America Antiques

The Science of Change in the Antiques and Collectibles Business

It’s no secret that what is collectible and valuable today, may well be worthless and unwanted tomorrow – but it is the other side of that coin which makes or breaks an antique dealer. I’ve written it before but it bears saying again – you don’t make money selling, you make money buying. Or, you lose money buying – which is more often the case for most people. We conducted an estate sale this weekend where that was very apparent – the lady had amassed a sizable collection of milk-glass and while I don’t know how much she paid for it, I know what the public was willing to pay for it – nothing. A few pieces sold when we dropped the prices by 75%, but most of it was boxed up and given to charity. Just a few years ago milk glass was red hot – any piece would sell for $5-$20, but now, if it isn’t a complete set or a figural piece – you are lucky to get anything for it. And I see it in antique shops all the time – the dealers are holding on, waiting for it to come back, taking it to auctions or flea markets and displaying it hopefully – and then packing it up again. Not me – that ship has sailed and I don’t expect it to return any time soon.

The business is in a funny place right now – everyone knows it. The elders had more disposable income than any generation before or since and they did what you do when you have extra money – they bought bigger houses and filled them with all kinds of things. Now they are dying and their kids, the baby boomers, are inheriting their collections and combining them with their own in their own big houses filled with nostalgic collections that always include some Kennedy newspapers, a bunch of ‘collectible’ Harley Davidson or Budweiser or Coke crap and then realizing they are getting too old to enjoy five acres of lawn or a three story house – and so they are telling themselves that they are downsizing as they put everything in storage, try to foist their crap on their Gen X or Millennial kids, and then move into an RV or cottage – it’s a great time to be in the storage business. The baby boomer stuff is among the most worthless – a generation that saved things showing how important their generation was but didn’t save anything that was actually worth a damn. They all have grandma’s steamer trunk or treadle sewing machines or grandpa’s huge radio which they think are priceless but which are actually hardly worth the weight of moving them. They generally have thrown out the valuable stuff – the old motorcycle odometers, the Rookwood pottery they thought was ugly, the folk paintings by outsider artists, grandpa’s levis, or the ultra-rare buttons that were in grandma’s sewing machine but seemed worthless. Oh, but they saved those Bob Dylan albums, they saved Elvis records by the tons, and they saved those Kennedy death books, and they saved the most worthless parts of their parent’s collections too. And the younger generations – not interested in that crap. My wife and my generations (Gen X and Millennial) like the stuff that went in the garbage – or, prefer to have nothing at all.

It’s a hard time to be an antique dealer – but a very good time to be an estate liquidator, storage provider, or professional declutterer. Of course, at some point, today’s trash is going to be tomorrow’s treasure – the hard part is that there has never been so much shit to sieve. What is going to be the most valuable thing selling in a year? It’s probably going to be whatever has been thrown away as garbage the most, what has current cultural context (for example, what shows and movies are popular), and manages to evoke feelings of hope and happiness to the generation with the most disposable income. Dora the Explorer and Spongebob Squarepants are looking pretty good – what do you think is going to turn into gold?


My Thoughts on Immigration

Border walls don’t make a country – a country is defined by people who share a common ideal, a common purpose, a shared sense of identity and a dependency upon one another for a better future. We do not have countries – we have prisons. I do not believe movement should be restricted in any way regardless of national borders. Humans should be allowed to migrate at will with virtually no paperwork, no bureaucracy, and no regulation. Once they arrive on the soil of a nation, they should be subject to the laws of that nation but allowed to freely exist regardless of past behavior, past nationality, or past anything else.

“Hello Mr. Jones. Welcome to America. As an American, you will be subject to American laws and taxation. You will need to get an identity card and establish a permanent residence if you wish to stay. We are going to search your baggage now because certain items are illegal or controlled in these united states and you can not bring them with you. In addition, if this is your first time coming into this country, you will need to watch our orientation film which details the most important of our laws, rights, and responsibilities including the protection of children, equality of men and women, our bill of rights, and your responsibilities while you are here. We hope that you choose to stay in this country and contribute to it’s greatness. If you choose to damage our country through ignoring our rules, you will be subject to deportation, imprisonment, and being barred from entry for life. Let us know if we can help you get settled in – if you are only visiting, we hope that you will consider staying. Have a nice day.”

