“If you’re not moving forward, you’removing backward.” We’ve likely all hearda variation of that quote from time to time. Truth is, when it comes to collecting vintage vehicles, the statement isgood food for thought. Not long ago, Iinterviewed a man who had been collecting early wagons and farm antiques for ahalf century. No matter how you sliceit, that’s a long time. He had seen alot in those decades but freely admitted he was still learning andgrowing. That kind of no-nonsenseattitude and straight-forward commitment can help anyone to be a bettercollector. Ultimately, by alwaysstriving to grow – no matter how much experience and knowledge we possess – the results can put us in perfect position to find things others unknowingly pass over.
With those thoughts as a backdrop, Ithought I’d pass along seven areas that can help us be more effective incollecting early vehicles.
Joining like-minded organizations like the American Chuck Wagon Association, Carriage Association of America, National Stagecoach & Freight Wagon Association, Santa Fe Trail Association, and Oregon-California Trails Association can provide us with more than just interestingevents. Networking with people in organizationswith complementary interests has a way of opening doors and growing ourknowledge base in ways that ‘going it alone’ could never do. If you’re not a member of one of these or asimilar group, I’d encourage you to take a closer look at what you’re missing.
I’m often asked,“Where do you find the better pieces?” The answer is simple. You have toalways be looking. Rarely do the specialvehicles we’re interested in just happen to show up on our doorstep. That, coupled with the fact that many vehiclestyles are more prevalent in certain areas, means we usually have to activelysearch, and search, and search, and search before something comes up that willtruly turn heads. So, hit the road andkeep your eyes open. You never know whatyou may run across during an otherwise random road trip.
3) Visit Museums/Collections
Some of the bestplaces to see a good cross section of early vehicles are in museums and privatecollections. Unrestored examples ofperiod pieces can be especially valuable learning resources. Spend a little time researching wherecollections are located and make it a point to visit as many as you can overtime. The efforts can be extremelyrewarding as many of the collections can hold vehicles you may not be aware of(and may not be on a website). To thatpoint, I’ve been collecting and researching for over two decades andcontinually run across extremely rare pieces in some of America’s most obscurepublic collections.
4) Attend Events
Whether it’s asymposium of speakers, an auction with period vehicles for sale, chuck wagoncompetition, or a gathering of vehicle enthusiasts, there are a variety ofoccasions that offer first-hand looks at rare vehicles. Oftentimes, even small nuggets of informationgathered in these venues can pay off when you’re considering the collectabilityof an early set of wheels.
While thesubject is too large to be contained in any one compilation, there are a numberof books with valuable details on horse drawn wagons. I’ve outlined a number of them from time totime and even shared some in my February 26, 2014 blog.
6) Pay Attention
One of the bestpieces of advice I could give anyone interested in period wagons and westernvehicles is to pay close attention to every element in the vehicle. Truly original pieces do still exist andoffer a great education for anyone willing to learn. That said, there are an even greater numberof vehicles that have suffered at the hands of even the best-intentioned. Time and attention to detail have a way ofmaking it easy to spot the best pieces.
7) Don’t be afraidto ask questions
There really isno such thing as a ‘dumb question.’ Nomatter the subject, we all start out knowing nothing. Reliable research, experience, and carefulcataloging of the results has a way of slowly building a knowledge base thatwill enhance any collection. After all,to be an effective collector of vehicles, it’s imperative to know what you’relooking at. Invariably, that kind ofbackground has a way of producing solid results.
By their very nature, early vehicle enthusiasts arealways looking for elements to set their collection apart. Consistent focus on the points above can havea positive impact on virtually any search for specific pieces. Remember... Don’t be afraid to ask questions and work tounderstand the technologies involved in a set of wheels. Lastly, I'll leave you with five words that can helpeach of us better understand America's rarest wooden wheels. Those words are – “I’ve never seen thatbefore.” What I mean is that only by recognizing elements we'reunfamiliar with can we continually grow our understanding and appreciation of these vehicles. Please Note: As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved. The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives.