“SOMEONE once sold an old KTM clock for RM7,000 at the previous Collectors Market here (in Publika),” begins Romaizie Mustapha, his eyes dancing in recollection.
My jaw drops as I visualise the number of zeros offered for a piece of junk. Who in their right mind would want all these trash? I ask curiously. “Many! There are a lot of collectors in this country who’d pay a good price for things that some of us assume to be useless,” he replies, chuckling.
Holding strong to the adage, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, Romaizie himself is an avid collector and seller of antiques. His passion for all things retro, quirky and old was what drove him to establish the Collectors Market since August 2016.
This year marks the fifth time that it’s being held in Publika, KL. The Market gathers more than 80 out-of-state “pickers” (people who hunt for antiques to be sold for a living) from as far afield as Penang and Johor. And with them, they bring an interesting and diverse collection of much-loved items.
Despite all the noise coming from the coffee machine whirring in the background and the sound of a baby wailing in one corner, Romaizie remains unperturbed and continues to describe with much enthusiasm the fascinating antiques he has seen at the market. “I once saw an original P. Ramlee hand-painted poster. It was such a beautiful piece of art. For a collector, that would’ve been a steal! And you’ll never guess how much it was going for. RM25,000!” he exclaims, gleefully.
And once again, my eyebrows shoot up in surprise. That said, not everything sold at the market is worth the price tag it holds. So, Romaizie advises that customers should purchase items wisely, unless they have plenty of spare cash to spare.
Having worked in the advertising industry for about five years as a graphics designer, this 32-year-old knows the true value of branding. It was in 2011 that he decided to leave the stability of his job and open his own antiques shop in Publika, thus stamping himself as a frontrunner in the industry. Prior to his leap of faith, Romaizie was already actively selling his collections at the flea market in Jaya One in Petaling Jaya.
“It’s common to sell your antiques at flea markets in the city or pasar karat (traditional flea markets) in villages but no one has actually tried to set up a proper shop in a shopping mall in the city,” he shares, before adding that he knew that having a proper shop would benefit him more than just having a fleeting space at a flea market.
“Most of these flea markets don’t really draw much of a crowd, or they don’t draw the right crowd because they aren’t really designated to sell antiques,” says Romaizie. So, when Publika approached him with a permanent space, he jumped at the chance.
His interest in collecting antiques began when he saw how old items transform spaces and made for beautiful decor. “It was the pictures in several interior décor blogs that drew me in and I started hunting for these items. I guess it’s my artistic eye that hooked me in,” he confides with a smile. But after a few years, the items started to take up too much space in his small apartment so he decided to start selling them off.
He was surprised at how much profit he could fetch for something that he had kept for more than three years. That spurred him to source for more items, which he could sell. Not long after, he began to build a growing stream of loyal customers.
This affable man confides that he’s a true kampung boy at heart despite having made his home in the city for more than a decade. Hailing from Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan, Romaizie admits that being a kampung boy is one of the factors that has helped him in his hunt for antiques.
“It’s not easy to connect with pickers from villages, but once you’ve earned their trust, you’ll be able to unearth many treasures buried in their shops,” he shares, before adding that it’s their stories of how they found the items that intrigue him the most.
“You really should meet them and hear what they’ve got to say. My markets have become a living museum of sorts because these pickers have so much of history to share,” enthuses Romaizie.
He also acknowledges that it’s these people who inspire him to continue building a platform that would benefit them too. “I want to help these pickers who do this for their livelihood. They don’t earn much from selling their items in the villages and they don’t get much exposure in the city,” he reveals.
As demand for antiques and vintage collectibles started growing in recent years, the crowds who make their way to his market have also grown in number. “We first started with only 40 booths; now we’ve expanded to 80!” shares Romaizie, adding: “And I’m still getting applications for booth space.”
His eyes light up when he tells me that he hopes to be able to host a Collectors Market convention that’ll have more than 800 booths one day. However, Romaizie’s swift to point out that he’s very stringent with applications. “I curate applicants strictly because I don’t want the market to turn into one of those common flea markets that have art and craft stalls all jumbled in. This is purely a cultural antique, vintage and collectibles market and only history will be shared.”
OF HISTORY AND NOSTALGIA
Mulling aloud, I tell Romaizie that it fascinates me that a millennial can become attracted to items so old. I’d always assumed that the younger generation would have no passion for such things. “Actually, you’re wrong,” he swiftly corrects me. “Believe it or not, it’s actually the younger generation that’s driving this industry. Their intrigue for history and cultures of bygone days is what’s giving these items value. It’s also a hipster movement too, where they seek authenticity and difference from these rare and one-of-a-kind items.”
How did people react to your hobby when you first started, I ask. “My late father laughed at me when I told him about it. Many of the older generations called me crazy because a lot of this stuff can be found easily in the villages and they don’t see the value in them,” recalls Romaizie.
But once he took his father on one of his hunting trips, the latter began to understand. More so when he educated his father on how much profit he could make from these so-called “trash”.
However, Romaizie is quick to add that not everything he owns is for sale. “My dad was always fond of old trunks. Those which he bought together with me on our hunts, I still keep them because of the sentimental value.”
In addition to the trunks, Romaizie admits that there’s one other item that he found and bought in Melaka years ago which he still holds dear. It’s a fibreglass lion’s head that’s commonly found at old fun fairs. “It’s a game of sorts and I bought it off a picker for a reasonable amount. I’ve been offered a good price for it three times now, but I’m just not willing to let it go. I have no idea why.”
Our chat is interrupted by the beeping of his phone. It seems that Romaizie has another appointment. Sheepishly, he apologises for having to end our meeting. As he prepares to take his leave, Romaizie shares with me just what it is that drives him to continue hosting these markets. “There are precious stories and nostalgia behind every item. I feel that giving them the light of day would help somewhat towards preserving our heritage and culture. At the same time, it will encourage the younger generation to be curious and ask questions. This is a good way to recycle our collective memories and preserve what our ancestors once held dear.”
FUYOH COLLECTORS MARKET
WHEN Sept 22-23
WHERE Publika Shopping Gallery, 1, Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas, KL