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by Bob Brooke

The Outer Banks–a string of barrier islands hugging the coast of North Carolina–embrace a history of piracy, bold rescues, tragic losses, and firsts. It was here that Sir Walter Raleigh stepped ashore to found the first colony in the New World on Roanoke Island in 1585. It was here that Virginia Dare, the first child of English parents, was born. It was also here that the Wright Brothers took to the air for the first time in 1903. And it was here that I discovered a antique mini-boom.

Today, the Outer Banks are a bastion of fun in the sun. All along their 175 miles from the Virginia border to Shackleford Banks opposite Beaufort, North Carolina, nearly six million visitors per year swim, surf, sunbathe, fish, and birdwatch on sunny days. But when the sun doesn’t shine–and that can happen often as storms move over the Banks–visitors turn from outdoor activities to what else–shopping. Along with the increase in the number of shops in general, the number of antique shops has mushroomed in the last year or so. I found enough antique shops to provide two full days of antiquing.

But on the Outer Banks, the word "antiques" is used in its broadest sense. The shops offer an eclectic mix of the not-so-old with older pieces. Many items for sale are small enough for vacationers to pack into their cars for the trip home, since the majority of visitors to the Banks come by car. Also, many of the shops sell some new items to help balance the bottom line. But the fine Southern hospitality of the shopkeepers plus the reasonable prices makes the antiquing experience here a pleasure.

Antique Alley
Most of the antique malls and larger shops are located on the mainland along Highway 158–known as Antique Alley--beginning in Grandy. This is the road everyone has to take to drive onto the Banks from Virginia, so I decided to begin my antique adventure here.

The Currituck Antique Mall, the first mall visitors see, features Turner’s Antiques plus four other dealers selling oak furniture, old books, jewelry, decoys and old glassware–Carnival, Depression, and pressed. But owner Jim Turner said they sell more Carolina pottery--Roseville, Hull, Weller and McCoy, plus some stoneware--than anything else. "We sell one antique to every 20 collectibles," he said. A glass carafe and six glasses from the 1930s was selling for $98. While not one of the oldest, the Currituck Mall has been in business for five years.

Next down the road is the Antique Mall at Powell’s Point. Owners Ozzie and Lisa Godfrey began their business, Winsor Antiques, down on the Banks but eventually moved it into a big white farmhouse with green shutters. Now the Godfrey’s have six dealers with them, offering a variety of antiques from primitives to elegant armoires to collectibles from the 50s and 60s. Godfrey prices her furniture from $100 to over $1,600.

Across the road stands Oldies But Goodies. Here, I found a good collection of old quilts, advertising, glassware, toys and auto-memorabilia. For those looking for an old gas station pump to spruce up their yard, this is the place. David Powers, who shop sits while his wife (who really owns the shop) works at a local bank, said he often sells old pumps and station signs which people use as yard markers.

And next to Oldies But Goodies is Side Street Antiques run by Don Belangia and his wife. Browsing here took some time, since I found a generous selection of toys, old advertising signs, local pottery, furniture and old wrought iron lawn pieces. But I was most impressed with the unique lamps such as an artist-signed stained glass floor model for $795.

Stained glass lovers will simply adore Lammers Stained Glass, Gifts and Antiques. Only a stone’s throw from Side Street Antiques, this complex offers handcrafted old and new stained glass windows and lamps, as well as nautical antiques, vintage kitchenware, old fishing tackle, items from the 1950s, original advertising signs. In business for 27 years, Lammers is one of the oldest shops in the area. A new 5,000-square-foot furniture gallery houses hoosiers, washstands, and fine English glass panels for as much as $2,000, painted museum-quality glass lamps and accent lamps for $55.

New for this year is Lammers’ "Roadside Memories," a vintage advertising museum which displays Jim and Terry Lammers’ 25-year personal collection of the finest examples of antique signage including soda pop, country store, gas station, and automobilia from the golden age of touring. These vanishing relics which once dotted North Carolina’s back roads immediately took me back to simpler times. (Open 10-6 daily. Adm: adults. $3, teens $2, and children under 12, $1).

Before I headed over the bridge to Kitty Hawk, I stopped in the Bayberry Antique Mall, a small, well organized and laid out grouping of 10 dealers run by Charlene and Terry Shillingsford. Open since December, 1997, I discovered a variety of dishes and small collectibles. But what caught my eye was a large scale that told fortunes, like the kind found at beach resorts and amusements parks, selling for $1,200. Another dealer had a Trafalgar wash bowl dating from 1850 for $45. A Blue Willow hatpin holder selling for $25 complimented the many old hats hanging around. I especially liked the Jenny Lind bed that a dealer in the back room was selling for $350. The strangest items for sale had to be a 30-year collection of sugar packets, each selling for 25 cents.

Over the Bridge to Kitty Hawk
After browsing a bit at Bayberry, I headed across the bridge to the new Visitor’s Center. Built to resemble an old lifesaving station, it features a comprehensive exhibit of life on the Banks with a introductory video, plus a separate octagonal building where I found hundreds of brochures on the area. There were even North Carolina rocking chairs out on the porch.

