Like I said, I was born to rummage.I grew up in a house that didn’t throw away stuff. Old curtains and sheets, schoolbags, clothes, three-legged chairs, electrical wirings, car parts, broken ceramics, broken lamps, broken clocks, broken everything—these were crated and stored in the rear of our garage.“You may find a need for that stuff again”, my old folks used to say.True enough, if I needed something for, let’s say, a school project, all I had to do is dash to the garage and rummage through the boxes. How right they were then, and even moreso now.
Today, I have collector friends who bug me for old Mad magazines, Star Wars toys, boy scout mementos, tin cars and extinct vinyl records. Officemates who are into “shabby chic” ask me for my sources of 50s and 60s paintings and furniture. Production designers want to rent my Sputnik lamp for a period commercial. And, of late, even antique dealers have come a-calling, willing “to buy anything of value” for their ebay postings.
Alas, the stuff in our garage is gone.
Even my favorite hunting grounds have ceased to exist or have changed their inventories. Dau—Clark’s golden trashbin—once held promise as the source of slightly-used goods straight from America’s House Beautiful. There, I would pick metal lunch boxes and Matchbox cars for a song. Gone too is Rey’s Variety Store in Balibago, my source for U.S. magazines in all their triple X variety. Then there’s the now-defunct Pines Thrift Shop along Abanao St., in Baguio. I assembled my Baguio collegian wardrobe there, thanks to its German manager, Mrs. Woelke who had a knack for gathering and selecting the best quality used (read: vintage) clothing, long before ukay-ukay came into vogue. But as they say, there’s more where that comes from. For every thrift shop gone to heaven, a dozen have come to take their place.
Necessity, the mother of invention, have also re-engineered their names to something classier (“Scrounger’s Corner”, “Browse-a-Lot”), with fancier price tags to match. Still, those bitten by the collecting bug swarm to these flea market stalls in droves, ever hopeful for another fabulous find.
One of my most recent discoveries is this hole-in-the-wall shop in Q.C., housed in the rickety Swap Meet Building along Kamuning Road: COLLECTORS' HANG-OUT. Here Sir George reigns in air-conditioned comfort, surrounded by a hodgepodge of stuff—piles of magazines, books, bottles, house parts, paper items, used CDs, outdated VHS tapes, toys, weird paintings-- trash to some, treasures to others.
There’s something here for everyone, says George, who started dealing in traditional collectibles like stamps and coins back in the 60s. When there was nothing more to find, he turned to paper items, often buying whole contents of houses and school libraries which more, often than not, included valuable ephemera like revolutionary documents, rare books and prints, papel sellados (old business papers) and cartas, photos and autographs.
When I went to Collectors' Hang-Out on a weekend, the inventory was mind-boggling: Bottles of bewildering variety (saw patis bottles and farmacia jars), old product packaging and 'advertiques' (often rented out for period movies or TV commercials!) lined the small room, floor to ceiling. There were kitschy ceramics, old calendars, boardgames, matchbox covers, trinkets, pieces of jewelry, GE electric fan, kitsch decor, Coke signs, vintage porn, a hand pump, 78 rpm records, turntable, ad infinitum. You'll never know what to cart home, until you find it--for sure, only at Sir George's Collectors' Hang-Out!