NIA logo   The 2006 National Insulator Convention
July 7-9, 2006
Austin, Texas
by Dwayne AnthonyView Icon Profile

(This report of the 2006 Austin National was written with those in mind that may have never had the pleasure of attending a national level insulator show. I want you all to feel at least one collector�s experience of what these shows are really all about. Many thanks once again to our excellent show hosts Bob & Carolyn Berry, Jim Bates and Jack Roach for making this all possible.)

View photos of the showBe sure to check out the great photos of the show too!

Preparations for the Big Show included several offers from local collectors to transport sales stock for me, since their choice of transportation was by land and mine by air. Don & Elaine Bayes dropped by to pick up two plastic container boxes, one containing about 30 insulators for my sales table, the other containing the NIA Altered Exhibit. Fast forwarding for a moment to the end of the show: Denny Hackthorne offered to transport my box of unsold items back to California, even delivering them to my home before my return! Butch and Eloise Haltman gladly accepted the chore of returning the NIA Altered Exhibit container. I mention all this initially to better demonstrate the family connection that can develop between collectors and how attending a National Show is often compared to a family reunion. The preceding only exemplifies the motto, with very few exceptions, that insulator collecting is really about good friends helping and caring about each other. (These close friendships were especially apparent to me this year after the outpouring of concern when I suffered and overcame a rather severe ailment in May.) On behalf of the NIA I must take this moment to thank the Bayes and Haltmans for shuffling the Altered Exhibit back and forth to the National, which saved the NIA nearly $100 in shipping costs.

At my flight connection in Phoenix I ran into two true pioneers of the hobby, Jim Cunningham and Chuck Irwin, who coincidental were on the same connecting flight. We secured three seats on the plane together and swapped insulator stories all the way to Austin. The good times with good friends had already begun! After a long wait for my Alamo rental car, we were off for the hotel.

There�s a certain indescribable sensation that one experiences when first arriving at a National hotel site. The excitement of the days to come, plus the almost constant initial encounters with friends in the hotel lobby that you haven�t seen for months, sometimes years, is almost overwhelming. After hooking up with my roommate, John McDougald (we missed you Carol), and dumping my luggage in the room, it was off to the show hall to meet up with more friends. Since it was Thursday evening, dealers and exhibitors were busy moving their goods and displays into the hall for the Friday morning setup period. After joining a group for dinner at one of the best BBQs in town, we arrived back at the hotel to find collectors enjoying themselves in a festive atmosphere on the second floor courtyard above the pool, as well as in the hotel lounge and the show host�s hospitality room. The hospitality room was impressively well stocked with complimentary beverages and snacks provided by the show hosts. By 11 p.m. the crowds thinned considerably as collectors retired to their rooms in anticipation for the big day: Friday�s 6:30 a.m. dealer setup and 9:00 a.m. NIA Membership grand opening of the show.

Apparently the Friday morning setup time of 6:30 a.m. didn�t come soon enough for some dealers, as many entered the showroom at the opening and immediately began setting up. Others trickled in later, with some not setting up until after the opening of the show to NIA members at 9:00 a.m. I always like to do my shopping before getting tied down to my sales table, so I was one of the dealers late to set up. I found an unusual CD 164 H.G. Co just chocked full of milk swirls on Doug William�s table that I just had to have for my milk collection. The only other insulator I purchased for my collection was a CD 145 GTP beehive with graphite bubbles. This piece was put back for purchase as I awaited a second insulator to be unpacked that was especially brought for me in mind. When I later returned to settle up with payment on the GTP it had mistakenly been sold to another collector. That collector graciously accepted the explanation of the error and sold the piece back to me. As I later thought deeper into the situation, I felt the insulator was as much his as it was mine, so we mutually agreed to flip a coin for final ownership. This was the first National that I can recall where I was unsuccessful in finding a good color insulator for my specialty early threaded color collection. Am I disappointed? Heck no! As I suggested in my opening paragraph above, there�s more to a National Show than insulators.

Several rare insulators changed hands on Friday, some of which never hit the sales tables due to prearranged deals. I saw a quick glimpse of a CD 127 cobalt WUP change hands, as well as a vnm-mint cobalt CD 140.5 �California Blob� and a sapphire blue CD 132.2 Paisley. Other rare items that sold include: cobalt CD 130.1 Cal Elec Works; tall emerald green EC&M; tall bubbly olive EC&M; aqua CD 168.5 �Blob�; blue CD 134 Diamond P; light purple CD 104 NN Pennycuick; two wood-covered Wades; and a deep green CD 133.4 base embossed bullet. I�m certain there are many others that can be added to the list that I was unaware of. A �one-of-three-known� CD 138.2 Lawrence Gray was also available, but had not yet sold late in the show. The selection of moderate to low priced glass and porcelain was exceptional. I�d go out on a limb and estimate that several thousand insulators in the affordable category exchanged ownership, including a large grouping of free insulators that appeared to be refreshed hourly! Personal sales were at the average for a National Show and other dealers reported average to exceptional sales.

