I got my first taste of collecting, when my wife began dragging home a few old rusty kitchen gadgets that she had acquired at the local flea market. I was amused, but not surprised, since during the 1980's, everyone seemed to be gleefully riding along on the antiques decorating bandwagon. I was also not surprised that she had chosen kitchen collectibles to take her first collecting baby steps. The fact that she had been appointed the families chief cook and bottle washer, and was attending to the feeding of our three kids, their menagerie of friends, and a hungry husband, meant she was spending an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen.
Kitchens are after all, the axis of our daily lives. It's inevitable, that when you visit family or friends, eventually you end up plopping down in the kitchen. It's no surprise then, that kitchen antiques are among the most popular collectibles. Nevertheless, be careful; collecting these shiny little decorative objects can become just a tad obsessive.
Curiouser and cuiouser. The hunt for kitchen collectibles has a way of turning us into amateur sleuths and anthropologists. "Have you ever seen one of those?", “what do you think that was for?”, "is that plastic or Bakelite?". As I moseyed along the path into the wonderland of kitchen collectibles, no one warned me to keep an eye out for the rabbit. It wasn't long before I found my life had become increasingly populated with whatzit’s and thingamajigs, with each new discovery providing more questions than answers. The search for some new gadget was occupying more & more time. If I had only known that with every new acquisition, I was edging myself closer to the rabbit hole.
Before I knew it, I found myself spending every weekend at estate sales, peeking into dreary, greasy little kitchen drawers, discovering within each cubbyhole a cacophony of gadgetry as exotic as the artifacts extracted from King Tut’s tomb. It was as exciting as examining a time capsule, "Who made this thing?" "Ooh, What’s that?", "Is it patented?, where's the number? Where's the date?". Is there hidden meaning surrounding the difference between red and green handled kitchen tools? What are these white handled doohickeys? Who's watching me? I gotta get this stuff. Where’s a box.
I didn't even think about the old lady I had pushed aside trying to be first in the door. leaving, I found her still crumbled up in a pile by the porch, I lithely stepped over her; the next sale was miles away, and it's almost 9:00. I was no longer at the edge of the hole, I was having tea with
I had to face it. I had become an ECKO junkie. Most of my free time was now spent franticly searching yard sales, flea markets, and antiques shops & shows in search of my next kitchen utensil fix. I had also come to recognize that the task would be far greater than I had first thought. I was living in a world containing an endless variety of vintage eggbeaters, can openers, fruit bottles and alluring chrome gadgets. I cringed. There were probably kitchen gadgets I didn't even know about. On cue, the heavens opened and the truth revealed itself; what I needed was a research library.
God I love this book. 300 years of kitchen collectibles, 644 pages, the bible of kitchen wizardry. I locked myself in the bathroom for 3 days, and emerged an expert on can openers and corkscrews. My crusade was obvious. Get one of each.
It's getting hard to sleep the night before an antiques show, the anticipation is brutal. It keeps my stomach churning like a lump of butterfat in a 2 quart Daisy. I might as well get up. Since I can't sleep, or get into the show before ten, so it only makes sense to hit a few yard sales on the way.
This is a catastrophe. This is bull#$*%, I should have past that last sale, all I got anyway was a crappy old Becker's church key. Now here I am, stuck in the back of the line, and all the best stuff will be gone before I even get through the door. Geeez, that guy is coming out with the sweetest little pie bird you ever saw. I should have stayed in bed. Note to self; start setting your alarm for 5:00 am on Saturdays.
Time passed, and I became an advanced collector. My library had expanded, and I had wisely read all of the price guides. Unfortunately, I had begun to perceive my can opener collection to be my biggest asset, and the core of my retirement plans. My IRA could now be seen sitting on shelves, and dangling from nails on the kitchen walls, giving the place a kind of surrealistic Christmas tinsel look. Kitchen gadgets now completely dominated my life. To celebrate 20 years, I gave my wife an old A&J beater for our anniversary. "Come on now, it’s a hard one to find".
As she put her stuff in the moving van, all I could think about is how many shelves I could fit into her sewing room.
I’ve worn the same underwear, and there hasn’t been dinner on the table for 5 days. Turns out I do miss the wife, but she'll never take me back unless I give up my collection. I begin to wonder if there's a twelve-step program for this.
I was Encouraged, having found a local Antiques Anonymous chapter. However, sponsors are scarce. As you know, it’s not easy to find someone disciplined enough to give up collecting. Nevertheless, I persevered, and eventually located Tom, a recovering Mouli Grater collector who was willing to be my sponsor. The next Saturday morning Tom and I found ourselves climbing over the back wall at the local swap meet to get an early peek at the goodies. Flashlight in hand, he quickly located a pair of stunning green handled slotted spoons.
"Well, that doesn't surprise me; the jerk kept them both for himself". I shuffled away angrily. Antiques Anonymous is a friggin' racquet. My relationship with my sponsor was certainly over, however, later in the morning I happened upon a mint condition Fisher Beer church key, and started feeling a little better. And, as it turns out, the trip to the swap meet wasn't a total loss. While I was there, I signed up for my own permanent stall. Now I can shop early during setup every Saturday. That's how you get the good stuff you know.
Life is pretty sweet now. The collection is coming along just fine, and the wife even allows me to occasionally visit the cast iron beater collection that she took with her when she left. She even asked once about a date, but when I started looking on a handle for a patient number, she just shrugged and left the room. Que Será, Será". Still, life has its moments. As a matter of fact, last Saturday at the flea market I picked up a nice 1940’s cast iron ricer for only four bucks. Suckers, these guys don’t even know what they’ve got.