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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Never too old for toys

Never too old for toys
NE art instructor Paul Greco stands behind a vintage Western Flyer bicycle that belonged to his mother when she was young. The bike is displayed in one of his three booths at the Antique Gallery in Denton where he has turned his love for antiques into a side business. Photos by Mario Montalvo/The Collegian
NE art instructor Paul Greco stands behind a vintage Western Flyer bicycle that belonged to his mother when she was young. The bike is displayed in one of his three booths at the Antique Gallery in Denton where he has turned his love for antiques into a side business.
Photos by Mario Montalvo/The Collegian

By Mario Montalvo/ne news editor

A NE art teacher is doing his part to preserve history in his spare time – one antiquity at a time.

Paul Greco is a picker. He collects and sells antiques that he finds at flea markets, estate sales and auctions. His appreciation for antiques and classic cinema came at a young age. He lived next door to his grandmother, who taught him to appreciate old cinema, he said. She exposed him to long-ago stars like Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd and The Marx Brothers.

Greco’s uncle was the collector in the family and sparked his interest in antiques. He had old accordions, war memorabilia, old flags, old coins, old furniture, ceramics and family heirlooms from Italy, he said.

Greco started collecting toys in the late 1970s when he was about 17 or 18. It started out as

Greco points at an old gaff hook from the 1930s covered with oysters and barnacles that he found while walking along the beach.
Photos by Mario Montalvo/The Collegian

a hobby. He would restore them and then began to sell them, he said.

“Kind of like teaching film, it started as a hobby,” he said. “Then I started teaching it. My art started as a hobby and turned into a business too.”

In high school, he restored old furniture and resold it for a profit. Some of the money he made helped pay for school, he said.

“I’d buy it at estate sales and garage sales, clean it up and then sold it in the newspaper,” he said. “Back then, we didn’t have Craigslist or eBay. Or, I’d put it in an auction. You’d pay $10 to put it in the auction, and it would go for $40. It was not a lot back then, but when you’re a kid, 30 extra dollars is a lot.”

Military tanks and trucks along with other vehicles line the shelves of the booth Greco has devoted to toys.
Photos by Mario Montalvo/The Collegian

He also rebuilds model trucks, sandblasts them and repaints them. He mostly restores Tonkas, he said.

He currently has three stores inside the Antique Gallery in Denton. In his stores, he sells all kinds of one-of-a kind items, but he has an affinity for toys and silent film memorabilia.

Recently, he has started selling items that belonged to his great-grandparents, like railroad tokens and old postcards.

“My grandparents wrote back and forth to a family in Italy, so I have lots of letters from Italy with all the old stamps on them,” he said.

It’s important to look for trends because his clients are always looking for different things, Greco said.

“Old sewing machines sold like crazy one year,” he said. “Now, you can’t give them away. Civil War stuff is really big right now. It’s going for high dollar, especially the real guns and swords.”

Miniature Tonka trucks are a personal favorite of Greco. He sandblasts and repaints these trucks to match their original appearance and resells them for a profit to collectors.
Photos by Mario Montalvo/The Collegian

Original wool Confederate suits command high prices, he said. The real revolvers go for about $1,000-$3,000, and some spurs from the Civil War go for about $3,000-$5,000.

Despite his art background, Greco doesn’t deal much in art. However, his most valuable find was what he believes to be a rare German etching that he bought for $50 at an estate sale.

“I’ve got some people looking at it,” he said. “It’s probably worth about $3,000-$4,000.”

Greco used to work for the Houston Fire Department but had to quit after he hurt his back. He went back to school to pursue a career in art. He currently teaches design but has also taught drawing and film classes.

He has had several solo exhibitions all over Texas and has also lectured about art at other colleges.

Greco came to TCC in 2003 and he has an impressive exhibition record, said art chair Martha Gordon.

“He’s very serious about practicing his art,” she said.

Former student Kittie Peters said she has fond memories of Greco’s class.

Star Wars memorabilia, like this Darth Vader figurine, sell well at the antique mall.
Photos by Mario Montalvo/The Collegian

“Although he didn’t often show us the antiques he would restore, he would be buying old toy cars and such on eBay and telling us that he would repaint them for quite a profit,” she said. “He’s very talented and compassionate.”

Greco said he loves what he does and doesn’t do it for the money.

“If I wanted to make money, I wouldn’t be in this business,” he said.

 

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