The hunt: That’s what most collectors enjoy most about their hobby. We are all constantly on the prowl for that new shiny thing. But if there’s anything that drives the Excite-o-meter’s arrow into the red zone, it’s the quest for unidentified treasure, the thing we don’t even know we want until we see it.
It starts with nothing more than a hankering. There’s no agenda; no wish list. One day you decide to snoop around a ratty old antique shop, or stick your head in an old barn or give an unaccountably dense tree line a closer look. You don’t know what you might find; chances are you’ll find nothing. But chances are equally good that you’ll find something.
I’ve heard that there are purists, folks who acquire only those items that fit their collection like a glove. And one day I’ll probably actually meet one. In the meantime, it seems everyone I know can be charmed by the odd, the rare, the unusual, the thing that doesn’t fit.
Barn finds are particular prizes. If the new treasure is found buried in an old shed or barn after being tucked away and forgotten for decades, so much the better. Beauty remains in the eye of the beholder, but barn finds possess a certain cachet. The barn find is the piece that escaped the scrapper. Often it has enjoyed protection from the elements, and generally its life history is well known.
There is, it should be noted, always the chance that the random foray won’t pay off. You may spend the better part of a day chasing dead leads and backing out of box canyons. Accessing private property requires observance of protocols; phone calls, voice mail and other contacts slow the process. Shop proprietors are notoriously independent and are as likely to be off-duty as on.
In this case, you don’t have to keep an eye on the prize. The hunt’s the thing. Don’t be afraid to go on an occasional wild goose chase. That’s what wild geese were made for! FC
Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector magazine. Contact her via email.