordinate number of tourists visited, originating from every part of the globe. Folks hailing from Germany, Australia, Norway and South Korea expounded on the nuances of Gettysburg’s battle and the Civil War in general. These conversations were scintillating and I enjoyed every last one of them, even with those who failed to buy anything.

Some tourists from the nether regions of the U.S., however, burned themselves upon my brain, leaving irreparable scarring. Beginning with a group of ladies from New Jersey on a “girls’ weekend away.” They came to Gettysburg to soak up the history, so they said, and to “shop ’til they dropped.” Believing these three had some interest in the local history (why else make Gettysburg their destination?), I asked them what they thought of the sites so far, especially the battlefield.

“It’s so big,” one of them moaned. “And hot,” whined another.

OK, I get it. Battlefields tend to lack shade, which can be particularly annoying in the middle of July.

“But did you enjoy your tour?” I pursued, needing to hear affirmation from at least one of them. After a pregnant pause, the tall, willowy blonde asked me, “Why was that place named Pickett’s Charge? Was it because of the white picket fence around the barn?”

Is this a blonde joke?

More than 120 antique dealers from the North and the South converged on Lincoln Square Sept. 28 for the Gettysburg Fall Outdoor Antique Show, which is sponsored by the Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants Association (www.gettysburgretailmerchants.org).

Three pairs of expectant eyes turned to me. Someone in a far corner chortled. How could I answer this with a straight face? Because it was still early in the day, I mustered the energy to maintain a modicum of control over my facial features.

“A Confederate General with the last name of Pickett led the charge across that field,” I replied.

“Why did he do that?” was the response.

Out and out laughter burst forth from the back room, sparing me the necessity of a response. The women turned toward the snorting men and I made my escape to assist another customer.

Where’s the Advil?

Several days and several hundred customers later, a father and son duo came in, claiming California as their home. Puffed up like a peacock, the father bragged his son had been accepted to UC Berkeley as a history major. We made small talk as they browsed around for several minutes. Business at the front desk was brisk.

As they made their way toward the door, the son turned to me and asked, “So, uh, what was this Civil War thing all about?”

My jaw dropped.

Silence blanketed our customer-filled store.

People turned and stared. The father looked like he wanted to dig a hole six feet under while the son waited for my answer, oblivious to his faux pas.

“The Civil War broke out in 1861 because several states seceded from the Union. These states wanted to form a separate government,” I replied. This synopsis was the best I could do with zero prep time.

More than 120 antique dealers from the North and the South converged on Lincoln Square Sept. 28 for the Gettysburg Fall Outdoor Antique Show, which is sponsored by the Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants Association (www.gettysburgretailmerchants.org).

The father jumped in. “You have to understand, they don’t teach U.S. history in California schools,” he explained.

“Really,” I said, “then just what do they teach?”

“California history,” was his quick reply.

“You do realize that there was a United States before the state of California ever existed, right?” I blurted out, diplomacy and patience going out the window.

Sad to say, I am not 100 percent convinced either father or son knew the answer to this question, but I do know that U.S. history is indeed taught in California schools. My uncle is a retired superintendent of a California school district. Maybe this particular young man was out sick that week.

I need some Rolaids.

A few short days later, a middle-aged gentleman burst into the foyer. His flushed face and agitation made me think he needed medical help.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“No!” he virtually shouted to a store full of concerned citizens.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t find General Grant’s monument and no one in this damn town seems to know where it is!” he shouted.

Here we go. As quietly as possible, so as not to embarrass him, I stated, “Sir, General Grant wasn’t here at Gettysburg. General Meade was commander of the Union forces.”

A blank stare ensued, followed by a mouth opening then clenching shut. He turned on his heel and stomped out, slamming the door behind him.

Suddenly in need of cooler air, I turned down the thermostat.


This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

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Summer dragged on and the freshman class of Gettysburg College arrived in late August. These students dripped with anticipation about their new lives sans parental supervision. A band of six trudged in, more for the air conditioning than any interest in artifacts. The girls perused the jewelry while the boys made a beeline for the antique weapons.

One of the young men asked, “So, why did Lee surrender at Appomattox when the war ended in Gettysburg?”

Here we go. Time for a pop quiz; these kids are attending Gettysburg College, after all.

“What year was the battle of Gettysburg?” I asked them.

Silence, nothing, nada.

“Take a guess,” I encouraged.

“1865?” one of the girls whispered while ducking behind the tallest male.http://www.antiquetrader.com/featured/import-of-gettysburg-history-is-lost-on-manyhttp://www.antiquetrader.com/featured/import-of-gettysburg-history-is-lost-on-manyhttp://www.antiquetrader.com/featured/import-of-gettysburg-history-is-lost-on-many.

