The swap meet, and rites of spring

Spring has arrived and with it comes swap meet season

Leslie C. McDaniel

Leslie C. McDaniel

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Some register the changing seasons by the calendar. Others rely on meteorological phenomena. But collectors watch the highway. When they see trailers of what the uninformed might refer to as "junk" flying down the road, they know it's swap meet season, and therefore, spring has arrived. 

The "early bird" swap meets are being held this month. More kick in in May, and a wave of them crash down every summer. That wave is met by an increasingly receptive audience of collectors on the hunt for treasures, deals and steals. More and more these days, the seasoned collector finds the going rough at auctions and antique malls. But swap meets still offer the tantalizing possibility of a diamond in the rough, sometimes at bargain prices.

When it comes to collectibles, I've had better luck finding treasures than bargains. A friend of mine, commiserating with my luck – or lack thereof – offered this wry observation: "When I'm looking for something, generally it's in hot demand, hard to find, and high priced. But when I'm looking to sell, the market is always glutted, and prices are low."

I console myself with the counsel passed on by a more experienced collector:

"If you're going to sneak up on everything, you're going to build a decent collection," he said. "But if you want a really fine collection, sometimes you've got to bite the bullet. The biggest single mistake I've made is, I should have bought more stuff."

More stuff ... I can visualize spouses all over America – mine among them – rolling their eyes at that philosophy. Those of you who are hardened collectors, however, know that timing is everything. Can a person have too much stuff? Save that argument for another day: it's spring, and swap meet season is officially open. FC