That’s the immigration officer’s speech in the country I want to live in. I’ll write more about the country I’d like to call home in future posts.


What Exactly Are We All Working For?

I’m still the same guy that wrote that book about how silly it is that we are all working, all the time, to get what we want – out of life. Now seems like a pretty good time to ask? What exactly is it that we want again? A Tesla model S? The latest iPhone? Owning (and still paying taxes, insurance, and other annual fees on) real estate?
Better shoes? To get laid? To lose weight? To pay more taxes and have a higher credit rating?

I’m still confused why we are doing this. Are we working so we can pay for the stress and lifestyle related diseases that come from working? Or so we can have insurance to cover those conditions? Are we working so we can enjoy our days off? Are we working for paid vacation? Are we working so we can go to a restaurant and eat a home cooked meal with fresh ingredients? Because I’m going to be honest here – none of that makes sense at all.

Are we working so that we don’t have to work later and can afford to not work later? Because that seems to be something that doesn’t happen much anymore – so we might as well stop working and enjoy the moment.

I can’t say I work for any of those reasons, but I’ve certainly worked for all of them. I think (and I’m not positive about this) that I work because I am conditioned to work and conditioned to enjoy the gratification that comes with earning money – actually, I think that is why we all work. I think that the problem then becomes what to do with the money so that we will feel compelled to work more and get more money. And as humans, we’ve become so good at finding money sinks and creating money sinks that we are all in a sort of awful downward spiral as we work our species (and many others) into extinction. It’s a type of neurosis – and, I want you to know, it’s hard as hell for me to describe it or be the clinician diagnosing the disease because I too am caught in it.

I remember reading about the destruction of human civilization on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) – they got obsessed with building these bigger and bigger Moai (head statues) and in the process stripped their island bare and wiped out their means of survival – but they built some fabulous heads that have lasted to this day – but their culture, their population, their descendants – no such thing – extinct, gone, wiped out by human obsession. So, here we are. Ignoring what really matters but making some big fucking heads – here’s the funny thing – the rich guys that built those heads – they had their moment of pride, I’m sure, they were like “Hey, look at this, the biggest fucking head ever. I’ve made Rapa Nui great again.” and all the workers that did the back breaking labor of carving, feeding the workers, growing the food to feed the workers, cutting the trees to make rollers, and everything else – maybe they were proud too – but today? Nobody knows who any of them were and except for a handful of archaeologists and historians, no one even cares. They all were a part of the process that fucked themselves into extinction.

Yes, by all means. Let’s work. And this is a good point to tell my new favorite joke – Three dealers were trapped on a deserted island that had nothing but coconuts on it and one asked another “How’s business?” “It’s never been better!” the other enthusiastically replied and they went back to selling each other coconuts again.

Indeed. Business has never been better.


Are We Stagnating?

We’ve all heard the sounds of the 1960s…and we know what they wore, and we know what the news was like, and what was on TV, and what cars, refrigerators, and soda pop ads looked like. It’s safe to say, that the 60s never went away. To a lessor extent the 1950s are still with us – mostly how they were imagined in the 1960s and 1970s and the 1940s, 30s,and 20s – and to a greater extent, the 1970s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 20-Teens are ever present…. we are all going to party like it’s 1999 forever more…we are trapped in the last fifty years.

