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HIGH LIFE: A WEEKLY FORUM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS : Cleaning Up, Cleaning His Room : Entrepreneur: Fullerton Union junior Ryan Humphreys has gone into business buying and selling antiques.

April 29, 1993|JENNIFER LEIGHT and DENISE daSILVA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ryan Humphreys had a problem: Like many high school students, he was constantly being told by his parents to clean up his room. So, six months ago, he decided to turn a simple room-tidying into a financial affair and opened an antiques business.

His business, Humphreys' Antiques, is a 100-square-foot booth in Fullerton Antiques and Consignments on Harbor Boulevard. Humphreys, a 17-year-old junior at Fullerton Union High School, devotes about 10 hours a week to the enterprise, which grosses an average of $1,000 a month.

At age 5, when most children are playing with dolls or sturdy plastic toys, Humphreys was already interested in antiques. His first collectible, a Santa Claus picture that he bought for $5, recently fetched $120.

"He just always had an interest in it," said his mother, Wendy Humphreys. "While his buddies were out goofing off, he used to go into antique stores and hang out."

"I'm on a constant hunt for rare and unusual antiques," Humphreys said. He finds his collectibles at estate sales, swap meets, garage sales and through word of mouth.

He also attends auctions to find unusual pieces for a friend who's an interior decorator, a sideline that brings in an extra $600 or so each month.

Humphreys doesn't specialize in any area of antique retailing, preferring to have a little bit of everything, from knives to candle holders to hand-carved armoires and sideboards, to draw the broadest range of customers.

His favorite category is what he calls " '50s funk" memorabilia: items that embody the spirit of that time. "It's a way for me to feel like I'm living in the '50s by collecting things from that era," he said.

He recently sold a pair of Indonesian masks that turned a quick $150 profit. Most profits, he said, go toward buying more products. He also pays rent on his space and gives 10% of his sales to the consignment store owners, who watch his booth when he's not there.

Humphreys' most prized possession, a 400-year-old queen-sized bed from Indonesia, is kept at home near a matching, wall-sized fire screen. The pieces are hand-carved teak, and Humphreys likes them too much to sell them, even though the bed was recently appraised at $7,000.

A treasure that is for sale is a mint-condition World War II flight suit. "It's Japanese, and it has rabbit fur lining, even in the pockets," he said. "It must weigh seven or eight pounds."

Antiques dealing is a learning process, especially for one so young. One painful lesson came after Humphreys learned that an 18th-Century dagger he had sold for $80 was worth about $400.

Humphreys says he'll continue dealing antiques at least until he graduates from college. This summer he plans to double his booth size and open booths in two more antique malls. In his parents' garage, he already has stock for his expansion.

Humphreys' bedroom may still be a mess, but his parents have to admit his clutter is more valuable than most.

Jennifer Leight and Denise daSilva are seniors at Fullerton Union High School, where they write for the Pleiades, the student newspaper.

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