Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pickers, UFOs, and the AVRO project

You may not be aware of this fact, but we pickers come across many UFOs.

UFOs are abundant in this trade, we see them all the time.

Dealing with UFO's takes much time, study, patience.

Like many things in this business, it takes research, research, and more research to figure out what we are dealing with, where the object has come from, it's history, composition, past ownership, etc.

Taking into consideration the UFOs color, what colors it has been, it's surface texture, coloration, markings, etc, you may be able to identify exactly where it is from, when it was made, how long it has traveled through time & space to get to the present day.

I also tend to have UFOs stashed away, in the barn, the basement, etc, for future study.

Hang on folks, our dog has been barking for a little bit, and I'm pretty sure I just heard a knock at the door...might be a customer, so I better go see what they want. This blog is not something that is paying the bills, so I better see if I can sell 'em some stuff....


Ok, I'm back.

I gotta tell you, that was really weird.

I went downstairs, and looked out the window to the driveway, and there was a big, black van parked behind my van.

The dog was still barking away, still freaking out, so I put him behind the baby gate we have in the hallway, so he wouldn't jump on who ever was at the door.

I opened the door, and there were 2 guys standing there. I thought at first they were lost or something, then I figured maybe they were dealers. They were driving a big, black van, and you could likely haul tons of stuff in it, one of those Mercedes Sprinters; like Mike & Frank of American Pickers drive. But, this van was awfully clean, super shiny and must have been this years model, as it was pretty new. It also looked like it must have had every option on it, from black running boards, tinted windows, an extra CB antenna, a little tiny dish for satellite radio, and some other things. No company name on the vehicle, which isn't all that unusual.

They were definitely not pickers...or if they were, they were pseudo pickers. Wanna-be's with lots of money made in some other profession, or perhaps even inherited; they were born into it, or maybe even fraudulently obtained...who knows. Frankly, I don't know many true and honest pickers who have lots of money to throw around. Most pickers live hand to mouth, though sometimes they seem rich at times. It is feast or famine for many of us. It is not due to a lack of talent, experience, etc that cash is tight at times.  Sometimes we do have big bucks to throw around. It comes from flipping a few big dollar items, after turning over some merchandise at a show or flea market, after holding an auction, etc. Other times it is a bankroll we've pulled out of our overdraft, line of credit or an advance on a credit card. You need to spend money to make money, to go picking, to buy items to turn over, to make some money to pay bills. If you have some decent amounts of spare cash, sometimes you upgrade to a newer (but usually used) vehicle, or at least get the old one fixed up a bit. Other times you try to catch up a bit on bills, take the other half out for supper at some place classier than the local fast food joint, that sort of thing. A picker flipping bills off of a wad of cash is no indication of financial wealth. Same goes for a fairly new vehicle. Reliability is something a picker needs in a vehicle. Sometimes the ugliest, junkiest looking vehicle is the choice for a picker.....but, it still needs to be reliable, and that beater that just won't die (or can be fixed while on the road) is the way to go. 

So, the fancy vehicle meant little to me. However, these guys were way too slick looking. The fact they were wearing black suits and sunglasses confused me, also. I'm 100% positive there are no high end antiques show going on anywhere in the area...and if there is one, it would be somewhere that is easily at least a day's drive away, so wearing a suit for the drive there is rather, well, bizarre. I thought that maybe they were selling something, pushing some religion, etc, so I was also preparing myself to respond to those things.

Anyway, I asked what they wanted. They wanted to see in the barn, and asked what I had stashed away.

I asked what sort of thing they were looking for; what the dealt in, so I could better decide what sort of stuff I should show them, and so they would not waste my time nor me waste their's. They asked if I had seen anything unusual in the area. I said, well, yeah, I have gotten all sorts of unusual things, but I really needed something more specific than that. Then they asked if I had seen or found any saucers in the area.  Saucers? I replied that I really don't deal in much china, especially dinnerware, but if they wanted to leave some sort of "want list" I'd call them if I found anything that fit their interests.

They just turned their heads and looked at each other. The one guy with the helmet of perfectly coiffed hair seemed to raise an eyebrow, but that is about the only evidence he gave of any sort of emotion. The bald guy was still nearly robot like in his stature. The coiffed hair dude handed me a card and asked me to call them if I came across any saucers. They then both turned, ans started walking back towards their van.

