When people think antiquing, they may think “variety” when it comes to merchandise. But many would be unlikely to guess at the variety of reasons people search through old, used items for things they do not necessarily need in shops that are by no means one and the same.
A walk down East Main Street and its adjacent side streets alone turns up a number of stores.
The Galesburg Antiques Mall, which functions like an old-fashioned department store complete with several floors, glass cases and displays, is a popular first stop.
Customers Sam and Laurie Selear make the trip to Galesburg twice a year to visit Galesburg’s antique stores and make a point of dropping by.
“As you get older, you’re more comfortable with things that you know,” he said, explaining his fondness for the hobby.
Despite the travel distance and the declining number of antique shops since the dawn of eBay, the couple finds the search worthwhile.
“That’s the best 401k you could have,” he said, pointing to a large, hand-carved bureau, “because it’s right there and it’s just going to keep growing value and you know where it’s at. In fact, you’re using it.”
Laura Kirven, who is the president of the Galesburg Antiques Mall Co., has noticed many customers are in search of well-made furniture, like the $400 chest of handmade walnut drawers she points to near the entrance.
Kirven herself has been antiquing for years, a passion that began with her father buying her antique jewelry as a child.
“Then I went to a couple auctions, and I was hooked, But we always had antiques in our house. That was what started it. And then in college, I would get up early…to go to yard sales, no matter what I’d done the night before,” she said.
Likewise, it was middle school student Mia Delgado’s mother who introduced her to antiquing five years ago. “It’s kind of cool to see the old stuff that used to be in regular shops,” she said.
Her personal favorites are the books, mirrors and lamps and “sometimes the hats,” as well as a swivel chair she once bought for $10.
Antiquing is a hit with Knox students, too.
According to Kirven, “they’re all into vinyl. They tell me that records have a better sound quality than anything else [and] they’re also here for vintage hats, purses, jewelry and dresses … they buy all the dresses that they can get their hands on that are reasonably priced.”
“Reasonably priced” may be the draw for many students, like sophomore Maggie St. Clair, who appreciates how the hobby fits into her college budget. But cheap prices are not the only thing that keeps her coming back.
“It’s a challenge to dig through and see what you find because you never know what you’re going to come up with,” she said. “It makes it so much better if you have to put work into finding it… No one else has anything like it.”
Around the corner at Dig, owner Sarah Jones shared similar sentiments. The daughter of antiquers, she grew up picking things off the curb, at the Salvation Army or at antique malls and has “always enjoyed the dig.” So much so, in fact, that her store grew out of the items she collected for the retro-themed restaurant she used to own.
“Customers come in here because they know they’re going to find things here that they won’t find at the antique mall—because I have a different taste than most antiquers,” she said of her colorful, retro-themed store.
At Attic Antique Shop, where towering aisles of furniture and the owner’s favorite collectible (clocks) dominate the space, Julie Peterson staffs the counter of her brother’s store.
According to her, customers “just come in looking for something better made.”
St. Clair, on the other hand, believes antiquing “offers something for everyone,” be it vintage costume jewelry for the fashionista, old comics for the superhero buff, or, if “you’re into weird, creepy stuff … a terrifyingly distorted baby doll, or a pin that says ‘Foxy Grandma.’”