I work on my internship from my home office. Harry Rinker’s website is on-screen and my phone headset is always within reach.
No one responds. Sending emails and leaving phone messages puts you on alert, waiting for some answer, for someone to acknowledge that you’re out there, just waiting. Potential employers, appliance repair people, contractors, editors -- no one returns your inquiry. This seems to be a phenomenon of the last ten to fifteen years. Perhaps it’s driven by our familiarity with nanosecond communications that affects our attention span and ability to remember that we’re dealing with humans at the other end of a phone line or an e-mail (wireless or not….) Even when I was trying to give away my time and productivity in an internship, no one got back to me (at least not until it was too late.) I was searching for an online position or one that could be done remotely. I knew I’d be traveling this semester, and did not want to be committed to a specific work location and schedule. The internship deadline was looming.
When Harry Rinker stood up at the kickoff dinner at this semester’s residency, I listened carefully. Harry said he was in the antiques and collectibles business and was looking for help with his radio show bookings. Hmm, I thought, I like antiques and collectibles. I’ve done radio before. This could be interesting. I introduced myself to Harry that evening, and we caught a few minutes over our residency meals in the next few days to talk about what assistance he needed.
Harry Rinker owns Rinker Enterprises, Inc., an antiques and collectibles business that provides a full range of services in the industry, including appraisals, education, research and writing. Harry is an entrepreneur and he is involved in all aspects of the business, as well as being a collector himself. As he said in his residency workshop, for twenty-four hours a day he thinks, eats, and breathes antiques and collectibles. He thinks about what is happening today in the business, the trends, what should happen, the pitfalls and the positives. He is a strong proponent of maintaining ethics in the industry, despite the pressures of economics and the use of technology to distort facts. He writes columns and books, hosts a weekly two-hour nationally syndicated radio show, conducts appraisals at antique and collectible shows and auctions around the country and generally maintains a schedule that would exhaust a rock star. Harry runs a business and makes no excuses that everything he does has the purpose of turning a profit – if not today, then tomorrow, and more than once, if possible. His columns turn into books, his talks turn into repeat seminars and his latest ideas turn into new services of Rinker Enterprises.
We met at Harry’s home the week after the residency to take the time to go over the internship in detail. We talked about my background and goals. While I know a little about antiques and collectibles, I don’t have a breadth of knowledge. I’ve been told the origin of the few family antiques I own and I have opinions about what I like to look at, but don’t ask me to tell the difference between the early and late Victorian styles. Fortunately, this didn’t seem to be a requirement of the job, and Harry and I shaped an internship that I think will be educational and entertaining.
My internship has three components. First, I will book guests to be interviewed by Harry on his weekly syndicated radio show, WHATCHA GOT?, which airs on Sunday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00 AM EST. The show is broadcast on close to fifty affiliates in twenty plus states. Harry holds two interviews per show for five minutes each; the remainder of the time is used for listener call-ins. Typically, he hosts authors of recently released books on antiques or collectibles. For example, his guests on January 20th, 2008, were an expert on early American glass bottles and another on American political collectibles.
To book an author, I will research what new books have been released and track down an author’s address and phone information, either by contacting their publishers or by old-fashioned sleuthing on the internet. To find new industry experts, I will search the trade papers and internet sources for leads.
The second component of my internship is to analyze antique and collectible trade journals. Harry has selected five for my focus, although there are others that I’ll read periodically. I’ll be researching the content, style and quality of their articles, and looking for writing opportunities. For example, a journal might be interested in certain types of stories, or they might be missing articles on an aspect of the trade. Some journals may just need some well-written pieces on upcoming events and trends.
From the knowledge I gain working with the industry and analyzing trade papers, I will propose topics to Harry for articles I can write for possible publication. Harry believes that the ability to publish in an antiques or collectibles journal is an important part of my internship, and with his mentoring, it is feasible that I could acquire one or two clips. This opportunity would be an especially gratifying conclusion to my internship. My primary genre is creative nonfiction and my secondary is travel writing, so the process of publishing an article to a niche industry journal is especially relevant to my writing goals.
I’m already learning how vast the collecting industry is. If something can be purchased, it can be collected and there’s probably been a book written about it. From bookends and buttons to video games and Viking glass, there are individuals who are passionate about these items and spend time and money collecting and gaining knowledge about them. I look forward to talking to experts and publishers in the industry and gaining cold call marketing skills as I promote the radio show to potential interviewees. Some of the publishers I’ll deal with release coin books, which could lead to connections with publishers for my own book that relates to American coin history. Finally, I expect to learn about this fascinating antiques and collectibles business from a unique vantage point, since Harry Rinker is a nationally known expert.
You, too, may be a collector and not even know it. According to Harry, each of us has a collecting gene, and if you own ten of something you have a collection or at least the start of one. This has made me seriously rethink the contents of my closets and all of those boxes of family artifacts. I now understand the pull to action I get when I read the tag sale ads each weekend. At least through May, I can justify with one word the hours I spend strolling through antique shows, flea markets and estate sales and trolling my favorite eBay sites: RESEARCH!
1) For more information on Harry L. Rinker and his business, see the website www.harryrinker.com
2) Rinker, Harry L. How to Think Like a Collector. Cincinnati, Ohio: Emmis Books, 2005.