Gerald Roper, the Fort Walton Beach resident and retired Okaloosa County school teacher, has been collecting nearly all of his life — starting with buttons and marbles when he was about 9-years-old. Today, the ultimate collector has an impressive collection of more than 2,500 Christmas ornaments, literally tons of glassware and rooms full of antique pottery.
Boasting a massive collection of collections, one could easily call Roper a modern day treasure hunter.
At the March 8 meeting of the Friends of the Destin Library, Roper shared his knowledge of antiques and collectibles by hosting a Mini Antique Road Show. Although Roper is knowledgeable in a wide variety of antiques, he specializes in glassware and pottery.
For his library debut, Roper stuck with a $5 theme, bringing only items that he's acquired throughout the years that have cost him $5 or less, but are worth far more.
Spread out on two tables were 20 or more glass vessels — everything from place settings and goblets to vases and jars. To the naked, untrained eye, each piece appeared as unassuming as the next, nothing more than a bowl fit for cereal or a stein used for ale.
Catching the attention of the guests was a small, singular wine glass without a match. As Roper spoke about the glass, he passed it around the room as a visual aid.
Surprisingly, it wasn't a wine glass at all — it was an antique peanut butter jar from the 1940s.
"I paid 29 cents for this," Roper said. "At a minimum, it's worth $65.”
During the ’40s, World War II called for many materials like plastic and aluminum to be rationed, so glass was a smarter alternative for many companies, Roper said.
Another interesting piece Roper brought to the show was a large, ornate, blue vase. According to Roper, the vase is one of his favorite pieces and it's also crafted by one of his favorite company's, the Fenton Art Glass Company.
"I paid $2 for it . . . it's worth at least $100," Roper said. "I almost had a heart attack when I found out what it was."
After some digging, Roper discovered the vase was literally one-of-a-kind.
"Fenton didn't put any kind of markings on their glassware until 1972," Roper said.
By tracing the hallmarks, Roper found out the vase was made specifically for a museum in Chicago.
After showing off his items, Roper invited curious guests to come forward with inquiries about their own items. Ruth Ann Soltis of Minnesota brought in antique inkwells that were passed down from her mother. Roper appraised each individual inkwell about $15 to $20.
Next Roper spoke about a small toy box containing brass soldiers.
"It's from 1985; the soldiers are all hand-painted and hand-cast," said Roper. Putting a $100 minimum on the toys, Roper said "an item doesn't have to be old to be valuable, and age doesn't always equate value."
For those who want to learn more about antiques and collectibles, Roper teaches a class on Thursdays at the Center for Lifelong Learning in Fort Walton Beach, for a schedule of classes visit cll.fwb.org. Roper also has a booth at the Blue Moon Antique Mall in Pensacola where he sells his collectibles and antiques.