“1865?” said one.

Living in a tourist town creates unique challenges. Visitors wreak havoc with the local traffic patterns for example, causing unnecessary snarls and the occasional fender bender. Favorite restaurants get mobbed, interfering not only with our social lives but our hunger pangs. And then there are those who have no clue what all the fuss is about and wish they were anywhere but where they are, in the tiny hamlet known as Gettysburg.

More than 120 antique dealers from the North and the South converged on Lincoln Square Sept. 28 for the Gettysburg Fall Outdoor Antique Show, which is sponsored by the Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants Association (www.gettysburgretailmerchants.org).

The 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg stretched the patience and fortitude of most residents. The smart ones left town. Besides the normal heat and humidity, an inordinate number of tourists visited, originating from every part of the globe. Folks hailing from Germany, Australia, Norway and South Korea expounded on the nuances of Gettysburg’s battle and the Civil War in general. These conversations were scintillating and I enjoyed every last one of them, even with those who failed to buy anything.

Some tourists from the nether regions of the U.S., however, burned themselves upon my brain, leaving irreparable scarring. Beginning with a group of ladies from New Jersey on a “girls’ weekend away.” They came to Gettysburg to soak up the history, so they said, and to “shop ’til they dropped.” Believing these three had some interest in the local history (why else make Gettysburg their destination?), I asked them what they thought of the sites so far, especially the battlefield.

“It’s so big,” one of them moaned. “And hot,” whined another.

OK, I get it. Battlefields tend to lack shade, which can be particularly annoying in the middle of July.

“But did you enjoy your tour?” I pursued, needing to hear affirmation from at least one of them. After a pregnant pause, the tall, willowy blonde asked me, “Why was that place named Pickett’s Charge? Was it because of the white picket fence around the barn?”

Is this a blonde joke?

More than 120 antique dealers from the North and the South converged on Lincoln Square Sept. 28 for the Gettysburg Fall Outdoor Antique Show, which is sponsored by the Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants Association (www.gettysburgretailmerchants.org).

Three pairs of expectant eyes turned to me. Someone in a far corner chortled. How could I answer this with a straight face? Because it was still early in the day, I mustered the energy to maintain a modicum of control over my facial features.

“A Confederate General with the last name of Pickett led the charge across that field,” I replied.

“Why did he do that?” was the response.

Out and out laughter burst forth from the back room, sparing me the necessity of a response. The women turned toward the snorting men and I made my escape to assist another customer.

Where’s the Advil?

Several days and several hundred customers later, a father and son duo came in, claiming California as their home. Puffed up like a peacock, the father bragged his son had been accepted to UC Berkeley as a history major. We made small talk as they browsed around for several minutes. Business at the front desk was brisk.

As they made their way toward the door, the son turned to me and asked, “So, uh, what was this Civil War thing all about?”

My jaw dropped.

Silence blanketed our customer-filled store.

People turned and stared. The father looked like he wanted to dig a hole six feet under while the son waited for my answer, oblivious to his faux pas.

“The Civil War broke out in 1861 because several states seceded from the Union. These states wanted to form a separate government,” I replied. This synopsis was the best I could do with zero prep time.

More than 120 antique dealers from the North and the South converged on Lincoln Square Sept. 28 for the Gettysburg Fall Outdoor Antique Show, which is sponsored by the Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants Association (www.gettysburgretailmerchants.org).

The father jumped in. “You have to understand, they don’t teach U.S. history in California schools,” he explained.

“Really,” I said, “then just what do they teach?”

“California history,” was his quick reply.

“You do realize that there was a United States before the state of California ever existed, right?” I blurted out, diplomacy and patience going out the window.

Sad to say, I am not 100 percent convinced either father or son knew the answer to this question, but I do know that U.S. history is indeed taught in California schools. My uncle is a retired superintendent of a California school district. Maybe this particular young man was out sick that week.

I need some Rolaids.

A few short days later, a middle-aged gentleman burst into the foyer. His flushed face and agitation made me think he needed medical help.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“No!” he virtually shouted to a store full of concerned citizens.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t find General Grant’s monument and no one in this damn town seems to know where it is!” he shouted.

Here we go. As quietly as possible, so as not to embarrass him, I stated, “Sir, General Grant wasn’t here at Gettysburg. General Meade was commander of the Union forces.”

A blank stare ensued, followed by a mouth opening then clenching shut. He turned on his heel and stomped out, slamming the door behind him.