Yes, there is innovation. Yes, there are new styles and trends. But they are constrained within the confines of the lifetime of the baby boomers. And, that stuff isn’t going away…not anytime soon. Not unless our technology crashes…

And it may be too late to hope that the boomers themselves will ever go away…


Il Douche Under Seige – I Don’t Believe It

The headlines read like the end of Il Douche’s presidency is imminent – I don’t buy it for a second. Yes, there are obviously problems and they are big ones, but here’s the thing – if I were in his position, these are exactly the types of headlines I would want to be seeing as I worked on pushing through my agenda in the back room where no one would be paying attention. Maybe I’m giving him and Bannon too much credit – but I don’t believe it was luck that landed them in the White House – it was thinking like no one expected them to think.

If you are being attacked from all sides – projecting weakness causes your enemies to underestimate your defenses which can turn the tide of battle. The travel ban and the confirmation hearings have looked like false flags to me from the beginning – all the executive orders have been trial balloons. And now this bizarre news conference and more. Actually, maybe it is the beginning of the end…but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.


The World Without Facebook

I am really surprised at how often in the 24 hours since I asked Facebook to delete my account that I’ve found myself looking at the computer screen and asking ‘What should I look at?”

Facebook was my go to place for killing time in front of the computer. Now, about 1/2 the time I shut the computer or just walk away from it, half of the remaining time I have been coming here and writing about things that I am thinking, and the remainder of the time I’m looking for someplace to go on the internet…

Twitter – I still can’t get into it.
Instagram – good for the phone
Ebay – that is work, not what I’m looking for – still good, but only takes up a couple of minutes to get through it
But this morning, I hit the motherload, an anonymous and collective shout out of those who are not posting anywhere else…the Rants and Raves section of Craigslist – and of course, like most of the commentosphere – it is dominated by half-literate Il Douche supporters who seem to spew out their vile hatred so that it can be heard by the world – my favorite part is the adopted convention of using the city/location field to make an aside to their headlines – like this one DENIAL (crazytown) or this one ‘Climate change predictions’ (Smart People Everywhere) or this one Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (So Unfair) or my favorite thus far the guy who writes (seriously folks) after his anti-science rant titles…

So, now I have a place to see ignorant opinions spewed to the common – the big question I have is what kind of audience do those posts get. I would love to see some demographics and statistics about the audience…


Some facts that aren’t obvious to people who have plenty of money…

I’m fairly flabbergasted by this article in Bloomberg about how Millenials are not moving as much as other generations did – the author and his sources seem confounded by the question of why this is so. It’s no mystery to me – nor to anyone who doesn’t have a substantial source of money. The article goes on to mention that no generation is moving around as much as they used to but singles out Millennials as a cohort (25-35) that is moving around less than Gen X, Baby Boomers, or others did. This is not a generational issue.

It’s an issue of expense and access. Moving is a lot more expensive than it used to be. Landlords are a lot more picky about who they rent to than they used to be. Costs are through the roof. And then there is the paperwork and the b.s. of utilities and deposits. You can’t just throw all your shit in some cardboard boxes, load them in the back of an old station wagon, and drive off for a new life any longer. Those days are gone. When you arrive you are going to be living in that station wagon if you haven’t already made arrangements.

Landlords are looking for first, last, and deposit. Water deposits tend to be a few hundred dollars. Electric deposits are a few hundred more. Many landlords are requiring renters insurance which will set you back more. Don’t forget internet (but you can forget about cable and phone). In the 90s I moved across country in my car in the middle of winter and found a room for $250 a month – you aren’t going to find that in any city with job opportunities today. Want to rent a house? Got $8000 in your pocket to cover all those costs? (more if you are in a desirable city). But maybe an apartment will do? You are still going to need $3-$4000. And you have to have good credit, and you need references, and you need to have a job or provable income. Access to move-about housing has dried up. It could have something to do with the fact that landlords would rather rent to AirBnB guests for 10-20 times the rent they will get from a person that just moved to town, or maybe they just like the tax write off of having a property sitting vacant and not earning anything.

So, the reason people aren’t moving as much (millennials nor anyone else)is pretty simple – there is no such thing as a budget move to a desirable location any more. Those days are dead. The world that the baby-boomers built has swallowed up opportunity for anyone who wasn’t old enough and privileged enough to take advantage of it before they started shuttering the doors and locking opportunity inside where no one can get to it.



