Treasure or tat?

I have found that in most of the small towns I have visited in Virginia and Tennessee, there is at least one antique shop on the main street. Sometimes more. Most of these stores are collectives, offering retail space to individuals who could otherwise not afford it, and they typically are two or three floors of tables and shelves crammed with ‘stuff’ most of it old but very little that I’d classify as antique.

I’ve spend some fascinating hours poking around and quickly realised that these emporia are like museums, full of things that shed light on the lives of the people who live close by. In stores like this around the world, it’s safe to bet that there will be coins and maps, old clocks, rusty tins and radios and cameras, most of which don’t work anymore. In New Zealand, there will be furniture made from native timbers that are now as rare as hen’s teeth, rusty farm implements and tools, and a selection of bone china trios. Here, in Virginia and Tennessee, there are metal Coke signs, Mickey Mouse lamps and phones, and handmade quilts that I’d love to be able to take back to NZ. I saw a wooden cradle on rockers which was straight out of Little House on the Prairie, a ‘see through TV (remember those?), and a ‘very old’ cookie jar for $115 no less. I would have bought it if it had been less fragile and more practical.

I found a book I have been searching for only $3 and an immaculate copy of an early edition of “Blue Highways”, a book that I love so much I am on my second copy, a vintage (but unfortunately well worn) Burberry trench coat and tupperware – pale green nesting bowls, a rolling pin, even a tupperware animal –  that brought back memories of the parties my mum went to in the 70s.

When the weather turns cold and wet, it seems that antique shops are the place to go especially when the nearest mall is miles away. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the tat but it’s worth taking time to browse because you might just find something like this.



Categories: An American Adventure

Tags: , , ,

2 replies

  1. My mom loooooooves these kinds of shops. It’s not often she finds a real treasure, but I’ve been to enough of them to appreciate the wackiness and the joy of digging and digging until you find something awesome for almost nothing.


  2. I love that you are getting to have a peek into other people’s lives through their ‘things’. That elephant brought back such memories ! Love the glasses 🙂


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