Suddenly in need of cooler air, I turned down the thermostat.


This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

Learn about subscribing to Antique Trader magazine for $1 per issue! Get a digital subscription for just 77 cents per issue!

Summer dragged on and the freshman class of Gettysburg College arrived in late August. These students dripped with anticipation about their new lives sans parental supervision. A band of six trudged in, more for the air conditioning than any interest in artifacts. The girls perused the jewelry while the boys made a beeline for the antique weapons.

One of the young men asked, “So, why did Lee surrender at Appomattox when the war ended in Gettysburg?”

Here we go. Time for a pop quiz; these kids are attending Gettysburg College, after all.

“What year was the battle of Gettysburg?” I asked them.

Silence, nothing, nada.

“Take a guess,” I encouraged.

“1865?” one of the girls whispered while ducking behind the tallest male.

“Try again,” I said.

At this point, the clueless six got defensive. They huddled up, reminding me of wildebeest after sniffing out a lion on the plains of the Serengeti.

“We didn’t come in here for a test,” the pretty one huffed. Obviously the alpha female of the group, she flounced out leaving her entourage to dutifully follow.

Where is that Advil?

In September, a local hotel hosted the annual reunion of all Medal of Honor recipients. This gala affair always garners important guests. Rumor had it that George Bush II would be the keynote speaker. He wasn’t, but Tom Selleck did himself and all Americans proud.

Needless to say, the hotel staff was put on notice to stay sharp while these VIPs were in town. Managers, supervisors and other bigwigs buzzed around in the days leading up to this prestigious event.

At the weekly staff meeting, when it was first announced that the hotel had been chosen for this special occasion, the front desk personnel failed to understand the nature of all the fuss.

“What’s a Medal of Honor?” asked one.

“Who are they?” another wanted to know.

After the hotel manager provided an explanation, the front desk youngsters shrugged, as if to imply, “No big deal.”

When this scenario was relayed to me, I needed a tissue to mop up the waterworks.

What is a medal of honor? Are you kidding me?

Yep, it’s been a fun-filled, character-building season here in Gettysburg.

If anyone from Scotland, South Africa or perhaps New Zealand is still roaming around town, please stop by our shop. I’d really like to chat with you.

– See more at: http://www.antiquetrader.com/featured/import-of-gettysburg-history-is-lost-on-many#sthash.zGKOEZbM.dpuf

“Try again,” I said.

Living in a tourist town creates unique challenges. Visitors wreak havoc with the local traffic patterns for example, causing unnecessary snarls and the occasional fender bender. Favorite restaurants get mobbed, interfering not only with our social lives but our hunger pangs. And then there are those who have no clue what all the fuss is about and wish they were anywhere but where they are, in the tiny hamlet known as Gettysburg.

More than 120 antique dealers from the North and the South converged on Lincoln Square Sept. 28 for the Gettysburg Fall Outdoor Antique Show, which is sponsored by the Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants Association (www.gettysburgretailmerchants.org).

The 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg stretched the patience and fortitude of most residents. The smart ones left town. Besides the normal heat and humidity, an inordinate number of tourists visited, originating from every part of the globe. Folks hailing from Germany, Australia, Norway and South Korea expounded on the nuances of Gettysburg’s battle and the Civil War in general. These conversations were scintillating and I enjoyed every last one of them, even with those who failed to buy anything.

Some tourists from the nether regions of the U.S., however, burned themselves upon my brain, leaving irreparable scarring. Beginning with a group of ladies from New Jersey on a “girls’ weekend away.” They came to Gettysburg to soak up the history, so they said, and to “shop ’til they dropped.” Believing these three had some interest in the local history (why else make Gettysburg their destination?), I asked them what they thought of the sites so far, especially the battlefield.

“It’s so big,” one of them moaned. “And hot,” whined another.

OK, I get it. Battlefields tend to lack shade, which can be particularly annoying in the middle of July.

“But did you enjoy your tour?” I pursued, needing to hear affirmation from at least one of them. After a pregnant pause, the tall, willowy blonde asked me, “Why was that place named Pickett’s Charge? Was it because of the white picket fence around the barn?”

Is this a blonde joke?

More than 120 antique dealers from the North and the South converged on Lincoln Square Sept. 28 for the Gettysburg Fall Outdoor Antique Show, which is sponsored by the Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants Association (www.gettysburgretailmerchants.org).

Three pairs of expectant eyes turned to me. Someone in a far corner chortled. How could I answer this with a straight face? Because it was still early in the day, I mustered the energy to maintain a modicum of control over my facial features.