Update: I’ve also just committed Linkedinicide

I just permanently deleted my Facebook account and profile. It’s been a process – but now it is done. Well, sort of, it takes two weeks for Facebook to delete it – I guess they want to make sure you really want to do it. Yeah, I’m over it. I have my friends phone numbers and addresses for the most part and I don’t feel the need to share on someone else’s platform – I’ll miss about one post out of a hundred – the ones where friends tell funny stories about their kids or talk about really enjoying life or overcoming obstacles…but the other 99 posts – advertisements, political postings, reposts, paid thought control, and more. No thanks. I want real life back – maybe I’ll be the only one not on Facebook someday – that would be kind of cool. Track this internet.

(My friend Dave asked me why not just suspend instead of permanently deleting it (in the comments below) – I gave a rather longwinded reply which I think is important enough to post here:

The temptation to go back is what I want to get rid of – and a big part of why I have done this is because I’ve decided that Facebook is being used against me (and everyone else) in a whole slew of ways – most of which we are unaware of. I am fairly certain that the amount of time we talk with friends on the phone has decreased because of Facebook, I’m fairly certain that we read less because of Facebook (and for the record, I’m certain of it for myself but only making suppositions for others based on my experience and observation – which is why I am writing ‘fairly certain’ and not ‘positive’). I’m fairly certain that we are being marketed to using our likes, our friends likes, and our actions on what is 100% a commercial platform where users and data are the products, not the clients. Ultimately, I found myself spending a very surprising amount of time on FB doing things that were not really making me happy or improving the quality of my life – and the amount of time was growing by leaps and bounds but in an almost imperceptible way. Back when I first got on Facebook – it was an hour or so a week, then it became an hour a day, and then mobile FB came along and it was on all the time – providing me with notifications and updates constantly and encouraging me to ‘share’ my location, activities, photos, likes, opinions, etc etc etc. Those 10 seconds you look at a phone notification add up to a very surprising amount of time – and they are interrupting focus and concentration on whatever you may be doing.
This was not a light decision – I’ve been moving towards it for a couple of years – first, I trimmed my friends list down from right around 1000 to an even 100 – the 100 people I wanted to interact with – I got rid of people I knew but wasn’t actually friends with – people I met in passing, old high school acquaintances, friends of friends, coworkers, etc. Then, my next step was to lock up my privacy as much as FB allows you – which gives you a private network but the security is actually an illusion – FB, and anyone with access to FB servers and code, still has access and as I’ve written before, a huge amount of your data is still available for marketing and targeting to the highest bidder – and finally – I downloaded my full FB profile – which really freaked me out – the amount of data you don’t see in your profile greatly exceeds what you see when you look at your profile – like for example – my profile included your name, phone number, email, address, where you work, and more – about YOU! So then I took the next step which was to ask a friend to admin the facebook pages and communities I’ve built for websites and businesses I own – I didn’t want to delete those and want to still be able to post articles from my blog (but not directly to facebook, as links, which is different in terms of Intellectual property) – finally, I notified friends about my decision, exchanged phone numbers and emails and last night – I pulled the trigger. And you know what’s funny? Even in the 12 hours since (and it will take FB 2-weeks to delete my profile) I have had better phone, email, and website (meaning right here) interaction with important people in my life than I’ve had in a long long time – and – this has to be said – I found myself looking at the computer and saying “Wow, what should I do on here?” and realizing that without Facebook, I didn’t want to spend as much time on the computer – I’ve done more reading, spent more time talking with my wife, and worked on an ukulele song with my daughter – and all of that was time that I probably would have been doing something (or nothing, actually) on Facebook – so there is my longwinded answer Dave. I’m going to copy and past it into the main area of the blog post too. So, I don’t think it’s the same thing – it might seem like it – but I want it to be permanent.


