Stocking Stuffers for Antiques and Collectibles Aficionados

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“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…”

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore or Major Henry Livingston, Jr., depending on which group of experts you choose to believe.

St. Nicholas or Santa Claus exists. If you are skeptical, consult Frank Church and Virginia O’Hanlon, Donna Walker (Maureen O’Hara) in the movie Miracle on 34th Street and most children five or younger. In an age that emphasizes harsh reality and conformity, children’s imagination and creativity are being suppressed at an earlier and earlier age by uniform testing and a mistaken equalitarian principle that “everyone deserves a trophy.” The concept of Santa is mental not physical. Santa, the Easter Bunny and numerous other seasonal and mystical creatures, similar to religious, moral and ethical beliefs, exist because people choose to believe. No proof is required. Belief is the only justification needed.

Christmas is about toys and trinkets. Individuals never outgrow the delight of finding a present or two under the tree or wherever Santa’s helper decides to place it. When a person becomes an adult (curse the concept), the tradition of a Christmas stocking with his or her name on it that is hung on a mantel or stair banister disappears. It is time to change this.

Those adults who grew up prior to 1990 remember with fondness their Christmas stocking experiences. Candy, especially candy canes, nuts and fruit, were the principal ingredients. My mother (there was no way my father was involved in the selection) favored clear candy animals and other figures, walnuts and oranges. There were always a few items from the Five and Dime, the historical equivalent of the dollar store. Occasionally, there was a humorous/silly gift. The lack of any clothing items made the Christmas stocking a source of hidden treasures.

Of course, there was always the threat of finding coal in your stocking. If I told this to my grandchildren or the students in my college class, I would see a number of blank faces. Few have experienced a coal furnace. The tradition dates back to Kris Kringle Nacht when bad children found lumps of coal rather than toys in their shoes put out for Santa. The Victorian Christmas era picked up the tradition and applied it to stockings. As late as the 1950s, the possible receipt of coal was a major parental threat to control children in the months preceding Christmas.

The difficulty with filling adult antiques and collectibles stockings is that stuffing material will not be found at a dollar store. The suggestions that follow can be costly. The giver must determine how many items a stocking contains.

The antiques and collectibles trade is sophisticated. One Christmas stocking does not fit everyone. The three stockings that follow are a start.

Authenticating is a major concern in the antiques and collectibles trade. While the five senses—hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch—are critical, supplemental tools help confirm or deny an initial impression. Include two or more of the following in an Antiques and Collectibles Detective’s Stocking. First, purchase two Maglite flashlights—a larger model such as the LED 2-Cel D and a smaller model Mini-Maglite such as the LED 2-cell AA. The large LED 3-Cel D is overkill. Second, add a magnifying glass and/or a loupe. Make certain to buy a multiple lens magnifying glass that allows the entire surface to be in focus. Most examples provide only 2X magnification, more than enough for 90 percent or more of the magnification needed for clarity. If more detail is needed, acquire a 10X triplet folding loupe, also known as a jeweler’s loupe. While high-end examples can cost over $35.00, examples at antiques and collectibles flea markets, malls and shows sell for under $25.00. 10X magnification is enough. 20X is overkill.

Third, buy a 30-foot retractable tape measure. While a 15-foot measure will suffice for most occasions, there are instances, such as oriental rugs, where the measurements are greater than 15 feet. Make certain the inches are divided into eighths throughout the measure. This is a time to buy quality. If you are measuring a large object alone, you need the metallic tape to remain stiff over long distances. Finally, consider buying a paperback version of one of Jane Cleland’s A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery. I recommend Deadly Appraisal or Consigned to Death. Blood Rubies, Jane’s latest Prescott antiques and collectibles cozy, is only available in hardcover. Cleland’s Josie Prescott series emphasizes the importance of researching objects to discover their provenance and authenticity.

Recommendations for an Antiques and Collectibles Collector’s Stocking are numerous. First, buy the collector an online cataloging program. I recommend Recollector (, an affordable and easy to use online antiques and collectibles cataloging program. Most collectors fail to catalog their collections, much to the consternation of their heirs. Recollector will serve as a gentle hint to get the job started. Second, purchase an annual subscription to an antiques and collectibles trade periodical. Select a paper that covers the shows and events in the area where the collector lives.

Third, search the Internet to see if there is a collectors’ club for the collecting category in which the collector specializes. Buy a membership. Help the collector move into the mainstream. Fourth, a three-month trial subscription to an online price guide is a great gift. Depending on the collector’s focus, this might be expensive. Fifth, purchase an gift card to allow the collector to add one or more new reference books to his/her library. Finally, add a paperback or two from Lea Wait’s Shadows (An Antique Print Mystery) series. I recommend Shadows at the Fair, Shadows at the Spring Show (perhaps more ideal for dealers), or Shadows of a Down East Summer.

The contents of an Antiques and Collectibles Dealer’s Stocking range from the least to the most expensive. First, if the dealer is a “show dealer,” consider purchasing a one- or two-night stay in an upgrade hotel near his/her favorite shows. Many dealers stay at the cheapest hotel they can find to save money. Second, enroll the dealer in a course at a local charm school. Just kidding! Check the offerings of your local community college, in-seat or online, and enroll the dealer to audit (attend the course, but submit no work) one or more business courses, especially those focused on merchandising or business relations. Third, add a subscription to a regional or national trade periodical heavily focused on auction and show advertising and reporting. This allows the dealer to track market trends as well as become aware of new opportunities to sell inventory.

Fourth, fill the stocking with some fun items. The list includes a blow up seat pillow for show dealers (seating provided by show promoters requires a heavily callused rear end), energy bars (show hours have dealers off their feed), and snacks such as candy and chips (show relief is where you find it). Fifth, most dealers do not have business cards. Place an “IOU” card for a box inside the stocking. Sixth, include a second “IOU” for the cost to create a website for the dealer. Far too many dealers ignore the web. If nothing else, the website can contain some bio information, samples of the types of merchandise the dealer carries, and where and how the dealer sells his/her objects. Finally, surprise the dealer with one or two paperbacks from Barbara Allan’s A Trash ‘n’ Treasure Mystery. Allan’s antiques and collectibles cozies are written from the first person view featuring Brandy Borne and her mother Vivian, two of the craziest antiques and collectibles dealers anyone ever wants to meet.

Many of these items cross over from one category to another, especially those focusing on increasing the educational knowledge of those in the trade. If you want to add another “IOU,” consider a gift card for one of the Institute for Antiques and Collectibles summer camp two-day courses.

This column provides three suggestions—an Antiques and Collectibles Detective, Collector, and Dealer stocking. There are many other trade specialties. What recommendations do you have for an Appraiser’s Stocking, an Auctioneer’s Stocking, an Estate Sale Manager’s Stocking, and/or a Show Promoter’s Stocking? What did I miss in my recommendations? Email your comments to me at

Show this column to your spouse, partner, child, or friend. Hopefully, you will receive a Christmas stocking hung by your chimney with care.

You can listen and participate in Harry L. Rinker’s antiques and collectibles radio call-in show, Whatcha Got? on Sunday mornings between 8 and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. If you cannot find it on a station in your area, Whatcha Got? streams live on the Internet at

Sell, Keep Or Toss?: How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property (House Of Collectibles, An Imprint Of Random House Information Group, $17.99), Harry’s Latest Book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Copyright © Harry L. Rinker, LLC.

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