“A Confederate General with the last name of Pickett led the charge across that field,” I replied.

“Why did he do that?” was the response.

Out and out laughter burst forth from the back room, sparing me the necessity of a response. The women turned toward the snorting men and I made my escape to assist another customer.

Where’s the Advil?

Several days and several hundred customers later, a father and son duo came in, claiming California as their home. Puffed up like a peacock, the father bragged his son had been accepted to UC Berkeley as a history major. We made small talk as they browsed around for several minutes. Business at the front desk was brisk.

As they made their way toward the door, the son turned to me and asked, “So, uh, what was this Civil War thing all about?”

My jaw dropped.

Silence blanketed our customer-filled store.

People turned and stared. The father looked like he wanted to dig a hole six feet under while the son waited for my answer, oblivious to his faux pas.

“The Civil War broke out in 1861 because several states seceded from the Union. These states wanted to form a separate government,” I replied. This synopsis was the best I could do with zero prep time.

More than 120 antique dealers from the North and the South converged on Lincoln Square Sept. 28 for the Gettysburg Fall Outdoor Antique Show, which is sponsored by the Gettysburg Area Retail Merchants Association (www.gettysburgretailmerchants.org).

The father jumped in. “You have to understand, they don’t teach U.S. history in California schools,” he explained.

“Really,” I said, “then just what do they teach?”

“California history,” was his quick reply.

“You do realize that there was a United States before the state of California ever existed, right?” I blurted out, diplomacy and patience going out the window.

Sad to say, I am not 100 percent convinced either father or son knew the answer to this question, but I do know that U.S. history is indeed taught in California schools. My uncle is a retired superintendent of a California school district. Maybe this particular young man was out sick that we

I need some Rolaids.

A few short days later, a middle-aged gentleman burst into the foyer. His flushed face and agitation made me think he needed medical help.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“No!” he virtually shouted to a store full of concerned citizens.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t find General Grant’s monument and no one in this damn town seems to know where it is!” he shouted.

Here we go. As quietly as possible, so as not to embarrass him, I stated, “Sir, General Grant wasn’t here at Gettysburg. General Meade was commander of the Union forces.”

A blank stare ensued, followed by a mouth opening then clenching shut. He turned on his heel and stomped out, slamming the door behind him.

Suddenly in need of cooler air, I turned down the thermostat.


This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

Learn about subscribing to Antique Trader magazine for $1 per issue! Get a digital subscription for just 77 cents per issue!

Summer dragged on and the freshman class of Gettysburg College arrived in late August. These students dripped with anticipation about their new lives sans parental supervision. A band of six trudged in, more for the air conditioning than any interest in artifacts. The girls perused the jewelry while the boys made a beeline for the antique weapons.

One of the young men asked, “So, why did Lee surrender at Appomattox when the war ended in Gettysburg?”

Here we go. Time for a pop quiz; these kids are attending Gettysburg College, after all.

“What year was the battle of Gettysburg?” I asked them.

Silence, nothing, nada.

“Take a guess,” I encouraged.

“1865?” one of the girls whispered while ducking behind the tallest male.

“Try again,” I said.

At this point, the clueless six got defensive. They huddled up, reminding me of wildebeest after sniffing out a lion on the plains of the Serengeti.

“We didn’t come in here for a test,” the pretty one huffed. Obviously the alpha female of the group, she flounced out leaving her entourage to dutifully follow.

Where is that Advil?

In September, a local hotel hosted the annual reunion of all Medal of Honor recipients. This gala affair always garners important guests. Rumor had it that George Bush II would be the keynote speaker. He wasn’t, but Tom Selleck did himself and all Americans proud.

Needless to say, the hotel staff was put on notice to stay sharp while these VIPs were in town. Managers, supervisors and other bigwigs buzzed around in the days leading up to this prestigious event.

At the weekly staff meeting, when it was first announced that the hotel had been chosen for this special occasion, the front desk personnel failed to understand the nature of all the fuss.

“What’s a Medal of Honor?” asked one.

“Who are they?” another wanted to know.

After the hotel manager provided an explanation, the front desk youngsters shrugged, as if to imply, “No big deal.”

When this scenario was relayed to me, I needed a tissue to mop up the waterworks.

What is a medal of honor? Are you kidding me?

Yep, it’s been a fun-filled, character-building season here in Gettysburg.

If anyone from Scotland, South Africa or perhaps New Zealand is still roaming around town, please stop by our shop. I’d really like to chat with you.