The Prison Retirement Plan

I read about a guy the other day who walked into a bank, told the teller he was robbing it, and then stood around waiting for the police to come and arrest him. From the sounds of the article, he could have taken the money and gotten away without too much effort – but he didn’t want to. He was a widower, didn’t get out much, and was having a hard time paying his bills each month – so he opted to take the prison retirement plan.

At first, it sounds crazy, to knowingly go to prison – but then, when you start to think about it – the crazy thing for him probably would have been continuing to struggle to pay for food, health care, electricity, insurance, water, maintenance, transportation, and all the other things we are forced to pay out of pocket from the time we become adults until the time we die. He gave up his freedom – the freedom to starve, the freedom to be lonely, the freedom to freeze to death, the freedom to die from treatable conditions, the freedom to die alone and with nobody knowing about it.

A quick internet search reveals that this is not uncommon – the link below is about it happening in Japan, but apparently (when you read the comments below the article) it is also already common in the United States.

This next link actually goes over the pros and cons of a retirement home vs. prison and offers some good advice about how to land in a Federal prison instead of a state prison because violence in state run prisons is twice as likely…

If all of this sounds absolutely insane to you, it should. It is. When prison is more desirable than freedom for our elderly, we have definitely gone off track. The hard part is getting back on track. Legislators are more likely to close prisons to the elderly who consider doing this, than to try to improve the material conditions of all the elderly (and the rest of us) which led to this situation in the first place.

Media My Mission

An Extra Day Every Week – What would you do with an 8th day?

If some magical being came down from wherever it usually is and told you “I’m going to give you an 8th day every week to do whatever you want with…” You’d probably be pretty stoked, right?

What would you do with that 8th day? It’s just for you, so what do you want to do with it? It’s yours, nobody can force you to work or do anything you don’t want to do on that 8th day…so what would you do?

You probably have a long list of stuff and I’m just guessing here, but I doubt watching TV or movies, surfing the internet, or doing drudgery is on your list. It’s probably a bit like my list – spend more time with important family, learn a new language, become a better musician, exercise, paint, become better at something you enjoy, or maybe even catch up on your sleep and lounge around in bed or sit around the house in your pajamas.

It would be pretty cool, right?

Well, guess what. I’m that magical being and I’m giving you your 8th day free of charge.

Alright, I can’t do that. I can only give it to myself and tell you how I am doing it so that you can also claim your 8th day.

I figured out in Janaury how much time I spend reading the news, watching TV, watching movies, and looking at Facebook and other websites – I’m not talking about productive time here, not work or actually interacting with people or educating myself or even writing…just wasting time, binge watching, reading status updates, looking at news stories, and just sitting in front of the computer sort of looking for something to do – all told, it came out to more than 4 hours per day…that’s 28 hours a week – so even if I gave myself 4 hours a week to watch a movie, watch an hour of TV, and surf the net for an hour – I’m still wasting an entire day each week on bullshit. There’s my 8th day…it was there all along. I was simply throwing it away. It needs to stop.

Because think about it – that’s one whole day a week. 52 days in a year – that’s 7 weeks and three days. What would you do with 52 extra days in the year? Let me take it further – it’s like throwing away every 6th year…does time fly? Would you like a free year for every six? So if I live to be 102, that means I’ve wasted 14.5 years of my life on bullshit…almost 15 years! What would you give to be able to live for 15 extra years!

I can hear some counterarguments…most of that wasted time is at night…yeah, so why can’t I do some of the not daytime essential activities I need to do each day during that same time and take my prime time for myself? It’s not sequential, so it’s not like a two week vacation – yeah but again, why not do non-sequential-essential activities during that time and free up my prime time?

I know, it’s hard to do some of those things we want to do in our hurry up and wait and waste your whole day societies – but maybe it is partly our fault that our societies are so messed up. What if we used that extra 15 years of life to dedicate to making our world a better place?

Just think about it. The gift is yours. You don’t have to give me anything in return. I just need to make sure I give myself this time. It’s really all we have.