The displays were awesome! It would take multiple pages to describe each one in full detail. This is truly the big bonus for attending any National. I actually delay viewing the exhibits until Saturday or Sunday so I have something to treat myself to when the activity on the floor winds down. Not to purposely leave all others out, I must single out one display as my favorite. This particular display wasn�t especially a favorite over others due to presentation, content or rarity (although all three did apply). It just so happens that most of the contents of this display had been previously stolen from the exhibitors� home and later recovered. If you have been in touch with the hobby at all over the last two years you will already know that the owners of this exhibit were Ron & Peggy Yuhas. They deserve special recognition for going to hell and back, then making the final decision that this hobby was worth sticking to. It was beyond words to see all the stolen rarities back where they belonged and once again on exhibit at a National!

The NIA general membership meeting was held shortly after the close of the show. Announcements included our new NIA President, Kevin Jacobson, and the location and dates of next year�s National in Orlando, Florida June 22-24. The 2007 National Show packets were handed out as we exited the meeting. I wanted to attend the �bat cruise� Friday evening, but neglected to make reservations early enough. I�ll have to let others report on that event. A group of �non batters� got together for dinner and a few of us later gathered for a card game. Again, �good friends and a good time!�

Saturday saw good attendance, plus a reporter and cameraman from a local TV station. This was the day for general public admittance and the hall was busy just about all day. One dealer held back setting up until mid day on Saturday, causing a sizable crowd to gather as a new selection of sales stock was methodically priced and set out one piece at a time. This continued for at least two hours, but several patient collectors eventually walked away with some exquisite gems for their collections. The NIA Banquet & Awards Dinner was held Saturday evening. As far as hotel banquet food goes, the Doubletree did an above average job. The exhibitor awards presentations followed, culminating with the NIA Lifetime Membership Award going to our good friends Bernie & Madeline Warren. Another card game followed, taking the evening well past the stroke of midnight by an hour or so. Yep, �good friends and a good time!�

Sunday provided many excellent deals for new shoppers, as well as for those that remained for the full duration of the show. Another local TV crew was seen filming. A few dealers packed up early, but some of those that remained saw sales right up to the last minute. As the exhibits were coming down and the sales tables cleared, those that were not staying an additional night gathered for their goodbyes. It�s at this point that the three-day adrenaline rush falls off and the fatigue from lack of proper sleep (late card games are to blame) begins to set in. But wait, I have one more special day to look forward to before heading for the airport Monday evening. The body kicks back in just enough to enjoy another social dinner event with good friends and intense conversation, then I retreat to my room to prepare for one more day of �good friends and a good time.�

Monday began with a light breakfast in the company of the Haltmans and John McDougald. The hotel lobby that so recently was packed with friends is now empty, with an occasional stranger passing through. We finished our breakfast and say our goodbyes until the next show. It�s now time for me to head south out of Austin to visit my good friend Jack Roach. This will be my first viewing of his complete collection and from seeing a small portion of it on display at shows in the past, I know I�m in for a treat. Once I left the interstate it was a nice drive down wide open country roads, over river crossings and through the quaint little town of Wimberley. As I approach Jack�s home he�s waiting out front with a smile to guide me in. We enter his home and with little time spent on anything else, we arrive at the matter at hand, talking insulators. His expansive collection is awe inspiring and I choose to begin viewing it systematically, a row at a time. Aside from the quantity and quality of his collection, I was most impressed by the number of times I commented on a piece and he responded with, �I picked that one.�

Jack recommends we take a break for lunch, so we head out to his favorite cafe where we enjoy an outdoor lunch under an old oak tree. We head back to his home past tame deer grazing in the front yards of his neighbors. 3:30 in the afternoon comes along well too soon and I must depart for the airport and eventually return to my real world. The only thing that beckons me home is my sorely missed wife and family. But wait� I immediately realize I also have this extended family of collectors that I must see again soon, so the cycle continues with plans for the next National. I sincerely hope you all can make plans to attend and experience at least one National Show during your collecting years, preferably the next one in Orlando in 2007.

Yeah, you got it, �good friends and a good time�, that�s what it�s all about!

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Last updated Friday, July 14, 2006