"Our First Sale"
By: Russ Frank
written in August 1999

In the past four years, since we started collecting insulators, we have attended many of the Midwest shows. Never having had anything much to sell, we just browsed through the tables and bought pieces to add to our collection. After the "Greater Chicago Insulator Club" (G.C.I.C.) swap meet at "Bob Stahr's" house, things seemed to change. Somehow we managed to arrive home with 125 new insulators. I'm still not sure how "Rick Soller" and Bob Alexander managed to sell us that many. In addition to ones we had already bought, I guess the grouped piles from Rick's table and a hefty selection from Bob's clearance sale seemed to do the trick. Shortly thereafter, I had one of the packets for the Crown Point Regional Show handed to me. A table at a show and selling insulators was something we had never done before. The next thing I knew, I was mailing a check to Bob Stahr to reserve our table.

After surveying our purchases from the swap meet and pulling out the keepers, I began to realize we didn't have enough to fill a table. I needed to increase stock, so I tried an ad in our local newspaper. "Wanted: Glass or Ceramic Insulators off old telephone poles". The first response had a couple hundred insulators, mostly porcelain. Being a glass collector, I had no idea of their value, but the asking price seemed high. I opted to wait and investigate their true value before making a purchase. Oddly enough a week later he called again with a much more realistic price. The second caller had worked for Com Ed for thirty years. I bought a box full of glass and enough huge porcelains to fill the floor of our van. My wife Marge wasn't quite as excited about my find, until my daughter Amy and I started searching through the box of glass. A beautiful CD154 Lynchburg in Yellow Green started to change her mind. The other eleven that Amy pulled out of the bottom of the box convinced her I had gotten my moneys worth. The porcelains included about twenty large high-voltage in several shades of browns and baby blues. A couple of high tops, one chocolate and one a very pretty cobalt blue. We had to get out the bathroom scale for one of the porcelains, almost two foot in diameter and weighing in at nearly forty pounds. A mudders dream as long as you're not paying by the pound. A few of the other calls produced some common pieces to add to our stock, but no Cobalt signals nor undiscovered one of a kinds.

Now with all these insulators, the great anticipation set in. Which ones would I sell? What are they worth? What could I sell them for? And the ever-elusive question, is anyone else out there goofy enough to buy these things? We spread them all out on a table in the garage. Each was matched to the new price guide, labeled and priced accordingly. Taking in to account the condition and our desire to part with it. The next step was to pack all this stuff. The people at work thought I was moving. Every day I was carrying out with two or three more copier paper boxes. Each time having to stop and explain, no we are not moving, just packing insulators for a show and sale. "You're packing what?" was the usual response. Then I would go into the details as to what we collect, where they came from and their purpose. The still unanswered question is " why do you collect them?" We calculated and cut each box down to hold one layer of insulators. Then we figured out how to cut and make dividers for everything from the ponies to the wider Kimball's. The large porcelain ones proved to be a challenge and most never found their way into boxes. Soon we realized we had over twenty boxes full of insulators.

As the days grew closer, I started to wonder what would we need to bring. Let see, certainly enough bags and newspaper to wrap and hold all 250 insulators that we planned on selling. Maybe something to hold the great reaps of our efforts, the cash box. Still trying to think of everything I could possibly need, I sent an e-mail to Rick Soller for suggestions. He probably thought I was nuts when I asked if we needed to bring our own chairs. Having never paid any attention to what people were sitting on at the other shows, I thought I better ask. If we get there and there weren't any chairs Marge, Amy and my son Brian would have me sleeping in the hallway of the hotel for the weekend. I wasn't worried about a seat for myself. I knew I would be scoping out the bargains on the other forty tables, not sitting at ours. Rick had some good suggestions, some change, ones, fives and tens, price stickers, paper, a marker, a roll of tape, table cover, newspapers and bags. In addition, I added the light box, an extension cord, price guide, business cards, drinks, snacks and of course the insulators.

Friday finally arrived. I had taken the day off from work to wait for the dryer repairman and to get all the last minute stuff ready and packed. After he fixed the spring on the dryer and left, I started to pack the van. Box after box of insulators, twenty in total. Ten of the big porcelains, the light box, the handcart and suitcase after suitcase. I had it all in the van. Now where would I put Marge and the kids? With a few modifications, three less boxes, four less of the large porcelains and much finagling, I found room for the three of them. Marge and I picked the kids up after school and headed southeast towards Indiana. After 115 miles of Friday afternoon traffic, we found our way into the quaint town of Crown Point about six o'clock reached our destination.

Inside the building, along the wall, we found our table amongst the array of other dealers all in the process of setting up. We greeted the ones we knew and introduced ourselves to some we had not yet had the pleasure of meeting. Then we headed to the van to unload. As we started to set up the table and unpack, a small group gathered to see just what the "newbies" had brought. "Carol McDougald" was kind enough to go through a couple dozen (unpriced) ceramic insulators and help us derive selling prices. As we tried to get organized and prepared, several other folks stopped by to browse and chat. We sold quite a few insulators that evening. The only thing we missed in our planning was something to put over the insulators in our absence. Some brought sheets or plastic drop cloths while others had a sense that all was safe. We improvised and folded our table cover back over the top. Didn't really matter though, Bob and Rick took turns on guard duty protecting our jewels. Once we were all set up, we headed out in search of our hotel, a quick dinner and a good nights sleep.

Saturday morning arrived. A quick breakfast at the hotel and off to our first show as a dealer, not just a customer. The day went well. A steady pace of customers, some as lookers others as buyers. Marge, Amy and Brian did all the hard work. Selling, collecting money and wrapping up the merchandise. I wandered about in a daze and bought and bought and bought. Returning only long enough to raid the cash box and head back out to buy more. At the end of the day, Bob invited us to join the group as they converged on a great place for ribs, Stones Bones.

Sunday morning rolled around, much like Saturday. Another quick breakfast at the hotel and off to the show. The day moved at a much slower pace. The crowd was sparse. Only a few insulators found new homes. As some of the dealers started packing it in around noon, we decided to call it a day. In the process of repacking the boxes we had brought, a sudden shortage was detected. It appears we sold two or three boxes of insulators and I had bought enough to fill three or four boxes. Some quick consolidation, a couple bags and newspaper made room for the others.

A few days after the show I was surfing through the countless pages of insulators on E-Bay. I managed to find several of the insulators we had sold at the show. Strange how the pictures made them look so much better than they did on our light box. They had found their way back to Michigan and into millions of homes via the Internet superhighway. Maybe I'll buy them back and repeat the process all over again.


  • to main web page

  • by Russ Frank
    Last updated
    May 2008