By John Blankenship
Melanie Brown knows about collectibles.
When people walk into her Bellepoint Antiques at 203 Grandview Drive, they usually can find quality keepsakes for a reasonable price.
Brown has been dealing with memorabilia and collectibles of all kinds for the past three years.
“I had some interest in flea markets and yard sales years ago,” she says. “I decided it would be something to get into as a business.”
Brown’s spacious store is laden with hundreds of old vases, clocks, chairs, pots, picture frames, lamps, tools, cups, saucers, plates, knives, forks, spoons, bottle openers, soda bottles, tobacco tins, yard decorations, iron skillets, dippers, water pitchers, kitchen ornaments and thousands of tiny keepsakes, memorabilia and trinkets.
There are tools, cash registers, books, silverware, flags, boots, spoons, dolls, locks, keys, coins, army medals, political buttons, glasses, watches, jewelry, purses and vases.
“You never know what people are going to come in looking for,” she says. “Old coal miners’ scrip if they’re an outsider. If their grandfather worked at a certain mine and they find a piece of scrip from that era, they want to take it with them.”
Brown is especially interested in collecting relics from the early railroad days in Hinton and coal mining artifacts in general. She has a collection of mining memorabilia and railroad items that date back to the early 20th century.
And that’s not all. Look around the store and you’ll find novelties of all kinds: figurines, owls, dogs, glassware in every shade and color.
Brown never knows what her customers will want to buy when they come into her store.
“It goes in cycles. People will collect one thing for a while and then change to something else. You just never know.”
Some of her customers like old furniture. “They will take it and refinish it, remove the paint and sand it and make it look new again.”
What are the hottest items around? “I don’t know,” Brown says. “It depends on who walks in off the street. They come in and really don’t know what they are looking for until something catches their eye and they say: ‘Well, look here what I found.’”
Brown likes being surrounded by the things of the past.
“Strange thing is: I enjoy it,” she says.
Some customers come in and want to buy old eye glasses. “People like to put their own lenses in them,” Brown explains. “Some like to collect old frames and dog tags and license plates, key chains and keys, dog collars and old fishing licenses. They’re a conversation piece, I reckon.”
Marbles bring premium prices from some collectors. “People look at marbles and can tell you who made them and when they were made,” Brown says. “Most of the senior citizens who come in here collected marbles when they were kids. They always carried a few of them in their pockets. They’d draw a ring on the playground and try to win each other’s marbles.”
Does she collect anything?
“I really don’t collect anything myself,” Brown says. “I’m not sentimental about things like most people. But I can understand why some people are looking for things of the past. If you remember something you played with or something you had when you were a child, you want to own it because it brings back memories of one kind or another.”
The dealer notes that most women who come to her store want to buy old kitchen utensils for display in their homes.
“They want old can openers, strainers, canning jars — anything with a red or green handle on it. They like the pieces to look rough, like they’ve been well-used.”
Brown says she mostly depends on word-of-mouth advertising when it comes to her marketing strategy. “People come in and find something they’re looking for and go out and tell their friends about it. That brings in more people.”
The store is open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Brown can be reached by telephone at 304-712-0559.
And there’s such a large inventory that Brown sometimes isn’t sure what she has in the store.
“There’s quite a bit of stuff in here. When some people ask about something, I’ll tell them I think I have it somewhere but I just don’t know where it is at the moment. I tell them to just look around; it might be hiding somewhere. If they see it high up on a shelf, I’ll go climb up on a ladder and hand it down to them.”
Brown says her bric-a-brac, curios and ornaments have been a profitable venture for her.
“People used to take a lot of this stuff to the landfill,” she says. “Now they either hold on to it or sell it at the flea market instead of just throwing it away.”
She adds, “Nearly everyone collects something. Like they say, ‘Somebody’s junk is somebody else’s treasure.’”
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