I confess…I collect stuff. I can’t help it. A peek into the Man Cave reveals much about my obsessions.
Visitors will see an assortment of glass paperweights, a souvenir mug or two, my collection of stamped pennies—the kind that has been deposited into a machine at someplace like Niagara Falls or Panda Park. You would also find my collection of miniature automobiles, mostly 55 Chevy and FJ Cruisers.
There’s one collection in the Man Cave that you can’t miss…my collection of souvenir sewing thimbles. Yep, I said sewing thimbles. This all started thirty-five years ago when I bought one as a souvenir of the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville. A few months after that purchase, Helen (adorable wife) and I were in Disney World and I spotted a thimble with Mickey Mouse on it. Two thimbles make a collection I suppose and thus it began. It seemed harmless. Thimbles are smaller than shot glasses, certainly smaller than beer mugs, and less obtrusive than tacky refrigerator magnets. I know about all of these because I have a collection of them too; although to a lesser degree than thimbles.
My thimble collection now totals 213 and growing. Most of my thimbles represent a town or state that I have visited while traveling. I’m not through traveling and I’m not through collecting thimbles either but they’re becoming hard to find since most souvenir stands and gift shops don’t stock them anymore. Therefore, I search for them during my favorite activity on road trips…browsing through flea markets.
Flea markets are dangerous territory for an incurable collector, but we’ve been through a bunch of them. I thought it might be fun to show Easin’ Along readers a few of the discoveries we’ve made while visiting some great ones. Listed below is our top ten, ranked in no certain order.
Stars Antiques – 526 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
This place is huge and it is loaded with stuff on two floors. We visit it every time we go to Hermosa Beach for a visit with our family and I have yet to find a thimble there. I did, however, make two purchases there that are treasures. The first was made about six years ago when our daughter-in-law was expecting our only grandson and I happened to notice a somewhat worn framed drawing of a little blonde boy kneeled in prayer. I couldn’t resist picking this up for the expectant Mom. It hangs in our grandson’s room to this day and the image bears a remarkable likeness to him.
I also purchased a framed print of two cartoons drawn by World War II cartoonist Bill Mauldin of his famous dogface soldiers, Willie and Joe. I loved Mauldin’s book Up Front, about the life of soldiers in the war and have read it more than once.
Main Street Antiques – 46 Main Street, Plymouth, MA 02360
Not only did I find thimbles in this large antique shop, I found a display case as well. In it were a dozen thimbles representing places we visited while Easin’ up the East Coast and I took the plunge. It now hangs on my wall (pictured, top of the page– lower right). You can also see that it is now completely filled.
As I was leaving this store, I spotted a Mickey Mouse watch that I had to have (did I mention my watch collection?). At $35 I considered it a bargain.
Albertsons Antiques – International Falls, MN 56649
Helen collects Vaseline glass and has some nice pieces including candlesticks, small candy dishes, and plates among other items. She spotted a pitcher in this quaint shop run by an eccentric old fellow in International Falls who drove a hard bargain. In the end, this probably wasn’t genuine Vaseline glass, but we had fun browsing and, I found four thimbles that he let me have for the ridiculously low price (Mr. Albertson’s words) of $12.50.
Merchant’s Antiques – 320 N. Beaton St, Corsicana, TX 75110
We were flea market shopping with a purpose in mind. While on our trip to Los Angeles in Sherman, our Cruise America RV, we discovered that the coffee pot we purchased at the Goodwill Store had fallen apart and we needed a replacement. We found one in this well-stocked store. It was priced at eight bucks! We got it for seven…
Calby’s Collectibles – 45 Everett Street, Bryson City, NC 28713
We had just purchased Bertha, our travel trailer and decided it would be fun to decorate and furnish her from flea markets as much as possible. We found just what we wanted for silverware with an eight piece place setting of Lady Doris that dated to 1929 at Calby’s Collectibles for an investment of $55. It polished up well and now rests in Bertha’s kitchen.
Door County Traders – 147 N. 3rd Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
After we toured Lambeau Field and the home of the Green Bay Packers, I wanted a Packers sweat shirt (my usual winter attire) badly. The problem was that at over $75, they were a bit too pricey for me. Soon thereafter we were in Sturgeon Bay, WI and I was snooping through this consignment shop for anything collectible and found my sweat shirt hanging on the wall. It was my size (XXL) and in excellent condition. At $15.00, I couldn’t resist.
Sporting Treasures – 305 Market Street, Clinton, TN 37716
Definitely no thimbles here but if hunting, fishing, sports memorabilia, and decorations are your thing, this is the place. A link to this rich treasure trove is here and in the sidebar of Easin’ Along.
Alan’s Pawn – 510 Paint Town Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719
Pawn shops located across the street from a casino can make for some very worthwhile shopping. Alan’s Pawn bears more of a resemblance to an upscale jewelry store than a traditional pawn shop, but I suppose that jewelry has come in handy more than a few times after a string of bad luck at the craps table. I wasn’t looking for jewelry, but I did find a generation 4 Apple TV for Bertha at a bargain price of $70. A new one would run around $120. After I uploaded an update for this little dandy it operated great and is eagerly awaiting football on the ESPN app while on the road this fall.
Tribal Pawn & Gun – 44 Frontier Dr, Cherokee, NC 28719
This is more in keeping with a traditional pawn shop. Inside there were rows of power tools and similar items. I was just snooping around when I found a brand new Yeti style cooler that I bargained the manager down to $70 from $85. After a little “Googling” I found it to retail for around $116. I love it when that happens.
Key City Antiques – 105 Montreat Rd, Black Mountain, NC 28711
I’ve never bought anything there, but I visit this charming shop every other year when we attend a church retreat at the nearby Montreat Conference Center.
Art Fair – Brewster, MA
Not exactly a shop, but this experience was a wonderful way to spend the day on Cape Cod when the Labor Day traffic prevented us from going any further up the coast to the Cape Cod National Seashore. We didn’t buy anything here either, but we had a great time.
One man’s junk is another man’s treasure as the old saying goes and, looking at another man’s junk is a great way for an old retired guy like me to go broke saving money. Nevertheless, it’s great retirement activity and it sure it makes Easin’ Along the road less traveled a lot more interesting.
See picture gallery for a larger version of the pictures shown above. Gallery follows this post on home page.