They were in perfect step together, almost soldier like. They even opened the doors of the van at the same moment, stepped into the van and slid into their seats at the same time. The only time they seemed to be out of sync was when the bald dude who took the driver's seat stiffly looked into his side mirror when he was backing up to turn around to leave.

They know nothing about picking, for sure...the card has some weird logo and a phone number, and that is it. Useless...I tossed it in the trash...if you want to get calls from people again, make sure you are descriptive of what you are looking for. "I buy signs" doesn't cut it. You need a list, a page of pictures, key words, etc. Try: old signs, pre-1980, made of metal, tin, wood, etc. These guys' cards are useless. Definitely wanna-be's playing with daddy's money.

They were weird....but, I have seen much weirder things. Maybe they were a couple, who knows. But, then again, 2 people of either sex, spending lots of time on the road together tend to pick up each other's mannerisms sometimes, kind of like an old married couple. So, I can't assume they were gay or anything, either. Never want to assume such things in this business. Stereotypes are not a good thing to go by, and are rarely ever accurate, nor applicable, anyway. You can really tick people off when you use stereotypes to assess them, even get yourself in trouble. You can screw-up a deal really fast. Yeah, so the guy who owns that farm property seems really feminine, or the woman behind the counter seems pretty darn "butch." They may be the nicest folks you could meet; and the guy's wife is an absolute pin-up girl, a real bombshell, and the "butch" woman's husband is even more rugged than she is. Besides, so what if the guy has a boyfriend and the woman has a wife. Everyone is just "people."  You'll meet all sorts of people in this business, so get used to the fact that there are LOTS of differences between people in this world.

If they offend you or your beliefs, put that aside, do your deal for the cool stuff you found, and go on. Let people live their lives, if they are not physically hurting you, don't bother them.
Live and let live. People think us pickers, antiquers, junkers (etc) are bizarre, weird, strange, etc, too. They really have no reason to think that, they just do not understand our lifestyle, interests, etc. So what? That is their problem, not yours. If you have a problem with someone else's lifestyle, then perhaps you should be thinking about what people think of your lifestyle. Besides, we all live in glass houses to a point, so why bother throwing stones at all?

Ooops, got off on one of my tangents again, didn't I?

So, where were we?

AH, yes....

Unidentified Found Objects.

Ok, what is with all the ahh-ing, people? Hey, the guy in the tin foil hat just got up and left, and by that stunned look he had on his face, I don't think he is coming if you happen to be standing, there is now a seat available.

Now, back to UFOs.

There can be lots of confusion with the assorted series of letters, what appear to be "words", abbreviations, logos, etc, that you see on things when you are doing research.

For example, when you see the letters "RCA", what do you think of?

I think of Nipper, radios, etc, as in the Radio Corporation of America, which many of you likely thought of, also.

BUT, I also think of the Canadian military, as in the Royal Canadian Artillery.

Did you think of anything different from those 2? Depending on your background, location of residence, knowledge, etc, you might have had another thought or 2 about what RCA means or is an abbreviation for.

So, were they any of these?

Royal College of Art
Royal Canadian Academy Of Art
Rialto Center for the Arts
Right Coronary Artery
Republique Centrafricaine
Rural Cellular Association
Radio Club Argentino
Radio Club of America
Radio Collectors of America
Radio Communications Agency
Rodeo Cowboys of America
Radiological Control Area

And of course the list goes on and on. This is a handy place for research on abbreviations and acronyms, by the way:

Plus, there are more that aren't on that list, some are defunct, super obscure, foreign language based, etc.

Have you heard of AVRO? The AV Roe company? AVRO Canada? The infamous ARROW project? How about the USAF sponsored flying saucer-esque aircraft dubbed the AVROCAR?

Well, I picked up a piece a few months ago, silver plated, with an AVRO logo on it. At the moment I saw it, I initially thought was an early logo for the company, or maybe from the British parent company.

Here is a close-up of the logo:

I looked it over, and found some markings on the interior edge of the handle, and when I saw the markings were not Canadian, British, nor American, I paused, and almost put it back on the shelf.

