How We Negotiated at an Antiques Mall


I like old stuff. Not all old stuff. Cool, old stuff.

Back when Schmoopy and I were first dating, I spotted this beauty in an antiques mall and I fell in love. I would’ve bought it in a heartbeat, but we were traveling and it was ridiculously heavy and we had to fly home and the TSA Guidelines regarding vintage typewriters as carry-on items are unclear at best. I was sad.

Schmoo took note of my disappointment and spent the next month secretly tracking down the seller in Buffalo and arranging for them to ship the typewriter to Long Island so that I would be surprised on Christmas Day. He likes to brag that he won Christmas that year.

It now lives on a shelf in front of the kitchen window and makes a great hiding spot for kittens.

The following year, I casually mentioned that I love old-timey phones. He surprised me with this one on my birthday…

It was used in the American Embassy in Germany in the 40s. See? Cool, old stuff.

Hunting for cool, old stuff is now one of our most favorite things to do. We usually take a trip every year to this spot in Pennsylvania that has a ton of antique malls and markets. If you’re not familiar with these malls, they’re usually giant buildings with a ton of booths, all rented by different vendors who sell mostly crap. If you decide you’d like to buy some of their crap, you take it to the front counter where they will sell it to you on behalf of the vendor who rents that particular booth o’crap.

On our last trip, I was on the hunt for a table to display my old-timey phone. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew that I would know it when I saw it. And then I did…

How freaking cool is that? Mini stairs! I had never seen anything like it. There was no price on it, but there was an employee floating nearby, so I asked her if she knew how much it was. She replied, “Oh, no. That’s not for sale. She [the vendor] uses that for display. She would never part with it.”

This only intensified my want.

Disappointed, we left the mall. As we were walking out to the car, we both had a simultaneous realization that went something like this…

Hey! We’re from NEW freaking YORK! We are geographically trained to be pushy jerks! Are we really going to take no for an answer?

No, we decided. No, we would not. We channeled our inner Emily Gilmore and went back inside.

But not before doing a little bit of research. We Googled to find out what the heck that little staircase was. Turns out it’s an English library step ladder. (The pole is so you have something to hold onto when you climb up. Cute!) The prices we were seeing were pretty high. Some were in the thousands of dollars! We’re not that “New York”, so we decided that the max we would pay was $250. Negotiation on!

It took some convincing to get them to call the vendor with our opening offer of $200, but they finally relented. The vendor said she would think about it and call back. So we waited. Like impatient, pushy, jerk New Yorkers, we waited… Finally, she called back with a counter offer. She wouldn’t take less than $225! SOLD!

Adrenaline rushes are real, you guys.

I have no idea what our little steps are actually worth, but it doesn’t matter. They’re not for sale. (Blog post irony…)

So, with three steps to fill and only one cool, old thing to display, I began the hunt for more cool, old stuff. This fan caught my eye…

So Schmoopy got it for me for my next birthday. It looks perfect on the top step.

I thought a cool, old camera would look great on the remaining step and I finally found one I liked a few weeks ago.

I have it resting on one of grandma’s school books from the 20s. (Yes, the same grandma you met in my last post.)

So our little display is complete; all cool, old stuff. Well, except for the bird and the skull. Those are just cool. (For now… Everything gets old…)

Zero decided to be in these photos and I just couldn’t choose which one I liked best, so you get extra with a side of cat. (Egor took the day off, but I’ll make sure he’s in the next post.)

So, that’s the story of how we Gilmore’d our fancy library steps. I guess the moral of the story could be ‘don’t take no for an answer’, but I’m going to go with the less threatening ‘it never hurts to ask’.

Reliving my Emily Gilmore moment has given me the sudden urge to fire our maid. I tell ya, she would really deserve it if she weren’t fictional because this crappy house is a freaking mess…

(If you’re not a Gilmore Girls fan, you won’t understand that joke, but trust me. I’m hilarious. You should probably share the wonder that is me with all of your friends so they will love you even more…)

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  • Trollopian

    Love the old phone; it’s not directly related, but I once went to a little general-aviation airport’s anniversary celebration and they featured an actual plane that flew in the Berlin Airlift (1948-49). Same era. A piece of history.

    Just be careful with that fan. Modern safety standards don’t allow sharp metal blades with such a hole-y “cage.” Fingers, paws, or tails could get amputated. Safer just to display it, not use it.

    Hi, Zero! Missed Egor.

    • My Crappy House

      Yes, I love imagining where these things have been. Little pieces of history in my house. The fan is only for show – I don’t have it plugged in. I can pretty much get my whole hand into the cage to clean it! Daredevil design…

  • Frances Rasmussen

    Love that find! I’d never even heard of an English library step ladder, but now I feel so much smarter. Beautifully decorated.

  • Le

    Go Schmoopy! Very thoughtful! I am not into antiques but I can see how they are interesting. Zero. I like that Gilmore girls lesson. I will remember to channel that one day when needed!

  • Em

    Those Gilmores and their witty banter! The writers on that show were so (snaps fingers repeatedly) sharp! My daughter has begun rewatching the entire series.

    That phone was a coup… I have one but it’s a much later model than your sweet find. Schmoop did indeed win Christmas…10 points for the typewriter, but a full 90 for the effort. Keep that dude happy!

    The stairs are so nifty too…always wondered about the pole part…it all makes sense. Keep ‘em coming, sister!

    • My Crappy House

      I’m currently watching GG again and it’s got to be at least a dozen times that I’ve seen it. It’s one of those shows I put on in the background because I can “watch” it just by listening. I can always count on my Schmoo to put in the effort. He’s a keeper

  • Debbie O

    Ha! I thought someone had repurposed a spiral staircase.
    What a great find and love the antiques adorning the steps. Does the handset of the phone weigh a ton? My gma had an old one somewhat like that through the 70s and it had some heft to it.

    • My Crappy House

      The handset would make a decent weapon in an emergency. I could definitely ring someone’s bell with it…

  • Marilyn Pigott

    I knew the story of the typewriter and the old phone but the Library Stairs surprised me, THAT is really cool and I LOVE it too! The display looks awesome and all it needs I think is an old CLOCK…so you can start looking. You can thank me later! You know I LOVE you oh third daughter o mine!

    • My Crappy House

      I agree! A clock was on my list of things to hunt for. If I find a cool one, I will let the bird fly somewhere else in the house. Love you too, M

  • Barbara H.

    Love the steps, love the display on the steps, love the cat, miss Egor but happy to see Zero modeling for us and thinking maybe it’s time for an inside house tour? But totally understand if it’s not possible – sure couldn’t do one inside my house and it never seems to get better. Thanks for making Monday better.

    • My Crappy House

      I know. I know. I would love to give you an inside tour, but the odds of having all of the rooms in my crappy house be at a level that wouldn’t embarrass me to show on the internet are slim right now. I’m so terrible at being tidy! There’s always a mess behind me (and the camera) when I take pictures for the blog. One day I will have everything clean all at once and when that day comes, I promise I will do a whole video tour.

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