My Hatatorium Empire

My friend Pam Lappin, who writes the blog Madge’s Hat Box challenged me to blog with her in the November blogging challenge on Pam is endeavoring to post a new blog article every day during the month of November.  I told her I would try.  I have managed to post two blogs since signing up, but missed a day yesterday.  I don’t have time to write a blog like the last two every day.  Blogs on legal or socio-political issues take time to research, so some of my  blogs for this challenge will be about less weighty subjects.

Today I want to talk to you about my other career, a hobby business I started as something I could continue to do when I retire.  I’ve been collecting all my life – antiques, art, political ephemera, and other “collectibles” all of my life. But my favorite collection was my vintage hat collection, which I started in college, after wearing hats since my childhood.

In increments over the past few years I’ve built a website photo gallery of hats – first so that I could look at my hat collection whenever I wanted without having to drag boxes out of the closet.  The photo albums also allowed me to study them and classify them into styles, using research from my growing collection of hat research books.  That led to writing an ebook, Hatatorium: An Essential Guide for Hat Collectors, now in its second edition. I’m considering a third edition next year.

Researching the ebook gave me a good excuse to buy more vintage hats on eBay and Etsy. I got a little crazy for a while because the recession had caused people to dump things on eBay and bargains could be had. When people unfamiliar with hats have to dispose of a relative’s vintage hats, most people don’t have a clue what they are worth.  For that reason, armed with the knowledge I had obtained doing research for the book, I was able to find a lot of valuable vintage hats – often for bargain basement prices – on eBay. There was a certain thrill to it, watching an item and waiting until the last minute to bid.  It was a lot like gambling, and probably has the same adrenaline rush that causes gambling addiction. Occasionally I would encounter other knowledgeable collectors bidding against me and pay more than I wanted to for an item. But because I am inherently cheap, I never went crazy spending money on any of them, I just purchased way too many.

After the 2nd edition came out I knew I had to start selling the excess hats, because I didn’t have room to store them.  Boxes of hats fill every closet and portions of my guest room.  Being a bit of a computer geek, I decided to tap into another of my hobbies – website building – and build my own ecommerce site – Hatatorium Emporium.

Actually, that’s how Pamela Lappin comes into the story.  Not only did she persuade me to blog with her during the month of November, but a couple of years ago she encouraged me to build my ecommerce site, Hatatorium Emporium. It was a lot of work, but I’m glad she did.

This is a great way to get rid of excess collectibles, and remunerative, but it is time consuming.  On the other hand, at some point in the next few years I will have to downsize, and I would rather get rid of my collectibles for their fair market value instead of yard sale values when I have to dump them before a move.  I recommend that any other collector facing the same eventual downsizing issue do the same – to get full value you need to plan ahead and start selling your collection in a way that brings in fair prices.  That takes time.  To get the full value, you often have to list times for quite a while before the right buyer comes along.

The Hatatorium Emporium e-commerce site hasn’t made me a tycoon yet, but things are selling.  The amazing thing is I invested almost no seed money to build it.  I got to use my website building skills to create it, which exercises a part of my brain that needed exercise after all of the frustrating and stressful litigation work I do defending citizens against government overreaching.

Best of all I made a lot of friends in the process.  As another byproduct of in this process, in 2011, I started a Facebook group called the Mad Hatters Society, for fellow hat collectors and hat lovers.  I thought this would be a great way to develop an audience and also to find others with knowledge on the subject.  Now we have 2,100 members from all over the world, and are growing rapidly. I made a lot of great friends through this group – and I’ve even met a lot of them in person.

If you love hats – vintage hats or new hats – you are invited to join the Mad Hatters Society on Facebook.  And please check out, Hatatorium Emporium, and my friend Pam’s blog, Madge’s Hat Box.