collecting · it's all about me · out and about

Finding my tribe at the collectables fair

Being fifty-something, I thought I was reasonably “in the know” about collectors.

Not so.

This past weekend I learned that I know just a fraction of a pisquintith about collecting and what I think I know is based mostly on assumptions and stereotypes.

I blogged back here about joining the Geelong Bottles and Collectables Club. Every two years they run a Collectables Fair and when they asked for volunteers to help with the set-up and organising of the three-day event I had every reason to raise my hand:

  • I’m an overworked, overstressed freelancer who needs an excuse to crawl out from her writing cave every once in a while
  • I don’t have much to offer this club in terms of serious collecting knowledge and this could be a chance to total up some brownie points
  • I am genuinely interested to see how these events are organised, from the inside out.

Oh … and, for once, I’d get an insider look at the best items on offer before the general public had a chance to pick them over. Early bird. Worm. You know the score.

I diverted my business phone, checked out of my email for the day and turned up at sparrow’s fluff on the Friday morning, to a huge empty-but-for-the-trestles shed. I couldn’t imagine how this space could be turned into a-feast-for-the-eyes like I’m used to seeing at collectables fairs.

Oh, me of little faith!

By lunchtime (not that we stopped to eat) the trestles were laid out, the club display was complete and the first dealers were starting to mill around the carpark.

The pressure was building as the 2pm open-for-dealers-and-earlybirds loomed. This devoted team of club members managed to allocate space for dozens of buy and swap dealers and dozens of displays booked across dozens of categories. I had no idea all this went on! I had completely taken for granted this end of the process.

When we pulled back the velvet ropes a busy squadron of industrious bees began buzzing in and out and about … carting their wares for display and sale, setting up their tables and doing deals. I soon learned that this is when the big deals are done; in the carpark, in the foyer and in the first few dizzying minutes in the big shed.

These were not your “mum and dad” collectors … they were swapping and selling items worth thousands of dollars with other dealers they knew and trusted. These were collectors of biblical proportions. I was informed I was amongst collecting “royalty” as club members pointed out the legends of the business, the folk who had written the “collecting” books I’d been poring over for years. Yet, it felt like a big friendly family; welcoming, kind and generous of spirit. This event was like a mecca for this collecting community. Fanatics had flown in from right across Australia. One fellow from Tasmania told me he’d carried a $10,000 colonial bottle in his backpack as carry-on luggage and that he was meeting a buyer for it at the fair that day. My eyes nearly popped out.

Soon, the lacking-in-natural-light agricultural shed was transformed into a glittery, shiny, glassy feast for the eyes. There were a lot of old bottles, but there was so much else, too … all the collectables you can imagine. I was so excited, I only snapped a handful of photo’s.

There was this green-themed vintage kitchenalia display:

And this collection of vintage ladies’ compacts (which I captured specially for my friend W who collects these):

Over the weekend, this eclectic, sometimes eccentric bunch of people endeared themselves to me in ways I hadn’t expected. These were ordinary, friendly people with extraordinary passion for their collecting. Here, they could share their passion and be surrounded by like-minded folk.

And they considered me like-minded!

It’s easy to say it was a privilege to be involved. But it was.

By the Sunday, I was entrusted with a high-vis’ vest and a security tag. I helped count the votes for the “People’s Choice Award” and the perpetual “Overall Best Exhibitor Award” and I was trusted with old vintage tins bursting with door takings and, later, helping dealers wrap up and pack away their precious collectables.

I met a bevy of new faces and caught up with some old familiar ones I hadn’t seen for years.

It felt a lot like home. These people felt a lot like my tribe. Now that I’m fifty-something, it’s time to take ownership of what floats my boat. Time to stop resisting the urge to collect, because I don’t appreciate the stereotypes that go with it. I’ve realised I’ve been a part of creating that stereotype. I’d very much like to be a part of helping break it down.

I love old stuff. I love collecting. I love other people’s junk.

I am Sheryl. I am a collector. Of stuff you might consider trash.

There, I’ve said it.

I still only know a fraction of a pisquintith about collecting, but I’m more motivated than ever to learn more.

Sure, I can do that without re-cluttering my mostly decluttered house. All over again.

Can’t I?

Oh, ye of little faith!

6 thoughts on “Finding my tribe at the collectables fair

  1. Oh, how this resonates! Except in my case, it’s wool. Spun, unspun, dyed, undyed, every breed of sheep or camelid or musk ox or bison….and this afternoon I’m off to another show and sale, where I’ll probably add to my already ridiculously large stash. Passion or mental illness? You be the judge.
    Thanks for the great post!

  2. What great pictures! Especially like the green collection. I’ve been trying to “clean” out some of my stuff, but know I’m second thinking the whole idea…..I am quite fond of some of the stuff. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Denise. There’s no rule that says you can’t keep it. It’s your stuff and if you’re fond of it, why not? I seem to be vacillating between cleaning mine out and gathering more … I guess I’m just in love with the process.:)

  3. I love the green collection! Oh, I’ll be honest…I love any kind of collection. I’ve resisted the urge. I’ve given in to the urge. I’m a collector of flamingos, frogs, gnomes, and anything miniature. Everything is tasteful, of course :o)

    1. Yep, the green is stunning … it’s inspired me to arrange a mini green vignette (tasteful, of course) on my kitchen windowsill. Sounds like you have a few collections on the go, too. Enjoy! S. 🙂

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