Since opening his antique and military mall in 1998, Homer Helter built friendships around his antiques. There’s laughter in the air whenever customers walk into Homer Helters. Friends, military veterans, and war heroes share snacks and lively conversation around Helter’s “board room” surrounded by silent uniformed manikins, representing practically every branch of the armed forces from around the world.
What Helter also offers to antique collectors is a sense of honest knowledge about his historical items. His fifty vendors are from all over the United States and abroad. There’s collectibles of every era offered, along with answers to commonly asked questions such as what’s hot in collecting, and what’s not.
“We operate like there was a recession before there really was a recession. Everything is used here,” says Helter as he can found in his store on a daily basis with his wife, Diana, and family. His three managers are available nearby neatly organized antique displays to answer questions, too.
Rare curved glass and wood displays protect precious porcelain, silver, and one-of-a kind items. Whereas other Homer Helter displays, such as new and antique linens and quilts, offered up by Marsha Alleman, are a linen aficionado’s dream come true, and are out in the open to reach out and touch.
Once a customer decides to invest in starter antique collection, the question is, where does one begin? The answer is child’s play, according to Helter and his manager June Raftery. “Toys from the sixties through the eighties are highly collectible right now,” explains Raftery. “Any inexpensive toys, and any of the Disney toys, Flintstones characters, and trains. Lionel trains are the Cadillac of train collectibles, but all trains particularly are prized by collectors now,” she adds. Other hot items are silver and costume jewelry right now.
With the largest collection of military items and WWII collectibles in the State of Florida, Helter has plenty of collectors who seek out his expert advice and one-of-a kind pieces. One of his memorable sales was of a Civil War canon. “A collector acquired it, and it still remains in Collier County. It would actually fire.” Helter recalls of his military store transactions.
“My highest priced item ever sold was also from the military collection, and it was a General Ridgway collection of guns personalized with his name on each one. We sold four of his guns for $50,000 to a collector from Kentucky who came in to pick them up.”
With many antique and collector stores, prices are set on a tag from the start. But for Helter, there’s always room to move on prices for his customers. “Absolutely, I negotiate. I do every day. Sometimes you don’t win them all though,” he says with a smile.
Helter’s friendly atmosphere and his high quality selection of antiques is a winning combination for local antique bargain hunters. Those looking to sell antiques also can find a home at Homer Helter’s Antique and Military Mall, as display cases are available at a low monthly rate, too.
If you go:
Homer Helter’s Antique and Military Mall
5510 Shirley Street
Naples, FL 34109