Local vendors share their antique show experiences

The vintage lifestyle

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Antique and collectible shows attract those looking for everything from limited edition children’s literature to vintage clothing.Sometimes, there’s just an unexplainable appeal about certain nostalgic items which draws people from all ages and stages of life.

The shows also brings local sellers, who are eager to display their wares to thousands of people.

Palmer/Wirfs & Associates, who hosts antiques and collectible shows around the country, has been offering an annual show at the Clark County Event Center for the past eight years. It attracts approximately 200 vendors and 6,000 attendees, and the line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot rivals what one would see at a rock concert.

“It’s a very trendy business,” said Christine Palmer of Palmer/Wirfs. “Right now we’re enjoying some added popularity thanks to all the programming on T.V., like “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers.”

Belva Ostensen of Camas has been an antiques dealer for 27 years.

“I got started because I loved antiques and I had bought a lot and decided to sell at the show so I could upgrade what I had in my home,” she said.

She shops at garage and estate sales for resale items, and participates in six to seven shows a year, including all the Palmer/Wirfs shows.

“They are all local, including the garden show at Camas High school where I sell antique yard and garden items,” she said. “I enjoy finding the items and selling them to a lot of nice people at the shows.”

Like Palmer, she agrees that the needs and wants of customers are changing.

“New customers like information on what they are purchasing,” she said. “I have tried to change my buying habits in the last few years to adapt to what the customers want now. My motto of late is, adapt or die in this business.”

Ostensen used to specialize in glass and furniture, but now sells a variety of items.

“They want useful items or are decorating things,” she said. “They are not the same collectors of a certain pottery or glassware that we used to have.”

Palmer agrees.

“(Cable) shows have drawn attention to decorating with vintage, wearing vintage clothing and buying your old toys,” she said. “We’ve brought down the age of our attendee thanks to those shows and social media. Facebook works well for our kind of thing.”

But with that change also comes a loss.

“The major change has been the loss of the die-hard collector who had to have every Hopalong Cassidy lunch box,” Palmer said.

“People now buy for different reasons and while they still collect, they’re more likely to buy a broader spectrum.”

Kol Shaver, a rare book dealer, enjoys the Clark County show because sellers get to interact with each other on a regular basis.

“You never know for sure how much business you’re going to do,” he said. “Unlike a store space, these people have purposely chosen to come here and are looking for unusual and unique stuff.”

Shaver, sells at antiques shows as well as from an area inside Meadowlark Antiques and Tea Room near downtown Vancouver.

“I have a lot of clients from the Camas and Washougal areas who come to the store and to the expos,” he said. “I enjoy meeting people at the shows and vendors who specialize in everything from glassware to slot machines. You have a huge range of people who are into the whole idea of nostalgia.”

Shaver refers to himself as a “generalist.”

“I sell Western Americana, children’s literature, maps and books on American Indian history,” he said. “My focus is on items prior to World War II and it needs to be in good condition.”

Shaver has been a book dealer for 25 years and enjoys the flexibility of this job and meeting potential clients. As far as material goes, he doesn’t actively search for it.

“People call me all the time,” he said. “I can’t keep up with it. I get a lot of material offered to me.”

Ostensen’s experience has been different due to the items she sells.

“My advice to anyone wanting to get a start in this business is get out there and see what is in the antique shops and what the items are selling for,” she said. “This is an education in itself when you are buying at an estate sale or an auction.

“You must be willing to spend time searching and driving to find inventory, cleaning or maybe repairing it, marking, wrapping and selling your wares. It’s a lot of work.”