LET'S SAY YOU'RE in the Monterey Bay area and you've been bitten by the antiques bug. Lucky for you, there are plenty of shops where you can relieve that persistent itch. Here's a two-day journey that should give you plenty of relief.
We begin at the American Tin Cannery Antique Mall at 125 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove, near the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Owners Karen and Ben Valles represent 27 dealers with items dating from 1700 to the present.
Upon entering the second-story shop, one sees a colorful array of juke boxes: an eye-popping 2009 nostalgia CD juke boxand one from the Guadalajara Bar in Gonzales, circa 1953. Next to them is a sitdown 25-cent slot machine.
"They're just old-fashioned ipods," she said. "You crank them up and listen to your music." Several of the record layers boast large, colorful horns to magnify the sound. She says she just can't keep them in stock - she sold about 40 of them last year. "The buyers get 100 needles and 30-75 records to play," she said. "And the machines carry a one-year warranty." Naturally, she won't reveal her source. Trade secret.
A new addition is a bronze statue of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco by Frederick Remington.
Another oddity is a Victorian gentleman's bar. Shaped like a wine bottle, the cabinet's front door opens to reveal space for bottles and glassware. At the same time, side doors open with space for bar tools and corkscrews. Most shoppers would not be able to spot that disguised bar - ask Karen to point it out - she knows where all the special goodies are stashed.
A tour of the shop reveals an eclectic range of items, including a full-size wicker replica of a Vespa motor scooter ("You'd use it as a plant stand or in a display window to attract customers"), a commemorative brick from the Loew's theater in Atlanta, GA, commemorating the world premiere of the movie "Gone With the Wind." Nearby are a purple velvet casket and a colored tintype reputed to depict Wyatt Earp.
Other items of interest include an alligator purse, his and hers fezes, complete with leather cases, a Coca Cola bottle manufactured in a long-gone Monterey bottling plant and a fiberglass sauna sweat cabinet. One can envision Lucille Ball sweating away weight in such a contraption on the old "I Love Lucy" TV show.
The ATC Antique Mall is closed on Wednesdays.
Next stop is the Cannery Row Antique Mall, 471 Wave St., Monterey. Boasting 21,000 square feet of display space on two floors, manager Claudia McCord says the mall features more than 110 dealers. Open for 17 years, it is perhaps the largest antiques showcase on the Central Coast, so wear comfortable shoes.
"People come here to buy back their memories," McCord said. "And we're a diverse group, both dealers and customers. We even see Amish people shopping here."
Estate jewelry sells well, she said. "You can find the bargains of the century here - maybe half the price of what you'd pay in Carmel."
The most expensive piece ever sold there was a painted canvas circus freak show tent display, McCord said.
The variety of items is staggering: cowboy boots, Nehi bottle caps, a Barbie mansion, Dick and Jane books and posters, hats from the '40s and '60s, a 1940 pedal car, door knobs, a lifesize fiberglass sailfish, walking canes, duck decoys, hatpins, a deep-sea diving helmet, Civil War prints, and electric trains. "The great thing about this place is that you can find great stuff for a dollar or two and also rare and expensive pieces," said dealer Jane Flury.
"People are always looking for unusual items. I recently sold a Prohibition-era bartender's guide - really rare, made for the speakeasies."
Flury said lab equipment sells quickly: "People seem to like the clean lines and shapes of beakers and test tubes."
Her second-floor space includes rare zombie glasses, silk and paper parasols, old photos and artworks. She says she sells to a lot of young people who are furnishing their homes. "And I love it when they spot an item and say, 'I used to have one like that when I was a kid'."
The Cannery Row mall is so big that it has a jammed Star Wars booth downstairs and one upstairs with newer Star War items. One large area sells old newspapers and magazines, maps, movie star pinups and photo albums.
About 20 miles north via Highway One (aim toward the Moss Landing Power Plant's twin smokestacks), Moss Landing boasts two extraordinary antiques galleries and many smaller shops.
Promenade Deck Antiques contains the collections of seven dealers. Its unusual mix includes drawer pulls, Hawaiian shirts, transistor radios and stained glass. It also offers glass marbles, unique aprons, Christmas ornaments, Yosemite collectibles, furs, vintage keys, canes, Barbie dolls and Steiff animals. Promenade Deck is closed on Wednesdays.
On the other side of Moss Landing Road stands Hamlin Antiques, a structure built in 1985 to replicate a Gold Country boarding house. You can't miss it - it's the only building in town with a wooden horse standing on the second-floor balcony.
Owner Nathan Sawyer says he tends to collect "unusual things, eclectic items, with an emphasis on Western art." His unique collection includes ice fishing decoys, silverware from the old Del Monte Hotel and a carousel horse.
One cabinet contains old newspapers, maps, souvenirs from various global expositions, old pamphlets and advertising art. Other oddities include a large wooden mask from New Guinea, amber jewelry and an antique cradle with rope netting to support the mattress. His gallery also is closed on Wednesdays.
Every year on the last Sunday in July, Moss Landing is taken over by antique dealers from all over who set up shop on the main street to display and sell their wares. This year's Moss Landing Antique Street Fair will be held on July 29, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Street vendors can provide breakfast or lunch.
Or, if you prefer, Moss Landing boasts nine restaurants, including the landmark Whole Enchilada, the noted Haute Enchilada, and the famed Phil's Fish Market - Phil DiGiralamo's cioppino beat out Food Network's Bobby Flay in a nationally-televised throwdown.
There are many more antique shops in our area. Check directories for shops in Carmel, others in Pacific Grove and Monterey and quite a few in nearby San Juan Bautista.