|by Eric Rodenberg
John Stinger, the author of Collecting Classics, featured each week in AntiqueWeek has served his time in the front trenches of the antique world as: collector, dealer, antique shop owner, show promoter – and even – auctioneer. That is, he was done with that idea after five auctions.
“The lesson I learned was simple: Auction professionals make it look so easy … Auctioneering was much more work intensive compared to our cushy corporate jobs.”
“With my thick New Jersey accent, trying to sound like a southern Kentucky colonel was just plain silly,” Stinger noted in his book, The Lighter Side of Collecting.
The work Stinger does in the book, published by Tanner Publishing in 2016, as well as Collecting Classics could hardly be accomplished by someone not intimate with the trials and foibles of collecting.
“My pen can’t resist the fun of cartooning auctioneers, appraisers and novices in action because I’ve shared so many of their experiences first hand,” he says. “But the same can be said about chasing treasures wherever they are: estate sales, antique shops, shows, auctions, flea markets, vintage, thrift and pawn shops, barn, yard and garage sales, dusty attics, musty cellars, and of 24/7 Internet cyber-space searching.”
Stinger, who worked 30 years for several large American corporations as an advertising executive with a New York-based ad agency, sold his first collector cartoon in 1973 to a national antique trade publication. It depicted a plain plank-bottom chair talking to a heavily carved Victorian rosewood parlor chair and shouting, “Show off!”
“There’s no need to analyze why something is humorous,” Stinger says. “It’s either funny, or it isn’t.
But a cute little puppy playfully tearing to shreds a newly acquired rare Steiff teddy bear while an unsuspecting, preoccupied owner is on the phone, is begging to be cartooned.”
Stinger, a serious Bucks County and Delaware River artist, coupled with his knowledge of antiques, while gently spiced by his almost avuncular sense of humor makes for the perfect recipe of an antique niche-related cartoonist.
“I have always kept it clean,” he says. “I have never done anything off-color … I guess you could say I don’t go for the cheap laughs.”
Stinger says he has been an artist all his life. As a teenager, he won an international poster contest and was presented the first prize award by pioneer television entertainer Steve Allen. By his late teens, he was selling illustrations and cartoons to national sports and consumer magazines.
His painting ability was first noticed by a high school art teacher who landed him a full art scholarship. He studied painting and commercial art at the School of Industrial Arts under Ben Elliott, John Slovak and Elizabeth Ruggles.
At the age of 21, he conducted his first private exhibition in the Trenton, New Jersey Roebling Mansion. The event was hosted by Mary G. Roebling, (1905-1994), who was the first woman to head a major American bank, the Trenton Trust Co. She bought his first painting.
In the early 1970s, John and his wife Susanne moved to a stone farmhouse in Bucks County, Pa. It was here, living near New Hope, that Stinger came under the influence of the Pennsylvania Impressionists, inspiring the artist to develop his own unique style of contemporary Impressionistic painting that is still very evident in his paintings today.
It was in Bucks County that John and Susanne, began delving deeply into the antiquing community. It wasn’t long before they opened their first antique shop, The Golden Dome. Although, they both now claim they knew little about antiques, this didn’t deter them. Within a short period of time they conducted the First Annual Antiques Fair in Crosswicks, N.J.,; and later ran a series of antique shows from different sites in the Garden State.
Along the way, John and Susanne met a man who would change their lives. “His name was Cliff Holden and he was bigger than life. He died many years ago at 90 or 93, no one knew for sure how old he really was.”
Holden was a high-end collector from Central New Jersey. The first story of The Lighter Side of Collecting is about him. “He was a masterful marketer and was the first and only dealer who allowed me to be part of a world that few have an opportunity to enter,” Stinger says.
“So, I know the frustrations that collectors have trying to find stuff, trying to sell stuff, going to auctions, yard sales, flea markets, shops and shows. I’m out there too,” he says.
And right now, as he’s pushing 80 years old, Stinger knows that two things last forever: cartooning and collecting. And from that he sees no end.