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Yuanxia tian,Baiyun district,Guangzhou,China





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For antique collectors, the fun is finding it. "It" might be a butter churn, a Maxfield Parrish print or a relic of a long-ago war. "It" could be a 19th-century hand tool, a piece of Blue Willow china or a plastic dispenser for Pez candies.

Finding "it" is a treasure hunt. Collectors are on the lookout for a prize.

"We always find treasures away from home," said Diane Hoell of Bozeman as she scanned the displays at the Jack Club Antique Mall in Great Falls. "Wherever we travel, we also antique." Some people even travel specifically to buy antiques. Dorene Woody of Great Falls said she once went to Kentucky, just to attend an auction. "It‘s an addiction," she explained.

"We even collect old barns," Hoell‘s husband, Goeff, volunteered. On their property are old cabins moved from her family‘s ranch at Ennis and a 1903 barn they moved across the town of Bozeman.

During their Great Falls visit, she looked for sterling silver, silver plate and Blue Willow dishes while he hunted items depicting horsedrawn sleighs, another passion they share. He found some, too.

By definition, antiques are 100 years old. That means some collectibles — the newer objects that also jam antique store shelves — turn into antiques every day. There, they await discovery.

Woody buys items that catch her eye and that fit her budget. Hatpins were her passion until skyrocketing prices skewered her interest.

"I like to use my antiques. If I can‘t use it or display it, I sell it," she said.

She haunts antique shops and auctions. A favorite spot is Antique Acres, located a half-mile north of Lewistown, where three buildings bulge at the seams with antique furniture, household goods and collectibles.

Owner Evelyn Bussey said she has been in the business for at least 50 years. It began when she and her husband pursued the hobby of digging in old dumps for antique bottles. They found so many that they started a bottle shop in their basement.

"After that, one thing led to another," she said. Her mother had some Depression glass she wanted to sell. Her husband took old items in trade for work he did. To house the thousands of items they were accumulating, they built an extra building behind the house. Then another and another.

In them, are golden oak Victorian and Mission-style furniture, trunks, primitives, stemware, brass, silverware, kerosene lamps, dishes, granite ware and more. Much more.

At one time, they took their business on the road, too, selling at antique shows in 10 states, she said.

"Now, it supplements my Social Security," she jokes.

Bussey‘s personal collections are in the house. She likes stoneware, fu dogs — "they‘re so ugly they‘re cute" — and one pattern of Depression glass. Elephants are everywhere. She began collecting them when she was 5.


Malls are hot spots

Antique malls are hot spots for collectors. Great Falls has three: Jack Club, Bull Market, and Pacific Galleries. Pacific Galleries opened last August in the spacious building formerly occupied by Town and Ranch Furniture.

Ken Overcast, the handsome cowboy singer and poet from Chinook, is spokesman for Pacific Galleries, which also has stores in Seattle and Centralia, Wash., and is opening in Billings in the spring.

"He‘s our image, a straightshooting Montana cowboy," said Wayne Keney, manager of the Great Falls mall, which has 75 to 80 vendors.

Target market of the gallery is the 25 to 55 age range, Keney said. The big buyers are in the mid-50s, he added. "They‘re buying memories of their childhoods," he said. Younger shoppers look at the retro items.

"Oh! My grandma had one just like that. You hear that every day," he said.

Older folks usually don‘t come to Keney‘s mall to buy. They‘re looking to sell, he said.

Sally and Warren Bowen of Fort Benton prove his point. When they moved to Montana from California 22 years ago, they transported their antique collection in six 24-foot trucks.

"We have a buying problem," she said. "Too many things. Who really needs 29 armoires?"

The Bowens are dealers in the Great Falls gallery. Among their offerings are an oversized marble-topped French sideboard, a triple Stickley-style wardrobe and an ornately carved Asian bed. A sign labels it as a wedding bed, but Sally says it‘s an "opium bed," once was used for that purpose in an Oriental drug den.

The Bowens also are parting with a 1903 player piano that has been rigged to play from digital tapes. They display pews from a Fort Benton church they bought. She‘s keeping her rare books, Fenton glassware and Teddy bears, she said.

Collector Chris Moore of Great Falls likes malls for the variety of merchandise they offer.

At Bull Market Antique Mall, Chris Moore of Great Falls recently found a primitive Minnesota cabinet that dates back to the 1800s. The piece fits well in her collection of primitive country furniture, she said.

The variety at antique malls appeals to Moore, because she has more than one collection. She said she has 100 quilts, 100 kewpie dolls and numerous bird cages, although she has no birds. "And I‘ll bet my daughter has 200 Pez dispensers," she said. "I need a bigger house."

Everything is collectible

If Keney is right, everything is collected by someone. That must be why everyone has a different response when they‘re asked what‘s hot in antiques and collectibles.

"It goes in streaks," according to Leila Kidrick, who works part-time at the Jack Club mall. On one day, three people came in looking for Wade figurines, she said.

People are always looking for furniture. They‘re buying old homes and they want to furnish them the way they were, she explained. "Western is in too, for decorating homes and cabins," she said.

Beer collectibles — especially Great Falls Select — always sell, Kidrick said. And not all beer cans either. Consider a booklet of recipes using the local brew.

Primitives are popular, according to Penney Brown, owner of Bull Market. "These items have so much history that they almost give off feelings of the past," she said.

In collectibles, Fenton glassware is still big, but Depression glass is down, Brown said. Depression glass collectors are looking for a certain color and pattern, and the supply is small, she added.

"What was hot 10 years ago might not be selling well right now," Keney said. Copper boilers are one example, he said.

Pop culture collectibles, "memories from childhood," are big sellers now, said Mark McCaffrey, a Great Falls collector and dealer who sells at the Jack Club. "For one thing, older pieces are less available," he said.

Prices vary. They‘re based on demand, McCaffrey said. Years ago, he and his wife found an ancient Roman coin that they figured might be priceless.

"Instead, it‘s only worth about $10, because there‘s no demand for it," he said.

Study prices, Woody recommended. The library has good books on appraised values, she said. Ebay tells you what items are selling for, but not necessarily what they‘re worth, she added.

Woody and McCaffrey both started collecting when they were 12.

At an auction with her parents, Woody spent babysitting money on a bowl and pitcher that reminded her of TV‘s "Gunsmoke."

McCaffrey started out with World War II collectibles. Since then he has branched out some, but the war relics are still a love.

"I‘ve always like old stuff better than new stuff," he explained. "I don‘t buy anything I don‘t love, because if it does‘t sell, I live with it."

One of the most unusual collections he could cite was a women in Richmond, Va., who collects funeral items, such as photos of corpses and locks of their hair.

Woody said she knows a plumber who collects toilet plungers with ornate handles.

Reach Tribune Staff Writer Paula Wilmot at 791-6594, 800-438-6600 or pwilmotgreatfallstribune.com.