27 September 2022

Goulburn collects two more collectable shops

| John Thistleton
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Man with display cabinet

Chris Manning sold this 1930s kitchen buffet for $450 plus two sets of drawers with ornate trimmings for $50 to the same woman. Photo: John Thistleton.

When the COVID-19 pandemic peaked, two new collectable shops opened in Goulburn. Added to the existing two shops, Goulburn Old Wares and Michael’s Old Wares and Collectables, they have made the heritage city an even bigger destination for weekend tourists, restorers and collectors.

Setting up Frostman Antiquities in the large emporium in Verner Street vacated by previous second-hand traders Tony and Adrianna Lamarra, Chris Manning wasted no time diving into the market. Bidding online at auctions for abandoned furniture in storage units, he bought so many goods he and a mate made 252 trips to and from Sydney.

“That was a big investment. I had money in the bank, then I didn’t have money in the bank, because I bought all this stock,” Chris said, referring to furniture, light fittings, old appliances, biscuit tins, CDs and other bric-a-brac.

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“We sold a whole household (of furniture) to a guy in Bowral who broke up with his missus. He bought everything: lounge, fridge, washing machine, beds, buffet hutch, entertainment unit and TV.”

Friends and his mother in Moruya keep an eye out for suitable furniture for the shop and Chris will look at goods people may wish to sell.

From the busload of Japanese tourists who filed in and straight out of the shop to the English man hunting for old documents relating to trains or diaries, visitors always leave with a surprise.

Old documents lured another collector into Steptry’s Old Wares in Auburn Street, where they discovered and bought a huge, 1950s bank ledger.

Peter and Elvira Try established Steptry’s Old Wares, which Peter says is a bit of a play on British sitcom Steptoe and Son.

Couple in antiques shop

Elvira and Peter Try in their collectables shop. Their customers come from a wide area and say Goulburn is more keenly priced than collectable shops in the Blue Mountains. Photo: John Thistleton.

“This is our first shop. We used to go to swap meets,” Elvira said. “That was a lot of hard work.”

Peter added: “I’m getting too old to load up the ute.”

A bit of a collector himself, Peter said their stock came from clearing out relatives homes, car-boot sales and the swap meets.

They think a cumbersome-looking engravograph, which engraves names into things such as writing pens, could be their most unusual item.

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Paul Kemp runs Goulburn’s Old Wares in partnership with Michael Lamarra, a second-generation dealer who also has another shop, Michael’s Old Wares and Collectables.

Paul says a mix of customers comes into the Bradley Street shop, from those looking for cheaper items, restorers and collectors, who often come seeking old diecast Matchbox and Corgi cars and signs, or small furniture. Unusual items include old kerosene heaters and a 1950s Technico electric lawnmower.

“We get (stock) from everywhere: locally, Canberra and in Sydney,” Paul said. “There is quite a bit of travelling. One year I travelled about 40,000 kilometres getting things. It’s getting harder to get the right things. People are putting things on eBay, prices have gone up, and they are keeping collectables too. They have become aware it’s collectable, so it’s not as easy to come by.”

Man in collectables shop

Paul Kemp has been trading for eight years at Goulburn’s Old Wares shop. Photo: John Thistleton.

Michael Lamarra’s Old Wares and Collectables in Lagoon Street has evolved since he began in 1998.

“Over the last 25 years, vintage items have become very collectable – any time from the 1950s to the 1970s,” he said. “This is another generation coming to the market. They like to collect what they saw their grandparents have.”

When he began, 70-year-old collectables such as dark furniture came from the 1920s. Now the popular category items come in bright colours, made with different materials developed during World War II and including Laminex, chrome and aluminium.

Michal said people collected incredibly weird and wonderful things.

“A lot of the guys like garaganalia, or the cars, motorbikes or mechanical-type things. A lot of the ladies like the fine china, the glassware and those sort of items. It is a real mixed bag,” he said.

He believes most people are collectors, even if they don’t realise it themselves.

“If you have three of the same item you are a collector. Most people have at least three of something,” he said.

Man and woman in collectables shop

Gloria Geurts from Goulburn asking for information from Michael Lamarra at Michael’s Old Wares shop. Photo: John Thistleton.

He enjoys the items he collects, but noted advice from an old-time wheeler-dealer when he first started: decide whether you want to be a collector or a seller. He is a seller, but has met many collectors who open shops full of items either not for sale or greatly overpriced.

“But if you are going to do that, you are better off having a museum,” he said.

Michael learned by his mistakes. “There is no rule book, no school book, you go out and get your hands dirty and give it a go,” he said.

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