But, it was not even two bucks, and I'd kick myself if I found out it was from the AV Roe company's offices, or was some special presentation piece, etc. On the same thrift store shelf I found a couple sterling silver dishes for under $2 each, so it wasn't like I was going to loose money on the handful of items I had in my hands.

I pick up lots of silver plate that have assorted abbreviations, logos, etc stamped on them. By those logos, etc, I don't mean the maker's marks on the backs, I mean on the fronts, sides, etc. Marks that indicate they were the property of some business, like a lodge, club, hotel, railway, airline, etc, and sometimes they are family monograms, also, which are usually not a big deal, unless it was of a family that were historically important. Some such items are quite collectible...but, many are pretty much "homemade wind chime" materials.

If you know the meanings of many abbreviations, and have some knowledge of the companies, groups, fields, etc, that used them, you can get some really good deals, and profit handsomely from those purchases. There are "sleepers" sitting in the inventories of other dealers at antiques shows, flea markets, stores, etc.

Thrifting is a good way to learn, a cheap way to get an education in this business. Paying 25 cents for a silver plated piece of cutlery that has a logo on it, and finding out it is from a long gone railway is a good learning experience. Even if you only find out it is only from some little cafe in Europe, or it is just some unimportant family's monogram, and is of no real value, you have learned something that you will not forget...and it only cost you a quarter. Darn cheap education! And, once you get enough of those duds, you can make a wind might even be able to sell the wind chime for a hefty profit on your purchase prices and time! You got an education AND made money from it! You need to think way outside the box sometimes so you can make lemonade from those lemons.

So, back to AVRO. Well, I learned something. I'm now 99.9% sure it is not from AV Roe. As it turns out, AVRO is also an abbreviation for Algemene Vereniging Radio Omroep.

Yeah, I know, it looks like I just hit the keyboard with my fist after the letters A,V & O. It is actually Dutch for what is essentially "General Association of Radio Broadcasting" of the Netherlands.

So, considering the markings on the silver plate are of that part of the world, the odds are that it is related to that group somehow. Is it of value? Mmmm, well, maybe to someone out there. Certainly not of the kind of value of what it would have if it was a piece from the offices of the AV Roe company, or a piece presented by AV Roe to an important person. It did briefly cross my mind that it might have been made as a prop in the movie "THE ARROW" (Starring Dan Akroyd) which was filmed not far from Winnipeg (where the thrift shop was) so the props department was likely located in Winnipeg. However, due to the dark grey, almost black tarnish on the piece (that certainly was from far more than a dozen years of not being polished) and the fact that it was of Netherlands origin, and the AVRO radio group connection, odds are it was just a fluke it was sitting on that thrift store's shelf, and had nothing to do with the AV Roe company in any way.

I still had a sliver of optimism based hope, but was definitely already aware that the odds of it being from AV Roe were not in my favour. The clues that I recognized didn't really add up to "big money" for a historical piece. I took a chance and bought it anyway, mainly out of curiosity as to what else AVRO could actually stand for. I learned something, and it cost very little.

Someone else might have gotten far more excited about it. They may have even offered it for sale at an antiques show, with a big price tag, and a claim it was from that infamous firm that built the Arrow.

"I've found it in Canada, AVRO was in Canada, so what else could it be? It HAS to be from AV ROE!"  they might think.

They'd be wrong, though.  If I had seen it at an antiques show, say, priced for $100, I'd have been curious, looked it over, and have left it sitting there. I might have gotten the sellers phone number, and maybe have later gotten online, and double checked on the Net to see if AVRO Canada used that style logo somewhere along the line, or if the British parent company used that logo in the past.  I wouldn't have gotten too excited, though.
I know it is likely a candy dish from the offices of a radio broadcasting group in Denmark. Might still even have some value as a result of that connection. That will require some more research, and delving into websites, books, etc that are likely in Danish....which I neither speak nor read. I guess it will sit on my shelf for awhile longer! We do have friend who as a child came from Denmark, so I will quiz her to see if she can assist in finding out anything. Might cost me a bottle of wine or good Tequila, though!

Aside from the Danish marks on the silver plate, I also already have a bit of background and knowledge about AVRO Canada, the Arrow, the "Avro Car", etc.

That education cost me somewhat more than the AVRO dish, however. All it will cost you is some time to read about it.  But, I'll leave that story for my next blog posting!