Hang Ten – Buying into Tiki Culture
Ten Bucks / Twenty Bucks / Don’t Break the Bank!
By Darin Mecher
Whenever I show a friend my Tiki Room, the conversation always leans toward some version of “how did you afford all this stuff?” Now, I don’t show the Tiki Room off to impress anyone with my stuff, I show it off to show them what Tiki is all about to me. I usually laugh and tell them that it is actually a very affordable hobby and that it is a great lifestyle in that you can go in as cheap, or as expensive as you like. Tiki culture is really a self made culture. Everyone has their own take and what they really love about the culture, so you can have one friend who searches for dollar Tiki stuff at the Dollar Tree store and you can have another who just has to have that eBay Tiki that is currently being bid on for around $500. It isn’t about envy, it is about creating an oasis of your own that you love for a price you want to pay. My own personal Tiki Room probably has generated a price tag, cumulative, of maybe $1000 tops, but that includes mugs, vinyl, a phonograph, a 1940s chair, bar sets, pictures, art, posters, vintage items of interest and a fully stocked liquor cabinet. There’s a 1956 television that cost me nothing – price tag free. There’s a second chair that cost me nothing – price tag free. But let’s get off the price tags and the cost – there are so many ways to acquire and inspire, that you can either do it for a dime or do it for a Benjamin – the choice is entirely up to you. Consider Tiki Rooms the Rat Rod of Tiki Culture – everyone’s is unique and special and shows the personality of the builder.
So, from my perspective – here are some basics – things you can do and places you can go to get some Tiki stuff – mugs, totems, what have you. This is my no means a complete extensive list. You might have ideas that I haven’t thought of. This is just to get the shrunken head rollin’.
1.) The Flea Market – yes, I know, you have to search to get the Treasure, but why not? If you find some great vendors, you can avoid the rest of the market and focus on the tried and true sellers that you come to know and adore. I have two special friends at my local flea market and this is how I get Martin Denny albums for a dollar and Hawaiian souvenir tikis for 50 cents to add to my collection. One old woman, a true carny by nature and temperament discovered what I was looking for and lo and behold, more stuff shows up. You look for it. They look for it and they sell it to you. A simple formula. Flea Markets do take patience and you won’t always score, but when you do, it will be something great from the past and won’t cost a thing!
2.) Thrift Stores – I learned to love thrift stores through all my incarnations. They served me when I dressed punk. They served me when I went rockabilly. They have Hawaiian shirts for 5 bucks. The real deal, not something that looks like a shirt from the 50s or 60s. I have found Tiki mugs, totems, Hawaiian shirts, vintage swim trunks, you name it. And the price is generally in the 5 to 10 dollar range. If you find a thrift store where things cost 50 bucks, look elsewhere. You are being swindled.
3.) Garage Sales – a real test of patience, but you never know. Usually a drive by will let you know if someone has vintage stuff or not. If you see vintage – get out and take a look. I’ve found cool Tiki coasters and other strange items from the past. And once again – you are looking at a dollar or two.
4.) The Internet – there are literal tons of Tiki items on the Internet. Some genuine and some, not so genuine. It just depends on what you enjoy. You can find real deal tiki mugs from the past. You can find artwork. You can find totems. You can find trinkets. It is all there. Buyer beware, but buyer sometimes scores BIG! Just a plug here – Fred company has a great array of Tiki ice trays. Nothing impresses people like full Moai ice cubes. Trust me!
5.) Dollar Stores – now, I know some of you purists would scoff at such a thing, but I have actually gotten more people interested in the Tiki lifestyle through plates, plastic mugs, party favors and ice trays than through my most intricate costly Tiki decoration. People love cheap do dads that are fun. Sub category here are Party Stores that have great Tiki selections during the Spring and Summer months. Also, in our area a store called Big Lots always has funky modern Tiki decorations – sometimes they are horrid, but sometimes they are fantastic and really add a campy touch to a Tiki Room or Bar. I have a friend who bought an entire Tiki Bar off the internet and then asked me to decorate it. I only used store bought stuff like this and probably spent somewhere in the range of $50.
6.) True Tiki Vendors – if you want it right and you want to have some special artifacts – go right to the source. Look up Tiki on the net and you will find many sights devoted to the culture and lifestyle. Some of the items may be pricey, but everyone needs to splurge and reward themselves once in a while. Remember, all work and no play makes this beach bum a dull boy!
7.) And Finally . . . . Tiki festivals / outlets / surf shops / lounges – I don’t have any of these in my area, but I can tell you – several of the booths at Viva Las Vegas have great stuff and for a good price. I can only imagine if you are lucky enough to go to something like Tiki Oasis, what you could find! 😉 My wife and I are going to go someday soon and we are definitely going to need an extra suitcase for our newly acquired Tikis!
So there are 7 ideas to begin with. Happy Treasure Hunting!