Continuing down Highway 158 in Kitty Hawk, I came first to the Seagate North Shopping Center, the home of three antique shops. The Nostalgia Gallery features a world of old advertising, art calendars, documents, prints, newspapers, sheet music, stock certificates, signs, aviation art , Chessie documents, Civil War discharge papers and more, Coca Cola ads and signs, Disneyana, military, pin-ups, politics, radio, railroad signs, tobacco ads, World War II posters, sports memorabilia–even Santa advertising. This place is an absolute must for the advertising collector. Proprietor Norm Martinus, the co-author of Warman’s Paper, a pricing guide to vintage paper collectibles, loves to chat about them.

A few doors away stands the Impoverished Aristocrat, a small eclectic shop filled with knickknacks and whatnots. Besides a good selection of old plates and teas sets selling for $12 to $25, there’s a selection of gourmet teas for sale, as well as ice tea samples for visitors.

I almost didn’t go into Z-1 Gold N Gifts but then noticed a fine Victorian armless caned rocker priced at $115 sitting out front. Inside, Kristen Voorhees and Thierry Cattelain offered a modest selection of antique silver and silver plate, along with imported Indonesian silver jewelry.

Cattelain is proud of the outdoor flea market he established in the Seagate Center on all three-day weekends during the summer.

Down the road a short distance is Second Hand Rose, a tiny shop overflowing with all sorts of collectibles, mostly from the 20s and 30s, and some antiques on consignment near to where the Wright Brothers made their first flight in Kill Devil Hills. For the last eight years, owner Paula Douglass has amassed a fine collection of estate jewelry, knickknacks, old books and records. There’s also one room exclusively for clothing.

Further along, I came across a sign that said "Flea Market." I couldn’t resist. It turned out to be misleading, but I did find Edith's Antiques and Art. Artist Edith Deltgen not only showcases her own sculptures but offers small antique tables and china, as well as German chocolate in her small shop in Central Square in Nags Head.

Two doors up in the same center, I wandered into Mile Post Antiques, an antique cooperative less than a month old. Five dealers display a variety of excellent antique seashore furniture, wicker, prints, lots of pottery, estate jewelry, some small antique furniture and linens.

Original Harper's Weekly’s were going for $28 each. I also found some old gun shells. But I couldn’t take my eyes off of a beautifully carved oak mantlepiece selling for $1,200.

Crossing over a side street lined with art galleries, known as Gallery Row, I headed down the Beach Road to the Yellowhouse Gallery run by John Sandberg. Here I gazed at old maps and nautical charts of the Outer Banks. Sandberg’s first wife was a watercolorist, so they set up a gallery on the oceanfront in1969. Someone sold them a carful of antique marine prints, which sold faster than the original art. In 1977, he moved into his present location. I saw a finely detailed framed chart of Hatteras Island from1852 selling for $355.

Roanoke Island
Having exhausted antiquing possibilities in Nags Head, I headed over the causeway to Manteo on Roanoke Island. Long a quiet little town, Manteo is awakening to its own kind of tourism–quiet and cozy and full of Southern hospitality. Three shops just off the waterfront in Manteo caught my eye. The first, Clemons-on-Budleigh, sounded unusual.

Run by Elizabeth Anderson and her assistant Gloria Abbs and open less than a year, this cozy shop fills an old house in a residential neighborhood three blocks from the waterfront. A chintzy mix of fine old English furniture with wicker, kitchen ware, books and dolls, the highlight here was an Elizabethan oak bar selling for $1,200 now being used as the sales desk. But prices were as low as one dollar on some items. I noticed an antique English walnut architect's table for $295 and an early Roanoke framed deed for $87. Abbs plans to open a potting shed with gardening antiques. The White Doe, one of several antique-filled inns, stands just a block away.

As I strolled down Sir Walter Raleigh Street across from the waterfront, I stumbled on Ann Gullett’s My Secret Garden, a shop jam-packed with hand-painted furniture, a collection of birdhouses, intriguing old fountains, garden statuary and other gardening antiques mixed with reproduction Tiffany-style lamps and sterling jewelry.

Around the corner, across from the Tranquil House Inn, with one of the best restaurants in the area, I discovered Muzzie’s Antiques, a fun shop that I felt is one of the best. Susan Garber has filled her petite shop with lots of small quality items, including enameled glassware, individual dishes, beautiful old porcelain eggs, dolls and dolls’ clothes, ladies’ compacts and dressing accessories. A Nippon demitasse set of four cups was selling for $49, while a Toby Mug pitcher was $62.

And last, but by far from least, there’s the Thieves Antique Market and Auction Barn in Mann’s Harbor, along Rt. 643 just over the bridge from where the outdoor pageant, "The Lost Colony," is performed. To say this place has a lot of stuff is an understatement. Old newspapers, magazine and books, shells, rocks, crystal, display cases full of small items--old perfume bottles, buttons, this giant what-not shop overflows with oddities of all sorts. However, compared to the other shops here, I found prices to be high for what was offered. For instance, a small book with photos of the Spanish American War was priced at $65. But there’s always the fun of browsing.

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