For collectors of antiques the old adage “history repeats” is often evident in objects. For example the rush to market electric vehicles came first in the early 1900s. Cost and short range, two of the concerns of modern would-be EV buyers today as well, eventually led to their replacement with the internal combustion automobile. New technology (not to mention government subsidies) has made the “electric” viable again a century and a quarter later.

Comic character Dick Tracy had his “two-way wrist radio” in the 1940s. Look around any gathering today and there’s bound to be some Apple watches which, of course, are far more connected than Tracy’s fictional model.

Early in my antiquing years, the 1960s, it wasn’t unusual to see what seemed to be weird portable electrical devices with wires and batteries that promised a “cure” for various medical conditions. Then they may have been found at a flea market or sold at the end of an auction for a few dollars. Since then they’ve earned a category called “quack medical devices.” For collectors of such things, the going prices seem to range from around $100 to several hundred dollars.

Having recently suffered a fractured shoulder, I’m now in physical therapy to regain the range of motion for my repaired shoulder. On my first visit I noticed a line of machines along one wall. It turns out that they provide electrical stimulation for muscles. After my first session the therapist wheeled one to me and explained the process of attaching leads to my shoulder and cranking-up the power until it was noticeable. So after a session the shoulder was iced and “zapped.” 

I suppose there are those  in the physical therapy profession who remain skeptical about such treatments, but they seem to been widely used. For me, it brought back memories of those devices that were at flea markets and shunned by “real” antiques dealers a half-century ago.

History repeats. It’s shocking, I know.

Grant Hamilton, Publisher