Mike Hammes’s career as an antiques dealer began with a pretty big trade.
When he was in his 20s, he and a business partner operated an organic juice business in Arizona. After making and selling juice to health food stores and restaurants all week long, they would go to flea markets on weekends.
That’s when they began buying antique clocks.
“Then one day I woke up and decided to trade my half of the business for his half of the clocks,” Hammes recalled.
That was 41 years ago.
Hammes returned to his native Iowa to start his new career, which entailed trailing to antiques shows across the country and working long hours seven days a week.
“I was doing what I loved doing,” he said. “I never viewed it as a struggle.”
His wife, Sandy, and daughter, Melinda, came to share in his passion for collectibles. On July 4, the family opened Thriftiques of Iowa in Coralville that specializes in selling high-end antiques and other tangible assets such as gold, silver, coins and jewelry.
Hammes said a tremendous amount of business at antiques shows is based on the barter system, and he’d like to see more of it in retail. Accordingly, he welcomes Thriftiques customers to bring in items they no longer want to trade for something else in the store.
“I always say that if you like the item you’re getting better than the one you’re giving, you’re a winner,” he said.
Hammes, who has appeared on PBS’s “Market Warriors,” credits the popularity of television programs like it and the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” with getting more people interested in antiques and collectibles and teaching them that haggling over the price is OK.
“When you come into the shop, you’re going to find something you like,” he said. “Then it’s just a matter of coming together on the price. And everything is negotiable.”
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