Collectors weigh in on where to search for prized items

Spectators take a closer look at a 1957 BMW Jsetta on display Saturday at the 26th annual Collectors Day at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The pintsized vehicle is 1 of 500 of its kind still running and boasts 60 miles a gallon.

ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 3:22 a.m.
Betty Olson won't collect just any decorative lighthouse. Only ones given as gifts or purchased on vacations in places like Oregon.
Allen Pantin, on the other hand, only needs a computer with access to the Internet to find additions to his collection.
The collectors, who gathered at Saturday's 26th Annual Collectors Day at the Florida Museum of Natural History, fell into two camps - to eBay or not to eBay.
EBay, a Web site where millions of users go to buy and sell everything from back issues of LIFE magazine to Mercedes-Benz station wagons, have made collecting more successful for niche collectors, like Pantin, who collects World War II Army Corps memorabilia.
And yes, Pantin also collects Mercedes-Benz automobiles.
He owns five.
His latest find, a white 1988 station wagon, was purchased on eBay for $2,000.
More than a thousand people attended the six-hour collection festival, which included 62 collectors set up in booths inside and outside the museum.
Olson, a 12-year veteran of the fair, has browsed eBay for small model lighthouses, but says to purchase them online wouldn't be the same.
"When you buy them online you just don't get the sentimental value," Olson said. "I have a story behind each lighthouse."
She admitted her grandson in South Carolina used eBay to collect police badges.
Greg Benton, who said he spends an hour a day on the auction site, purchased 75 percent of his collection of World World II 10th Mountain Division Field gear from eBay.
"I like to ski, and I like World World II history. When I found out about a World World II skiing military division, my interest mushroomed from there," said Benton, who traveled from Tampa to attend Collectors Day.
Gail Edwards, of Micanopy, collects swizzle sticks, or drink stirrers.
She has purchased a few items from eBay, but would rather hunt down items at flea markets and thrift stores.
"EBay is not hands on," said Edwards. "I'm happy to go through boxes sitting on the floor at a thrift store. Not knowing what you will find is half the fun."
But Pantin, who found half of his collection using the online auction, disagrees.
One of his prized possessions is a 60-year-old A2 Army/Air Force Jacket from World War II.
It was purchased on eBay for $1,000.
"I go to flea markets and garage sales, too, but could never find a jacket like this," he said.
"EBay is worldwide. If you can't find it at the local flea market, there is a good chance someone has it on eBay."

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