When I was a brat in school, history was the driest, least interesting, and most unneeded subject. Shortly after high school, I realized history wasn’t boring at all. If you’re a collector, knowledge of history will help you immeasurably in the pursuit of antiques and collectibles. Study history and you’ll pick up leads that will steer you into an urban treasure hunt.
As the tempo of your treasure hunting activities increases (I call searching through salvage yards, yard sales, garage sales, and other places, urban treasure hunting), you’ll find yourself devoting more and more time to studying history. Your knowledge increase with each successful find.
This applies no matter your interest – modern collectibles, Victorian furniture, snuff boxes, English pottery, architectural salvage, etc. Nearly every collectible, relic, antique, antiquity, and salvaged item is bound to local, territorial, state, or national history.
Even the old recluse or elderly couple with the acreage that lived on the edge of town and hoarded or collected hundreds of items is bound in local history. There are plenty of places to find collections if you know where to look. Maybe the husband attended auctions and picked up pieces with the intent to restore. Maybe the recluse picked up items from trash heaps. Maybe the collections got out of hand and are now stashed in barns and outbuildings.
If records, gossip, old newspapers, and local history don’t interest you, research will lead to failure. On the other hand, the pursuit of sudden wealth in the form of urban treasure can stimulate an interest in history. In fact, the knowledge of history can be attributed to success as an urban treasure hunter. Learn the history of items you collect. The interest in, and study, of history will lead you to little known historical facts, maybe even lost history. The pickers, collectors, and urban treasure hunters who make their living in the genre are successful because they study history.
One tip to remember: Leads are seldom found in history books. They are a starting point. Local history is not published in high school and college textbooks. You must study local history (county, state, city, etc.) to learn more about objects you seek. Often, the only available facts may be found in documents, local history books, and newspapers because human sources of information are deceased or cannot be located.
Ask others who collect. I think you’ll find they possess a growing library of history and fact books pertaining to particular historical eras. As an urban archeologist, my specialty is World War II. As of this writing, I own 94 books on the subject. I possess numerous books pertaining to other interests: architecture, cryptozoology, mythology, urban legends, anthropology, and collecting. Late in 2011, I reached the 3500 plateau in my personal library and the number is climbing.
I’m not saying you need to purchase a high number of books like me. 98% of the books in my library are nonfiction used for novel research. You can certainly buy books that focus on your interest. If you are short of cash, go to the library. Look through local papers on microfilm. Rummage sales often offer local reference books for little or nothing. Visit with historical societies and museums in your area. Just be aware they will likely NOT provide a value. Don’t overlook the value of books which have been written and published locally by early day residents pertaining to the history of the community.