In the mid 1970’s there was a great antiques shop near Fayetteville called Sturdevant’s Station. Mr. Sturdevant was the quintessential antiques dealer. White-haired, he resembled a retired college professor with his sweater and dark-rimmed glasses. My mother and I often stopped there on our antique quests. Mr. Sturdevant always welcomed this little black-haired boy into his world of antiques, many times inviting me and my mother into his eclectic house for tea. There, we would explore his collections: tintypes (including one of Jesse James), antique firearms, powder horns, quilts, baskets, knives — the stuff of an 11-year-old’s dreams.
Mr. Sturdevant opened my eyes to collecting. He encouraged me to begin a collection myself, explaining the joys and the benefits of becoming an expert on a specific collection. My mother and I explored categories that interested me, but where to begin? Pocket Knives? Banks? Books? Watches? Indian Artifacts? Availability and my limited budget were factors to consider before starting my collection.
One Saturday morning, I purchased a jar of marbles at an estate sale. Proud of my $3 investment, my marble collection was launched. By that afternoon I was showing my new collection to Mr. Sturdevant. To my surprise, Mr. Sturdevant excused himself to the rear of his house, emerging with a wooden cigar box. As the lid of the box opened, I stood in awe. The box was filled with the most beautiful marbles… marbles of far greater beauty than mine. His collection was unbelievable. He started his collection as a child and built it over his lifetime. That cigar box was filled with magic to me. Mr. Sturdevant sat and identified the marbles for me — Sulphides, German Swirls, Mibs, Agates, Slags, Bennington, Clay and China Marble, sharing specific memories tied to each one. Mr. Sturdevant offered me the opportunity to purchase his personal collection of marbles for only $60, which was an act of kindness. I now realize Mr. Sturdevant priced his collection far below their value and within my budget.
A book was included with the purchase of the collection: The Guide to Antique Marbles, by Clara Ingram. An incredible world of books about antiques had been revealed to me! I soon discovered other books about antiques and my lifelong journey had begun.
Thank you, Mr. Sturdevant, for revealing the world of antiques to this eleven-year-old boy in Northwest Arkansas. Luckily, I haven’t lost my marbles!