by Harold Ratzburg
As you probably know by now, for over 20 years my hobby has been attending estate sales, garage sales and flea markets looking for collectibles. Like the pickers in the TV show, "American Pickers", I will buy anything I think I can make a buck on, and I pass those things along to other collectors by selling them on Ebay or at the Military Vehicle Rally's the little Frau and I like to go to.
Over the years, I have come across some interesting---and profitable---items, so let me tell you the stories of some of my most interesting finds.
Dr. Young's Ideal---Rectal Dilators----Yes, I did say "Rectal Dilators". I was poking through the contents of an estate sale in Montclair, NJ, and there on a table was a neat box which showed these unusual plugs, four of them in four different sizes. Reading the descriptions in the box cover showed that these things could work wondrous cures to the human body.
On the top of the list it showed that the dilators were for the Intelligent treatment of Piles, Constipation and Nervousness. (It made me kind of nervous just looking at the dilators, but when you think about it, they were in four sizes so you could take your pick.)
In a little smaller print below, the list continued to claim cures for head ache, constipation, insomnia, indigestion, and diseases caused by blood blocking circulation, malnutrition and defective elimination and the abuse of cathartic drugs. Also shown was a detailed set of written instructions for use. Women were advised that the plugs were "wonderfully beneficial during pregnancy and before and after periods."
In a separate booklet included in the box was a small booklet which warns, "The Man or Woman who is afflicted with CONSTIPATION, PILES, or any intestinal, Rectal or Nervous Ill and puts this book aside unread, makes a serious and regrettable mistake for it contains much of interest and value. THIS BOOK TELLS HOW piles, constipation and various rectal and internal diseases, together with their associated chronic ills,can be safely and surely overcome by yourself in your own home without pain or discomfort, and at a trifling cost and giving lasting relief." Now----how about THAT?
So I went for it and purchased it for $10.00
Pretty obviously, the equipment was dreamed up years ago by a "quack" Doctor. In those days, there were plenty of Quack Doctors selling "Snake Oil" and other wonderful cures at carnivals and anywhere else that they could raise a crowd to listen to them.
So guess what! I put the box and contents on Ebay and it sold the first time around for $132----to a Doctor out in the Midwest. There is a collecting field out there where people are looking for the old quack cures, and I would suppose that a lot of them are doctors with an interest in the history of medicine.
Only once have I seen another set like the one that I had, and it was in a museum, where they showed a collection of the old quack cures.
In a way, I am now kind of sorry that I sold the things because they do make one heck of a conversation piece on your coffee table when friends come to visit.
Tooth extractors-----On another Friday I went to another estate sale in Verona, NJ. (It's funny how an old geezer like me forgets so many things, like--why do I have this hammer in my hand?---- but I still remember such details as where I found some goodies.) Taking my trusty flashlight in my hand, I prowled through the house and got to the basement. It was a typical basement, pretty full of boxes, the furnace and work bench, and tools etc, and on a ledge above the foundation blocks, I saw three tooth extractors, just laying there for me to find them. I picked them up and with my other picks, I went to the checkout lady by the front door and offered her $1.00 apiece. She accepted.
I recognised from history books I had read and some museums that I visited, that these little things were pretty old and vintage, but I didn't know just how old and rare they were.
Then of course, comes the work----and fun----of researching what I found.
A little hook at the end of the tool is on a swivel, and to use the thing, a dentist would hook the little hook on one side of the tooth and by twisting the handle the tool would lock against the other side of the tooth, and by twisting and pulling, the dentist could work the tooth loose and pull it out, Now, doesn't that sound like a lot of fun for the patient??
Looking through some reference books about the military equipment used back in the Revolutionary War and the Civil war, I found photos of tooth extractors which looked very much like the ones I had found. That meant that the three extractors that I had found could date back 200 years or more, to the 18th century. There were no manufacturers marks or dates on the ones that I had found.
Over a period of time, I put the extractors into the Ebay auction, one at a time, and each of them sold for well over $300 to three different dentists around the country for a cool profit of about $1000 on my $3.00 investment.
So Folks, that gives me what I call "Bragging rights" about my crazy hobby that causes most people to just shake their heads when I tell them about it. NObody understands me, but what the heck. It keeps me from hanging around in a bar somewhere.
Copyright 2013 Harold Ratzburg
Harold Ratzburg was born at the start of the Great Depression and raised on a Dairy Farm in Wisconsin. He served four years in the US Air Force in the 50's and was stationed in Germany, where he met his wife Anneliese, who helped get him through College to become a Civil Engineer. After a time as a Highway Engineer and College Instructor, he wound up as a City Engineer of a small town in New Jersey. Twenty four years later he retired to become an old geezer telling old stories on his new fangled computer.