After a 90+ minute delay of our expected departure, we were on the road with what the meteorologists refer to as ineffective sunshine glaring through the windshield. That’s sunlight with all the brightness but no warming effects. Despite encasing ourselves in the cab of a 26’ Penske that we would call home for the next 9 days, it was a good day to travel. A few hours passed and we were at our first of 20+ stops our journey would afford us. As with every business, we too get the occasional eccentric. The client had given me the warning prior to my arrival that only one person would be allowed in because he was nervous about people in his house. In sidestepping through the very cramped quarters, I suspected nothing had been moved or even touched since his wife passed two years ago. She was the collector. I knew immediately that we operated at different levels and that we wouldn’t be able to do anything for him. Still, I was cordial and inquired about other possibilities perhaps hidden beneath the rubble and informal stacks that had taken on lives of their own.
Another day and several hundred miles logged. Life on the road has its moments. Winter weather, landscape and larger vehicles don’t always go together. But sometimes technology helps avoid potential pitfalls, like warning us of a snow covered winding inclined dirt road that a 26’ truck loaded with (among other things) a 1.5 ton cannon would have difficulty navigating. Had we not been warned, it no doubt would have been a messy white knuckle ride. The client taxied us to his home and business was conducted, but not before the parking brake in his Subaru gave way on his very steep driveway (with my travel partner still inside). It caught again 10 feet down the driveway and all was well, but I suspect the box truck would not have been so fortunate. He drove us back to our truck and we continued on.
A few more days and a few more miles. A delivery here and a pickup there. Life on the road means long days and some sore body parts. I sometimes get a kick out of people’s well-intended hospitality. “Please, have a seat.” I often reply with the same friendly response: “Well, if it’s all the same to you, I would prefer to stand. I’ve been sitting for days.” Truthfully, I welcome a chance to just walk around and see the things people have spent years (and oftentimes many tens of thousands of dollars) acquiring. There is a visible pride in them when you take a sincere interest in sharing their excitement.
It’s a great surprise when you think the world has been picked over and there are no new discoveries to be had, so it’s refreshing to be proven wrong again and again. We had the pleasure of talking with one woman whose husband collected rare coin-operated machinery. She also caught the collecting bug and had walls lined with hundreds of vintage and antique toasters. One would think there could be only so many varieties, but again, each one showed a uniqueness from one to the next. When this collection eventually makes its way to the auction block, I suspect it will make quite a splash.
This trip also afforded us a very pleasant collection tour belonging to a longtime advertising and coin-operated machine customer/client whose penchant for only the finest condition is legendary in the business. He is very proud of the fact that he is so particular about condition and welcomes any derisive comments about his personality that relate to his noteworthy perfectionism. While I have seen a number of similar examples in other collections, one would be hard pressed to find ones in better shape. His collection went far beyond just great condition but contained tremendous diversity in form and subject matter including rarities of which only a small handful are known to exist. I felt privileged to be one of the precious few allowed in his house because he once refused a bona fide sheik entry who wanted to buy one of his treasures.
Not all stops are as glamorous as this one. Sometimes, despite taking all the necessary precautions, taking all the proper steps, confirming and reconfirming, you don’t always get what you came for. One recent stop that I thought was “in the bag” ended up in in disappointment. Upon arrival, I was shown things in no way resembling items previously discussed. When I asked about those items, she sheepishly announced, “Oh, I sold those items before you got here.” I love this business.