University City

Shoppers dig for treasure in collectibles

Dick Purvis stood in the corner at the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo, surrounded by his eclectic collection of goods for sale.

"Now there's something that might interest you. Nine old white guys," he said to an onlooker perusing a series of brass profiles on his table. The distinguished-looking men, most likely corporate leaders whose plaques once hung importantly in building lobbies, now found themselves in Purvis' collection.

"Somebody that likes funk. They might put these in a frame and put them on the wall, and they have something no one else has," he suggested to the onlooker.

Purvis, a dead ringer for actor Robert De Niro in appearance and mannerisms, travels the country peddling his assortment of paintings, chairs, birdbaths and whatever other interesting knickknacks he finds to those with an eye for the unique.

He is just one of thousands of vendors who claim space inside the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo on Statesville Road for the International Collectibles and Antiques Show each month.

Rick Lappi, who oversees the show, said the venue hasn't hurt for either vendors or customers during the past few years.

"It's doing really well," he said. "This is the place when the recession hits. This is when everyone pulls out from their closets and puts things in here to make a living."

In several buildings and outside, table after table teemed with collectibles for every interest: jewelry, furniture, minks, paintings, old toy trucks.

Outside one of the buildings, Candi Acuff sat on a chair and sifted through a box of jewelry. Acuff, a retired flight attendant who lives in the Ballantyne area, comes to the show regularly, looking for vintage jewelry. Sometimes, she said, the vendors don't realize the bargains they've sold.

Earlier in the year, Acuff bought a bag of jewelry for $40. "It had about 20 necklaces that were plastic. Most of it was jewelry from the 1970s," she said. But she also struck gold. "What I ended up with was a gold band and a chain worth $200."

For others, it's about immersing themselves in a time period. Ana Rosa, a Charlotte artist, sorted through a pile of clothes from the 1930s and '40s. "I'm a huge fan of anything World War II," she said, trying on an old bomber jacket and tugging at a military hat from the heap. "I collect a lot from that era."

Joy Shivar understands. At her booth, she displayed original American artifacts from the Colonial period through the Civil Rights era: investment-quality items often picked up by serious collectors and museums.

"A lot of antique dealers carve out a little niche for whatever they particularly like," said Shivar, who has been selling antiques for 30 years.

"For me, I like history. Anything that specifically captures a moment in time, that shows courage or the travail of the human experience."

Her tables resembled exhibits in a museum. A collection of clay marbles, dominoes, a small Bible, gave glimpses into the lives of men fighting during the Civil War.

"The soldiers wanted everything as little as possible," said Shivar. "Everything was tiny, tiny, because they had to carry everything."

The International Collectibles and Antiques Show runs monthly at the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo. Next month's show is scheduled Nov. 2-6.