Perry's antiquaries: A tiny Missouri town is an unlikely destination for vintage shoppers
Antique collectors from across the country come to Perry, Missouri, searching for everything from celebrity signatures to vintage Cornishware to Civil War memorabilia.
Despite its population of only about 600, the northeast Missouri town of Perry is home to six antique shops — and it used to be more.
Each shop is unique, housing different collectibles based on the owner’s interests.
However, each store also offers a wide variety of inventory as well; many of the owners have multiple storage units housing collectibles that don’t fit in their shops. That variety, the shop owners say, is part of what draws collectors from all over the country to check out the stores in Perry.
Perry, which borders Mark Twain Lake, became an antiquing destination around the time the lake opened in the 1980s, according to Moon City Antiques owner Charles “Bud” McDonald.
”Saturday is always the best day to come,” McDonald said. “We've got really good restaurants in the area. So come and make a day of it.”
Moon City Antiques
Anyone who enters Moon City Antiques will hear its record player. On a spring Saturday, the player whirled and the sounds of "Singing in the Rain" filtered through the shop.
The player is a 1964 GE Trimline 200 turntable. When it came out, it was the most portable way to listen to music, according to McDonald, the store's owner.
“If you were a teenager in 1964,” McDonald said, “this is what you wanted for Christmas.”
McDonald has been selling antiques since 2004, when he opened his shop on eBay. McDonald, who is from Pike County, has since opened his store’s physical location in Perry.
Within the store, McDonald has created booths to showcase some of his favorite collections. One booth features original 1930s photographs signed by Hollywood stars. Most of these photographs came from the estate of Kathleen Bush, who wrote to stars asking for signed photos when she was a teenager in the 1930s.
McDonald doesn’t just have one specialty. He says his store features “an eclectic mix.
"But you got to (have variety) when you're in retail in these kinds of stores. Otherwise you become a museum, and I'm not interested in being a museum.”
Prized pieces: McDonald’s favorite section is his superhero and comic book booth. The booth is an outgrowth of McDonald’s childhood love of comics, which he attributes to growing up during the Silver Age of comics, a period during the 1960s widely considered to be one of the greatest in comic book history.
For 88-year-old Shirley Levings, antiquing is a family business.
“The people," Levings said. "That's what keeps you going.”
She ran Arlington Antiques with her husband, while her father, who worked in antiques until he was 100, owned Miss Daisy’s across the street.
Now that both her husband and father have died, Levings has sold Miss Daisy’s to Ferry. She runs Arlington Antiques with the help of Zabette Elam.
Levings’ store is filled with all kinds of items, but what she features most is antique dishes and decorations.
Since opening the shop, Levings has expanded it multiple times, including nearly doubling its size by acquiring the building next to it. No expansions are likely in the near future, as Levings mentioned that she has been reducing her stock and intends to sell at some point.
Prized pieces: Levings’ favorite items are her dishes, specifically her flow blue china. Levings says she gained her knowledge of those items from reading and rereading reference books until she knew all the patterns.
Levings said she has a hard time picking a favorite from the collection. “Whatever I'm seeing and buying at that time," she said, "is what I like best.”
Miss Daisy's Antique Shop
Jeff Ferry, a native of the Perry area, has owned Miss Daisy's Antique Shop for the past eight years. For him, antique stores help tell the story of the community.
“Antiques are part of our history," he said, "and we've got to be involved and love and (be) interested in our history or we’re doomed to repeat some mistakes we made in the past.”
Ferry has been in the business since he was a child, when his father owned an antique store in Peoria, Illinois. When Ferry was in the military, he would set up shop outside of local pubs and buy collectibles off pub goers, then ship them home to be sold.
Ferry says in addition to the store, he sells a lot online, often through auctions. Additionally, Ferry was featured on American Pickers, a television show about resale of antiques and collectibles.
Asked about his top-selling items, Ferry mentioned currency, oil cans and toys.
“I do have a big collection of Case and Parker knives which people come from long ways around to purchase from me," Ferry added. "Little bit of everything, actually.”
Ferry touts many other items in his inventory, including antique marbles, Missouri Civil War bills and a Hungry Jack fishing lure he said is worth $4,500.
Prized piece: Ferry’s favorite item is a set of knives from 1983 that he said is worth about $3,000. They knives are in brand-new condition, Ferry said, and have never been sharpened or cleaned.
Lick Creek Antiques
Ben Akers has been in the antiquing business in Perry for a long time — 52 years in total, including the last 40 in his current location. Akers does not offer his merchandise online, but he estimates that he sells between 250 and 300 items per week in store.
Akers’ specialty is store stock, or items bought from another store’s inventory, usually after the store closes. That means the items are still in new condition.
Lick Creek has store stock from as far back as the 1870s and as recently as the 1960s. This includes items ranging from vintage clothes and linens to hardware to postcards.
Akers says outside of the store stock, Lick Creek is most known for its year-round supply of Christmas decorations.
Prized pieces: Akers’ favorites are the Civil War-era items that he sells. He has a variety of items from the time period, including books and newspapers.