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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
A metal postal vending machine tempts mantiquers at Antiqology.

Mantiques fit for a cave

Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Dave Taylor, owner of The Blue Pearl in Pierceton, says men tend to shop alone for their antiques.
Metal toys are popular among mantique shoppers.
Adam Hanson, owner of Antiqology in Huntington, says nearly half of his clientele is male.

First came man caves. Then men realized they had to furnish them.

But with what?

With mantiques. Of course.

At least that’s the word from area antiques dealers who say they’ve noticed an uptick in male buyers of vintage and antique items.

“I think the man-cave thing has really taken off with men in the last couple of years,” says Adam Hanson, 31, owner of Antiqology in Huntington, who says 45 percent to 50 percent of the clientele at the not-quite 2-year-old shop is male.

“We see a lot of men because as far as the antiques go, we have a lot of, well, we call it ‘guy stuff,’ ” he says.

“We have a lot of old (advertising) signs guys want for their caves. We deal in train memorabilia – the Erie & Wabash Railroad is a big draw – and petroliana. Stuff like that doesn’t last long around here.”

Yes, agrees Pat Somers in sales at Village Antiques in Pierceton and owner of Fort Wayne-based Upper Maumee Valley Antiques: The demographics of antiques shoppers are changing.

Yes, she’ll still see the browsing grandmom-daughter-granddaughter troika. But lookie-Lous more frequently are lookie-Louies.

And they tend to do more than just look. These men are exercising their hunter-gatherer instincts.

“Men make quicker decisions. They’re easier to work with,” Somers says. “They’re usually collectors. If they come in, they’re here for a reason, not to just spend time in an antiques shop like women.”

So what do men tend to buy? Somers ticks off the list: sports- and military-related items, fishing gear, advertising signs. Duck decoys. Things related to cars, tobacco, beer. Old knives.

“And they like vintage guns,” she says. “If you have a vintage gun in your booth at a show, every man who comes through will stop and look.”

Dave Taylor, owner of The Blue Pearl in Pierceton, adds to that list fine art and statuary, old toys, tools, fine watches, old electronics and furniture.

Men tend to shop alone, he says: “A lot of them are business people who are out on the road.”

But if the buy is a large piece of furniture, men tend to come back with their wife or girlfriend for approval, he says.

Then there are the mantiquing exceptions, Taylor says, and he’s one of them.

“I’ve been doing it ever since I was a teenager,” he says. His two main enthusiasms are 18th-century cookware and coffee-related items, including coffee-roasting and brewing equipment, grinders and serving accessories. He has a special fondness for antique demitasses and espresso sets.

His interest in old cookware began as an outgrowth of his involvement in historical re-enactments. As for coffee, well, he just likes to drink it.

“I just got interested in coffeepots and how you brew coffee, and one thing begat another thing,” he says. “Right now, I have three 18th-century coffee roasters in the shop. I don’t care if I sell them or not because I like them.”

The Wood Shack in Fort Wayne specializes in recycling antique architectural features and wood furniture, the kind of stuff to which men might be expected to gravitate. But proprietor Jerry Vandeveer says it’s often women who drag their men in – at first.

Typically, he says, a woman has a project idea and wants the man to execute it. But once men see the array of possibilities, they come back for more.

“The team we have here gets them excited,” he says. “Or at least, I get excited.”

Vandeveer says project ideas he posts on Facebook resonate with men. “Last year, we showed people how to build an island out of an old door, and we’ve sold so many since then,” he says.

“Men were reluctant to do it, but when they saw we had all the steps there and the husband comes in and sees what we have, then he just goes to town.”

Some niches of collecting are predominantly male. Morrison Agen, owner of Neat Neat Neat Records and Music in Fort Wayne, says men and women buy the shop’s specialty, vinyl records from yesteryear. But the market for old stereo equipment tends to be male.

“My personal rig is all vintage,” he says. “When you find old Marantz speakers that are in great shape, there’s nothing today that sounds like those.”

Men can drop up to $1,000 on those speakers, he says, because comparable ones made today might be five or six times the price. “It’s literally a case of, ‘They don’t make them like that anymore.’ ”

Hanson believes cable TV shows such as “American Pickers” and online sites such as eBay and even Craigslist have made antique-hunting more acceptable to men, who don’t hesitate to haggle on price if they think they can find an item cheaper online or at an auction or estate sale.

Men also seem willing to spend more, he says.

“A man will buy a $500 item, rather than a $50 item,” Hanson says. “Last (month), I sold a $3,500 sign to a guy. A woman would never have spent that much. It was a grain-slash-seed-related sign, and it was going into his personal collection.”

For men, like women, nostalgia propels the bug, Hanson says. But instead of a china teapot like their grandmother’s, men hanker for products they knew or used as a child.

“They want a Sinclair sign, because that was the sign they saw when they rode their bike to a gas station to buy candy when they were a kid,” Hanson says.

“I have a guy now I’m hunting for a bike for. It’s a specific brand, a specific model, a specific color he wants.

“He said, ‘Find it, and if you do find it, money is no object.’ ”