– See more at: http://www.antiquetrader.com/featured/import-of-gettysburg-history-is-lost-on-many#sthash.zGKOEZbM.dpuf

“We didn’t come in here for a test,” the pretty one huffed. Obviously the alpha female of the group, she flounced out leaving her entourage to dutifully follow.

Where is that Advil?

In September, a local hotel hosted the annual reunion of all Medal of Honor recipients. This gala affair always garners important guests. Rumor had it that George Bush II would be the keynote speaker. He wasn’t, but Tom Selleck did himself and all Americans proud.

Needless to say, the hotel staff was put on notice to stay sharp while these VIPs were in town. Managers, supervisors and other bigwigs buzzed around in the days leading up to this prestigious event.

At the weekly staff meeting, when it was first announced that the hotel had been chosen for this special occasion, the front desk personnel failed to understand the nature of all the fuss.

“What’s a Medal of Honor?” asked one.

“Who are they?” another wanted to know.

After the hotel manager provided an explanation, the front desk youngsters shrugged, as if to imply, “No big deal.”

When this scenario was relayed to me, I needed a tissue to mop up the waterworks.

What is a medal of honor? Are you kidding me?

Yep, it’s been a fun-filled, character-building season here in Gettysburg.

If anyone from Scotland, South Africa or perhaps New Zealand is still roaming around town, please stop by our shop. I’d really like to chat with you.

– See more at: http://www.antiquetrader.com/featured/import-of-gettysburg-history-is-lost-on-many#sthash.zGKOEZbM.dpuf

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Make new friends, but keep the Old

Published in Antique Trader, July 3, 2013.

One of the best things about the Brimfield Antique Show is the anticipation, much like picking out your wedding day and then planning every minute down to the last detail. Excitement builds. Tension rises. I make hotel reservations months in advance, analyze the openings of the fields to plan my walk-about and salivate while thinking of the lobster I’ll eat for lunch and dinner.

Besides the pleasure I get from treasure hunting, I also look forward to seeing familiar faces from past shows; dealers I’ve known and bought from over the years that I only get to see in the spring.  These brief meetings are homecomings of a sort where we catch up with a quick gossip fest.

I woke at 4:30 a.m. to doors slamming in my hotel, dealers rushing out to set up booths for the 6:00 a.m. opening of their fields, mindless of the rest of us, who did not need to rise so doggone early.

Unable to fall back asleep, I decided to get up and get moving. Parking spots at the Brimfield show are no easier to find now than any other year. Like hundreds of others, I shivered while standing in line for the opening of May’s Antique Market. It was an unseasonable 28 degrees, and we were all hunkered down in our jackets. Thank goodness I had the foresight to I dress in layers, knowing I could shed my hat, sweater and jacket as the day warmed, leaving them in the booths of friends. – See more at: http://www.antiquetrader.com/antiques/making-new-friends-and-keeping-the-old-at-the-brimfield-antique-show#sthash.rR8WLeuM.dpuf

Please click on the link below to continue reading…

One of the best things about the Brimfield Antique Show is the anticipation, much like picking out your wedding day and then planning every minute down to the last detail. Excitement builds. Tension rises. I make hotel reservations months in advance, analyze the openings of the fields to plan my walk-about and salivate while thinking of the lobster I’ll eat for lunch and dinner. – See more at: http://www.antiquetrader.com/antiques/making-new-friends-and-keeping-the-old-at-the-brimfield-antique-show#sthash.11KfJH7R.dpuf

http://www.antiquetrader.com/antiques/making-new-friends-and-keeping-the-old-at-the-brimfield-antique-show

Categories: | Comments Off on Make new friends, but keep the Old

The Nuance of the Fan

Published in Citizens’ Companion, February 2, 2013.

Fans were a “must” fashion accessory from the 16th through the early 20th centuries. The French were the first Europeans to use fans as an everyday item, bringing their expertise to England after 1685 when the Edict of Nantes forced thousands of Frenchmen to emigrate from France to nearby Protestant countries, especially England. When the Frenchmen arrived in their new countries, their fan making skills came with them.

The East India Company imported fans from China and Japan, thus heightening their oriental mystique. The first European countries known to have used the fan are Spain, Italy and Portugal, no doubt due to their hot climates. But it was the French, who made their fans an art form by adding exotic materials such as ostrich feathers and jewels, who are credited with the surge in the fan’s popularity, making it more of an accessory and less of a necessity.

Please click on the link below to continue reading…

 

http://www.citizenscompanion.com/?p=849

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The Challenge of Finding Good Employees

Published in Antique Trader, March 7, 2013

 

http://www.antiquetrader.com/antiques/help-wanted-finding-employees-with-integrity-and-passion-is-a-challenge

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