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Oct. 12—Vintage kitchen gadgets, Pokemon cards and almost anything midcentury modern are some of the hot items flying out of area antiques and collectibles stores.

They are part of the wave of nostalgia-driven sales in the wake of COVID-19.

Since the pandemic hit, many shoppers are seeking items that evoke pleasant memories, the security of childhood and comfort of home, sisters Deb Dehart and Barb Blok said.

The women own Lancaster County Antiques Center, a cooperative shop at 2255 N. Reading Road in East Cocalico Township, Lancaster County.

During more than 40 years in the business, they have watched trends come and go.

“We’ve seen it all,” Dehart said.

The co-op was the first of its kind when founded by their late parents, Roger and Tina Faut, in 1976.

Lancaster County residents Dehart, 54, or Stephens and Blok, 53, of Clay Township practically grew up in the shop.

“We have ups and downs,” Dehart said, “like all businesses.”

They remember how trade dipped during the recessions of the early 1980s and 1990s, and after the 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2008 collapse of the housing bubble. So they expected to take a hard hit when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down their business and others in March 2020 and the economy tumbled.

Instead, they were surprised by an upswing in sales when the co-op reopened in June 2020.

And the trend hasn’t stopped.

“It’s unbelievable,” Blok said. “The numbers just keep getting better.”

Returning to collecting

It’s been the same for Max X. Hirneisen, owner of Symbiote Collectibles in West Reading.

The shop at 514 Penn Ave. specializes in new and old action figures, trading cards, comics and more.

“We’ve seen a huge boom since COVID,” said Hirneisen, 29, a lifelong collector, who has been in the business full time for close to a decade.

During the shutdown, he said, online sales kept the business afloat, and things have not slowed down since the bricks-and-mortar store reopened over two years ago.

“I feel like a lot more people got back into collecting,” he said, “and got a little bit more nostalgic as a result of COVID.”

The pandemic and resultant shrinking economy are causing a lot of uncertainty, the Shillington man said. That can make some long for the more carefree and playful days of childhood.

“Just to be able to go back to a space that you know,” he said, “to just remember what you really enjoyed, and go back to that, can be beneficial and kind of therapeutic for some.”

The demand for Pokemon cards, for example, has soared, Hirneisen said, partly because adults in their 20s and 30s remember the fun they had collecting and playing with the cards, available in the US since the 1990s.

“So many people played Pokemon when they were kids,” he said. “It’s become more socially acceptable to be a fan of Pokemon. Most collectors are like, ‘You know what? I do like this. This is fun. I’m going to enjoy it.'”

Collectible gaming cards, including Pokemon and Magic the Gathering, are so popular that they are winning over newcomers to the hobby.

New and vintage puzzles, model kits and board games also are in high demand, he said. These and other activity-focused items soared in popularity as families stuck inside during the pandemic shutdown sought ways of passing time.

Barbie, GI Joe, “Star Wars” and other dolls and action figures have their followers, too, Hirneisen said.

‘Good old days’

Many collectors seek things they remember from their childhood homes or look for items their grandparents might have used, Blok said. Vintage cookware, homey kitchen gadgets and small appliances from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s are especially good sellers, she said.

“In troubled times, people want to step back into what they think of as a nicer time or the good old days,” Blok said.

The sisters also credit an expanding environmental consciousness for the upswing in younger shoppers, who often upcycle or repurpose vintage items for new uses.

“Antiquing is the original green movement,” Dehart said, “because you don’t throw things away.”

Buying second-hand materials can result in saving money, too, an important consideration when many goods are soaring in price. Recycled and salvaged goods also can be a means of supplementing a supply chain slowed by COVID.

Sourcing inventory has not been a problem for the sisters, they said.

A new stream of goods began flowing onto the market as a result of COVID. While stuck at home or laid off, some passed the time by cleaning out attics, cellars and closets, and donating or selling the unwanted items.

But competition also is on the upswing, one vendor said, explaining some of those who were laid off discovered they could supplement their income by selling on consignment and at online auction sites.

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