July 24, 2011 in City

Doug Clark: Silver’s collection suits refined tastes

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Mitch Silver stands outside his north Spokane collectibles showroom Friday.
(Full-size photo)

It all started with an email from a highly reliable source.

An old single-engine plane, my buddy wrote, was parked (landed?) at Mitch Silver’s lot on Monroe and Shannon.

Did I think it was worth checking out?

Heck, yeah.

I’ll leap at any chance to spend time muddling around the mammoth Silver Auctions compound.

Inside the 20,000-plus square feet you’ll find:

Gleaming collector cars, vintage toys and comic books, cool neon advertising signs, antique jukeboxes and pinball games …

In one eye-catching alcove, Silver has re-created an automotive garage, circa 1920s to 1930s. It’s filled with everything you’d expect to find in such a place, right down to a Model T Ford and unopened packs of old Camel cigarettes.

Another vestibule is devoted to antique fishing motors and gear.

Honestly, the guy should charge admission.

I drive a 1967 Vista Cruiser. I have an abiding fondness for velvet Elvis paintings. Silver Auctions is a Magic Kingdom for pop culture crackpots like me.

Plus, Silver always seems to be cooking up something weird and wonderful at his museum-worthy headquarters.

And so I ventured to Silver Auctions Friday anticipating a payoff.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I found the owner readying his joint for one of the coolest blowouts ever.

He was hosting a Saturday night party for 200 of his Shadle High School Class of ’71 classmates (spouses included).

And when Silver does anything, he does it flashier than the fins on the all-original pink ’59 Caddy parked in one of his hallways.

“Not every day is perfect in this business,” said Silver, 58. “But for the most part, it’s an absolute joy to be able to play with this stuff and to hang out with the people I meet.”

Before we get back to the revelry, first things first.

Now, I’ve seen plenty of oddball items at Silver’s over the years. But what the heck was an airplane doing parked in his lot next to an Army Jeep and a 40-year-old ambulance?

Silver grinned a sheepish grin.

“It was hanging from the ceiling of a museum,” he told me. “So I bought it.”

The plane was shipped to Spokane last week. As with just about every other item here, the 1946 Taylorcraft can be had for the right amount.

That price, by the way, seems to be descending faster than the space program.

Although he had $11,500 into it, Silver said he would let the airplane go for some $6,000.

“I don’t want my plane anymore,” he said, beginning to laugh.

I can relate. I once paid several thousand bucks for this 1956 Buick that sat moored on the side of a country road.

What a disaster.

I drove it to a shop to find out why my new/old barge kept pulling to the right.

“Kingpins’r shot,” drawled the greasy mechanic.

To which I replied, “Uh, what’s a kingpin?”

The point is that this airplane was probably one of those ideas that seemed really great at the time.

That said, the plane is not without merit.

When classmates ask for directions, Silver tells them to simply drive on Monroe and stop at the “first airplane closest to downtown.”

Which brings me back to the party.

The reunion bash is history now, of course. Such is the miracle of newsprint.

But I’m confident the affair was memorable.

It was obvious on Friday that Silver was pulling out all the stops for his shindig.

Red carpet had been rolled out for his guests. A top chef was coming to make fresh canapés.

A live band had been booked to play hits from his high school era.

(I sure hope Badfinger was represented in the set list.)

A special area for tacos and margaritas was being theatrically staged with a 1956 Dodge Sierra station wagon and a genuine velvet Elvis painting from Mexico.

What a coincidence.

Just the day before, I found this rockin’ velvet Elvis for sale in a collectibles shop.

I was ready to pull the trigger until my lovely wife, Sherry, pointed out the obvious.

“You already have a velvet Elvis,” she said. “What are we going to do with two of them?”

I hate logic.

With no sound reason to buy, I left Elvis hanging.

But while Elvis was once the King of Rock, Silver is arguably Spokane’s Collector King.

So I asked Silver for his take on the Mexican Presley market.

The man’s eyes practically lit up.

“They’re one of the rarest things there is,” he said.

Then he told me about how difficult it was to find one to give to a friend as a 25th wedding anniversary present.

I said my goodbyes a bit later.

And headed straight to you know where.

“Honey,” I yelled when I finally got home. “Look at the investment I just bought for our future.”

Doug Clarkcan be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.


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