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RALEIGH, N.C. – Next time you’re out driving and pass an antique store, stop in and explore the items that are for sale. Aside from just being fun, you never know what you’ll find. That’s exactly how Coastal FCU Board member Bill Smith got started in what’s turned out to be a more than 30-year love affair with antique collecting. Smith doesn’t remember the fine details of exactly how he got started collecting antiques. “I had no formal training, it was something I just started doing,” is the way he describes it. What he knows though, is that his interest in antiquing quickly landed him with more items than he could use or have room for – he sometimes buys entire estates. Soon besides buying antiques, Smith found himself selling them as well. He currently participates in 12-20 antique shows a year throughout the country. He also ran an antique store for about 10 years in Fuquay-Varina, N.C., a small town south of Raleigh. A native of Bedford County, Pa., Smith has been a member of $1.1 billion-Coastal FCU’s board since 1971. He became a board member almost as accidently as he became an antiques collector. Employed at IBM in the company’s corporate internal audit department, Smith was moved around the various IBM locations around the country, such as Miami, Fla., Washington, D.C., Charlotte, N.C., Lexington, Kentucky, and then to Raleigh. It was there that he joined the credit union which at the time was called IBM Raleigh Employees FCU. When Smith found himself at odds with a policy of the credit union, he decided the best way to try to change the CU’s policies was to run for a board seat. That was more than 30 years ago, and Smith has been on Coastal FCU’s Board ever since. But he’s retired from IBM, and that’s given him time to pursue his hobby and become an avid antiques collector. Smith mostly deals in America country antiques, and he considers among his favorite items a set of walnut corner cabinets and a 1790 grandfather’s clock. Smith may not have been an expert at antiquing when he first got involved with his hobby, but by now he’s developed an eye for what to look for. “Whenever you buy pieces, the conditions are obviously going to vary. Some are in good enough shape that you can put them directly into your home, while others need varying degrees of work. You have to be able to see the workmanship,” Smith explains. For example, an authentic piece of wood furniture that has drawers, such as a dresser, will show some signs of shrinkage. That’s natural, Smith says, and it’s why drawers may never line up correctly. “It’s important to know how to read the wood, you have to know the saw mark,” Smith explains. What does he mean by `saw mark’? A straight saw leaves marks going on an angle, while a circular saw uses a circular motion. It’s that simple, well not really. “Being able to recognize authentic antiques and appreciate workmanship are skills that takes time to acquire,” says Smith. Finding a good deal these days is more difficult than it used to be, says Smith, because “people today are more aware of the value of the antiques they’re selling than they used to be.” But that doesn’t mean Smith hasn’t had his share of “finds.” Among his purchases that Smith considers his best is a candle stand he bought a few years ago for $45. When he got it home, he researched the piece, and it turned out to be a New Hampshire candle stand with an estimated value of $2,400. Smith admits that he doesn’t always hit the jackpot when he buys antiques. “Sometimes I buy something and it turns out not to be what I thought it was,” he says, adding that “If I don’t feel comfortable with a piece I’ve bought, I take it to an auction to sell.” Collecting antiques hasn’t just left Smith with interesting pieces of furniture, the hobby has also allowed him to collect interesting memories. One of his funniest, he recalls, is when he purchased a cupboard from an antique story in Pennsylvania. The cupboard had high legs, which Smith didn’t particularly care for. More important, Smith had to find a way to fit the cupboard into his car, so he and the store owner sawed off the legs. “The other people in the store got so upset with what we were doing and kept telling me I was ruining the antique,” says Smith. Today, the item sits in Smith’s home as a hanging cupboard, and that’s the way he likes it. Antiquing also given Smith the opportunity to travel and meet some celebrities who he runs into at antique auctions. Among the notables he’s met are singers Faith Hill and Barbara Mandrell and performer Jimmy Dean. “The antiques business is mostly experience. You can talk about it, but nothing beats having hands-on experience,” says Smith. -

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