Local collector celebrating 25 years in the business
John Quong opened Treasure Cove Collectables in 1989, and in August of this year he will be celebrating 25 years of selling and trading collectables in Airdrie.
Quong left a career in criminal law to pursue his passion of collecting comics and toys, and started Treasure Cove during a sabbatical from his career.
After a couple years of expanding into new products, Quong got out of the law game, and dove head first into what has become a passion-based business.
“I was getting married. Working in the law field was a great financial gig, but you didn’t have a life and working in criminal law, you get pretty ragged,” said Quong. “In the end I didn’t have to go back to the concrete jungle, this is just a great job.”
John was raised in small-town Saskatchewan in a family-run restaurant and found himself reading comics that were out in the shop, and starting to collect toys.
“My love of toys and comic reading started then,” Quong said. “I just had a love for this stuff. I move to the big city and in high school I did flea markets and did really well selling toys at those.”
John said initially his idea for Treasure Cove was to be a two-year venture, but the community of Airdrie took him in.
“There are a lot of really loyal customers,” said Quong. “I find this city is incredible for getting to know people and trying to actually go to hometown businesses to keep them around. I have file folders here (for comic book orders) that have been here for 24 years, and will turn 25 in August.”
The social aspect of the business has kept the job interesting for Quong for many years, but some of the various items he has accrued and some of the trades he has made make for great stories.
One story Quong shared was about a family from northern Alberta who were moving to the United States. The family had roots dating back to the slavery days and on their way through town, stopped in at Treasure Cove to see if they could sell a few items for gas money and food on the trip down.
The family asked Quong to buy a set of leg chains, which had original serial numbers. Quong told the family they were worth much more than could offer and requested to consign them, to allow the family to get as much for them as possible.
The auction house he listed them with quickly called and informed Quong they had a private buyer for the item, who offered north of $40,000 for the chains.
“I contacted the family about the offer, and they didn’t believe me, so I assumed that was a yes,” said Quong. “I presented them the cheque and they still didn’t believe me. They brought it to the bank, and they came back with more family members, all in tears. They gave me my fee, but it was more of a feel-good story for me than a money-making story.”
The family continued to sell items from a general store they owned in northern Alberta through Quong.
While consigning items or outright purchasing collectables is part of Quong’s business, much of what is in his store has sentimental value.
Growing up, Quong and one of his brothers would open package after package of baseball and hockey cards, allowing him to accrue complete sets of cards.
These sets for many years sat within Quong’s personal collection, but he decided to display them in his store with some of the various cards he sold, until one day his collection was traded for a collectable car.
“I got this business going, and figured I could sell my own card collection,” said Quong. “A guy came in here and said he wanted to buy them all. I told him to take out his wallet, but he offered up the red 1987 Porsche 911 he pulled up to the store in. So I got a Porsche.”
Not long after he made the exchange, a longtime customer and family friend showed up, who were mechanics. They took a look at the car, got a value on it, and said they knew someone who would buy it.
“The guy said he didn’t have enough cash to buy it outright right then, but he had a weapons collection and a comic collection,” said Quong. “He got my car, to make the long story short. But I got cash, a motorcycle, four collectable rifles, a collectable pistol and three unbelievable comics.”
John hopes Treasure Cove will run long into the future, as he loves the relationships he has developed with clients in his first 25 years.
One thing John has not been able to get his hands on, which would be something that quickly becomes a part of his personal collection is a vintage 1950’s 22 carat gold Rolex watch.
“I could go buy one, but I have always wished that it would come through my doors,” he said.