Collectibles: Putting a price on things from the past

Brenda Arnold, left, of Chandler, and Kingman resident Lisa Ruesch look at collectibles at Kettelhut’s Antiques. The women were visiting the store in hopes of finding Fiestaware bowls for Arnold, but purchased a Fiestaware plate instead. (JC AMBERLYN/Miner)

Brenda Arnold, left, of Chandler, and Kingman resident Lisa Ruesch look at collectibles at Kettelhut’s Antiques. The women were visiting the store in hopes of finding Fiestaware bowls for Arnold, but purchased a Fiestaware plate instead. (JC AMBERLYN/Miner)

KINGMAN - When Monica Valenzuela opened her deceased brother's trunk for the first time about a month ago, she wasn't sure what she'd find inside.

Unbeknownst to Valenzuela, her brother, a drywaller, had brought the old black, wooden trunk to her parents' house years before and stored it in their shed as he passed through town. Valenzuela, who moved into the house after her mother died this year, was cleaning out the shed and discovered the large box.

Inside, she found military uniforms, a pair of size 12½ golf shoes and old newspapers chronicling the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the abrupt change of power as Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson took the country's reins. The newspapers, from Missoula, Mont., and Spokane, Wash., were dated Nov. 23-26, 1963.

The headlines shouted "President Kennedy's Murder Stuns the World," "Arlington Burial Set for Late President," "Bullet Rips Life from Lee Oswald," and "Mournful Nation, World Lay to Rest President of Peace."

Photographs included Kennedy's son, John John, saluting his father's casket, Johnson being sworn in with Kennedy's widow at his side, and Jack Ruby running up to Oswald as he was in police custody and firing the shot that killed him.

"I didn't think anything about the newspapers until a friend said to look at them because there was a lot of stuff about Kennedy in them," said Valenzuela. "I took them to a local museum and they said I could donate them. I'd like to sell them but I don't know if they're worth anything or how I'd do it. They're just memories."

Old newspapers aren't worth much these days, said Karl Kettelhut, owner of Kettelhut's Antiques in Kingman. It depends on their condition and whether all the pages are intact, and where they're from. The bigger the city, such as Chicago, New York or Los Angeles, the more money they bring, he said.

The most valued newspapers are at least 100 years old and announce big events, such as the end of World War I or President Abraham Lincoln being shot. Valenzuela's newspapers from 1963 might be worth $10 for the bundle, said Kettelhut, whose store at 308 E. Beale St. has been in business for more than 14 years.

What will people buy?

Old newspapers aren't alone in being shunned by antique collectors. Kettelhut said that while the occasional collector still makes big purchases, there is a general lack of interest in buying antiques these days. Shoppers are looking for deals and steals instead of investing in items whose value may increase over the years.

"Nothing is really hot on the market today, because the economy of Kingman is very poor," said Kettelhut. "When people come in the store, a lot of them don't know what they're looking for these days. It has to catch their eye or strike their fancy at a reasonable price. You never know what you'll sell. It's a guessing game."

Popular items in his store include ladies' jewelry, clocks, manufactured dishes such as Fiestaware and Fentonware, and vehicle license plates. Kettelhut said he has sold as many as 20 license plates at a time to Europeans, who love them. Not so popular now are Hummel figurines, antique dolls, decorated plates, books and silverware.

"You cannot tell what a person wants when they walk in the front door," said Kettelhut. "If you knew, you'd be a millionaire. And there's no way to predict the next craze.

"I go to auctions and look at hundreds of items to see how old they are, what condition they're in and how much I feel that I can sell them for and make money. That's all I can do."

International clientele

Down the street at Remember When Antique Mall, owner John Carpenter has weathered the economic downturn by offering small antiques that tickle the fancy of the overseas tourists who visit the mall.

In the past week, shoppers from Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Scotland, France, China and Amsterdam have signed his guestbook.

"We have a lot of European tourists who are looking for small things they can carry back home with them on the plane," said Carpenter, noting tourists make up half of his business at 314 E. Beale St. "And we have 12 vendors who offer a variety of items that fit their wants and needs."

Items sought by tourists are turquoise and Native American items, as well as Route 66 souvenirs. Also, the shop, which has been around for two years, does well with knickknacks, toys from 1980-1990, Fentonware glass, paperweights, jewelry for men and women, train-related items and salt and pepper shakers.

The ticket to success for Dennis Dubuc, owner of Boston Antiques at 304 E. Beale St., is furniture - and lots of it. The store, which has been in business for about 25 years, has shifted its focus from everything found in the other two stores to chairs, dressers, tables, vanities, china cabinets and other wooden furniture from the 1950s to 1980s.

An antique piano will soon be heading to China for a customer.

"The wholesale antique business is really good," said Dubuc, who sells furniture to numerous stores in the West. "Retail is very slow, and that's because the economy here is slow.

"But functional furniture always sells in a bad economy. And cheap is popular now - the cheaper it is, the faster people buy it - so we tailor our business that way."