Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

An opportunity to swap till you drop

Car club's annual gathering a picker's paradise

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ON Sunday the Manitoba Classic and Antique Auto Club (MCAAC) will be hosting its 15th annual Red River Valley Swap Meet at the Red River Exhibition Park.

If you love to buy, sell or swap old stuff this is the one event of the year you don't want to miss. In addition to a pile of used car, truck and motorcycle parts, there's always a huge selection of automotive-related memorabilia and a massive selection of antiques for sale.

You can even buy a complete car -- back in 2009 I bought my '49 Pontiac there. The majority of the cool old signs and licence plates that are plastered on the walls of my shop were found there, too. One year I even bought an ancient pair of snowshoes that are now hanging in my friend's log home.

To some it's junk. To many collectors, including yours truly, that's a bad word. I could wander around Walmart all day and never open my wallet, but two minutes into the big swap meet and it's a sure bet you'll find me haggling over the price of a rusty old Texaco Oil can.

When it comes to old car parts, those of us in the hobby, whether we're selling or buying, typically know pretty much to the penny (OK, make that a nickel) how much these parts are worth. We're also typically willing to help one another out, happy that the parts we no longer need are going to someone who can use them. We're fair.

When it comes to memorabilia, however, the lines can get a little blurry -- which brings me to today's rant.

If you're planning to sell any 'antique' items at this year's swap meet, please be kind to those of us who show up to buy them. Just because a few items discovered on popular TV programs like Pawn Stars, Storage Wars and, of course, Canadian Pickers and American Pickers, are extremely valuable, that doesn't mean everything old is as good as gold.

There was a time just a few years ago, before these TV shows arrived, when a collector like me could find a few nice treasures for a good buy. Sadly, it seems those days are gonzo.

In recent years, more often than not when I spot something old and cool for sale the negotiation process typically goes something like this: 'Hey buddy, how's it going? How much for that tin sign'? 'Well,' responds the seller, 'I saw one on American Pickers that looked sort of like it and they valued it at $500 so I'd like to get at least $200 for this one.'

I'm generally fairly polite, and simply smile, wave and keep on walking, but in my head I'm wondering if the seller actually wants to sell anything or is simply displaying his collection to taunt me.

Sure, a pristine lithograph Texaco Oil sign from the 1950s without a single scratch on it like the one the pros found on TV may be worth $500, but that rusty, dented Petro-Canada sign, circa-1985, is only worth a few bucks, at best. If you haven't taken the time to differentiate between the two, all you're doing is frustrating those of us who have.

Later in the day, with my little wagon loaded with treasures, I will walk past that same seller and watch him load all the overpriced goods he'd hoped to sell back into his truck. That's not the spirit of the swap meet. For me, when I load up my truck and bring stuff to sell, the last thing I want to do is bring it home again. By the end of the day, if no one has shown any interest in my unwanted stuff, I'll often give it away to whoever wants it. That's way better than hauling it to the dump.

Sure, there are still a few rare items out there and, for those of us who collect them, that's the attraction -- hunting through mountains of coal in search of a diamond. But the reality is that the vast majority of old stuff is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.

On that note, if you're selling stuff this Sunday, have fun, haggle like a street vendor and hold out for the best offer. But at the end of the day, when we return and hundreds of others have walked right past that rusty old sign without giving it a second look, instead of hauling it home and burying it in your shed, sell it to one of us for the few bucks it's worth.

We're not trying to put one over on you. We're not headed back to our lucrative pawn shops or antique empires to clean it up and sell it for a huge profit. We just want to hang it on the wall in our garage.

Swap meet

The Manitoba Classic and Antique Auto Club presents the 15th annual Red River Valley Swap Meet on Sunday at the Red River Exhibition Park from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission $3, kids 12 and under free when accompanied by an adult. Vendor set up begins at 6:30 a.m., gates open at 8 a.m. Show and Shine open to all vehicles 25 years or older, vehicle and driver admitted free. Vendor and car corral (cars for sale) spots available for $10, registration at the gate or book by calling Gord at 222-2298 or Mort at 889-9970.

Please bring a tin for the bin for Winnipeg Harvest.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2012 F2

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