READERS' PICK: Perennial Readers' Pick under its former (un-American?) name, the American Antique Mall is a fancy-tickler, a spot for a shot of whimsy shopping. Check your oversized purse at the door and smile for the nice video cameras, then troll for collectibles in its maze of dealers' spaces. You're likely to find anything once owned by anybody: jewelry, vintage clothing, collections of postcards, Wheaties boxes, periodicals, gas station frosted cactus glasses, Southwest books, glassware, kitchenware, nauticalware, toys. Need a Winking Devil doll? Rhinestone-studded plastic sunglasses? A one-armed bandit bank suitable for large tabletop? Orange pumps, a green sapphire ring or a tiny tin grand piano that plays in tune? They were all there last we looked. (The piano could be gone by press time, however.)
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP--TIE: Kay Mallek Antiques, 3859 E. Grant Road; and Circa, 3528 E. Grant Road. Less known for whimsy than serious collecting, long-time dealer Kay Mallek sells antique furniture, art, china, silver, glassware, pewter, linens, jewelry, Asian and African objets d'art, etc., etc., etc. You can snag full sets of tableware or individual pieces; an oak roll-top desk; an exquisite Pennsylvania card table or an appealing primitive painted blanket chest. While nothing there is to be had for a song (no "I picked up three of them for a dollar" on your Antiques Road Show appearance), Kay Mallek is a staple for the collecting community.
Let's face it: You can't just order your home furnishings out of one of those catalogues or off the Internet. I mean, you can, but you know it's wrong. But if you've already done so, then this is where Tucson's little antique shops help. They can add sparkle and interest to a home otherwise looking like a display from page 239. Among the best is a new little shop shining brightly in a nondescript strip mall. Circa is overflowing with pieces big and small of stuff that you want in your house. Whether you want to evoke cocktail culture or county kitchen, these treasures are worth logging-off for and seeking out in person.