WAKEFIELD, Neb. (AP) — For years, Ken Paulson and his father went to auto swap meets and farm sales, looking mostly for car parts.
Many times, buying the desired part wasn't as simple as picking it up and paying for it, the Sioux City Journal reported.
"Dad was always into working on antique cars and car parts. We started going to swap meets in the '70s and '80s," Paulson said. "Of course, with a body shop, we ended up with a lot of extra stuff. We never threw anything away. You buy a pile of stuff to get the car part you need."
The fact they never threw anything away becomes obvious after stepping inside Glenn's Body Shop, which Paulson's father, Glenn, opened in 1955. The shop itself, built in the late '20s with a tin-plated ceiling that's still in near-perfect condition, definitely feels like one from another era.
And stacked inside are items from several eras. All those "piles of stuff" Paulson and his father bought are stored and stacked in cardboard boxes and wooden fruit crates. The walls are covered with Paulson's collections of old license plates, signs, spark plugs, rusting Tonka toys. A collection of old oil cans is neatly stacked among the shelves.
It's almost enough to obscure the really big items — the vintage gas pumps, the Model A and Model T Paulson restored when he was in the seventh and eighth grade, plus a Jeep and other old cars he keeps in the back room.
"I've got enough Model T parts to maybe build two Model Ts," Paulson said.
His collections lean toward auto-, oil- and gas-related items. But there's a little bit of everything here. A box full of old board games. A number of old radios. Antique mailboxes. He estimates he's got 200 train sets in boxes at home.
Unless Paulson has a duplicate, most of the items are not for sale. That doesn't stop people from seeing the interesting items through the large windows and stopping in, hoping for a bargain.
"People always ask. They don't want to pay what it's worth," Paulson said.
Price tags hang from some of Paulson's more valuable items, mainly because he got tired of answering how much he'd want for them. He purposely priced everything too high to ensure that those items stay here.
"I don't know what I'd do if someone was willing to pay what's on the price tag," Paulson said, laughing.
Besides, Paulson bought many of these items as retirement projects, something neat to fix up.
"I bought a lot of it 20-25 years ago when you could still buy it," he said.
Not so anymore. With the popularity of TV shows such as "American Pickers," more people are scouring farm and yard sales, convinced that they, like the hosts of those shows, can buy old items cheap and sell them for a quick profit.
Paulson, who retired a couple years ago but still takes small restoration jobs, nods at a row of rusty pedal cars and tractors, some of them rare, all dating back decades, hanging from the ceiling in his back room. Some are missing wheels and other pieces, but Paulson said it's become nearly impossible to buy even broken-down ones that he could use for parts.
"I used to get them for $5-$10," he said. "Now you can't touch them. People are paying $200 for a piece of junk."
It's kept his collections from growing, but they're not shrinking, either.
Someday, Paulson said, he'll probably sell some of this stuff.
But not now. These shelves and boxes might appear to hold a bunch of miscellaneous stuff, but it's his stuff, much of which he bought and enjoys to talk about and preserve.
You can't put a price on that.