READERS' PICK: Got a spot in your living room that's just crying out for a Royal Doulton hunter-with-dog figurine? Long for a Little Red Riding Hood cookie jar for your kitchen counter? Need a feathered hat roughly the size and shape of a small flying saucer? A pink Pee-Wee Herman lunch box and thermos, or George Wallace for President campaign button? The Antique Mall -- one of the several Grant Road shops and malls appealing to the collector in all -- offers these and much more. About 100 dealers rent spaces, which range from whole rooms to simple display cases, featuring items from Civil War uniform buttons to something called "the ultimate" mah-jongg set. Comfortably arranged for browsing, the Antique Mall invites you to wander through old jewelry and furniture, sports cards, vintage clothing, glassware, books, postcards and magazines...many older than anyone we know.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Jet Set, 266 E. Congress St. If the new schlock being pumped out today leaves you flat, go pick up some old schlock at Jet Set, and build your own bridge to the 1950s. Jet Set has all of your vintage needs from antique bikes to old Star Wars figures; and doo-dads ranging from old jewelry to unsafe toys. Across the store in Wonderland territory, they also sport a seemingly endless supply of vintage clothing from an era when quality craftsmanship meant something.
MORE MANIA: Collectors of fine furniture from the Arts and Crafts movement spend a lot of time hunting down hard-to-find favorites, haunting swap meets, yard sales and online auctions, hoping against hope to secure a rare bargain. And for good reason: the Arts and Crafts style is beautiful, the product of English socialist William Morris' revolt against machine-manufactured mass products in favor of the handmade, wedded to the vision of American furniture maker Gustav Stickley, the author of the mission style (from which Frank Lloyd Wright learned a thing or two about aesthetics). Downtown's Eric Firestone Gallery, 312 E. Congress St., offers a fine selection of Stickley originals and other pieces, from small console tables to beds and dining-room suites. They aren't the bargains of collectors' dreams, not by a long shot. But if you have a few dollars to spare, you'll wind up earning many accolades for your impeccable taste -- which is, after all, the point, no?