What's new in the hunt for old treasures? Arts and Crafts pottery is big these days as is mid-century furniture, all things Bakelite, and vintage toys still have the power to transport collectors back to their childhood, no matter what decade that childhood might have taken place.
Those categories of collectibles as well as jewelry, clothing, glassware, advertising signs, musical instruments, books and assorted other gewgaws and gadgets -- about 150 booths worth -- will be set up over eight acres of the Kern County Museum this weekend at the Old Time Peddler's Faire, the largest antique show in the southern San Joaquin, according to the organizer.
"Vendors come from all over California," said Mark Bianchi who runs the show and is owner of Ace Antiques in Bakersfield. "If you do go to the antique malls on a regular basis, this is an opportunity to see stuff that's not in town."
And lest collectors think all the good stuff has already been snapped up by an army of afficionados educated by hit programs like "Pawn Stars" and "American Pickers," Bianchi offers words of encouragement.
"All the treasures have not been found. They're out there."
We picked Bianchi's brain about the items that top collectors' lists today, the out-of-fashion things worth investing in now and how to discern the finds from the fakes.
Toys: "They're just fun," said Bianchi, who deals in toys himself. "People born in the '50s and '60s are middle-aged and I hear them say, 'I had one of those when I was a kid,' and my answer is, 'You can have it again.' People are trying to buy back their childhood.
"Condition is everything. You want to make sure all the parts are there. If they're in the box, that's better, but it's rare."
Jewelry : Estate jewelry or items picked up in an auction or inherited from grandma are eternally popular.
"It can be gold and silver and semi-precious stones or costume jewelry from the '20s, '30s and '40s, even though it's paste and pot metal. Some of these manufacturers were making costume jewelry that was pretty high quality."
Furniture : Mid-century modern is all the rage, but there are great deals to be had in the solid oak and mahogany pieces from the 1880s into the early part of the 20th century. Why? No one wants them -- at least not now. But antiques go in cycles, and someday that imposing armoire taking up space in the bedroom is sure to be popular again. Plus, that style of furniture is currently as inexpensive as Bianchi's ever seen it.
Coin-operated items : Bianchi doesn't know if any vendors will have slot machines or old arcade games on hand, but anything coin-operated is "very popular."
Pottery : Brightly colored Arts and Crafts-era pieces always command interest, as does vintage serving ware from brands like Fiesta, Bauer and Catalina. "That kind of stuff goes up and down in value, but it's always popular."
Tips for the buyer
Wear is good : If it looks brand new, it probably is. "The majority of collectibles will have some obvious wear," Bianchi said. "You need to look at these things and understand that if it's 100 years old or 50 years old, it's going to have some age to it. If it doesn't, it could be a reproduction."
Know the marks : "If it's pottery or glassware, you want to familiarize yourself with the marks. The big companies marked their glassware and pottery. Also, if you're dealing with glassware or pottery, avoid chipped, broken or cracked items."
Homework : Before starting a collection, read up on it, both online and in those old-fashioned things called books. "A quick way to find out what an item might be worth is to go on eBay."
Bide your time : Though Bianchi encourages shoppers to come out both days of the event, he noted that as the weekend winds down, dealers are open to all offers. "They'd rather sell it on Sunday than take it home."
What's it worth ? If you've ever wondered what your antique wedding ring would fetch, there's no time better than this weekend to find out.
"I don't have a problem with people bringing pieces," Bianchi said. "I don't want someone dragging a wagon around, but if you have an item or two or want to bring photos, it's a great place to get information on what you have."