Treasure Hunting

Antique stores and clubs harbor relics from decades – and centuries – past.

Henry Tankersley has a collection of items from late 19th and early 20th century drugstores – glassware, old advertising signs and even some antique Coca-Cola items. 

Run by husband and wife Bill and Denny McConnell, 23rd Street Antique Mall offers a bevy of unique treasures. Photo courtesy 23rd Street Antique Mall

“I have an entire museum at my house,” he says.

But his favorite piece is a four-foot-tall mortar and pestle, made from colorful stained and leaded glass, lit from the inside. It was a piece that originally hung outside a drug store in Indiana. 

Tankersley has turned his passion for glass collecting into a chance to build community as the president of Tulsa Antiques and Bottle Club. The group creates an opportunity for collectors to socialize and learn from each other. 

“We collect antique bottles of all types, every kind you can imagine: medicine bottles, milk bottles, soda pop bottles and [all kinds of] jars,” says Tankersley. “Lots of glass items, as well as a variety of other non-glass antiques [such as] advertising signs and anything made of paper that has to do with antique items or a promotional product.”

Another enthusiast, Bill McConnell, got started collecting at a very young age.

“Even when I was a little kid, I used to drag in all kinds of stuff, but mostly junk at that time,” he says with a laugh.

Today, he and his wife, Denny, own 23rd Street Antique Mall in Oklahoma City. But their passion for collecting isn’t limited to the business side of things.

Today, McConnell’s tastes are a bit more refined. The couple collects antique furniture from the 1870s and 1890s, as well as a highly specialized brand of glassware.

The Tulsa Antique and Bottle Club meets to share neat finds and form a community. Photo courtesy the TABC

“It’s called Wave Crest,” says McConnell. “It was only made [between] 1891 to 1916, and they’ve never reproduced it. So it’s a fun thing to collect,” he says.

At 23rd Street Antique Mall, antiques lovers can find furniture and jewelry, as well as silver glassware, pottery and toys of all kinds from a wide variety of dealers.

While collectors’ clubs saw their heyday in the 1970s, according to Tankersley, there are still groups for people who enjoy antiques and other types of collectibles. These groups tend to congregate around specific types of collections, such as various types of glassware or furniture. They hold periodic meetings and some have newsletters to disseminate information, says Tankersley.

For those who may be intrigued by these cool collections, the Tulsa Antiques and Bottle Club holds its Antique Advertising and Bottle Show every summer at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. This event is a great way to shop, learn about antiques and get to know others with similar interests.

Photo courtesy the TABC

Excelling in Antiquing 

When it comes to learning about antiques and finding those special, one-of-a-kind items, it seems experience and practice win the day. Visiting stores and shopping for the things that get you excited are the best ways to learn more about the hobby.

“How I’ve learned about [antiquing] is just years of experience,” says McConnell. “We were collecting long before we got into the antiques business and we’ve been in the antiques business almost 35 years, so just [through] years of experience we’ve learned [what] things are reproductions, and how to tell the real deal from the not-the-real deal. And so the experience is key for me.”

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