Hat fancier cherishes the smiles | NevadaAppeal.com

Hat fancier cherishes the smiles

by Susie Vasquez

Sally Walter opened the door wearing the hat that started her career as a hat collector – a black felt that seemed to telescope off her head.

“I bought it in the San Jose Museum gift shop,” she said. “A lady in Seattle makes them, and I couldn’t pass it up.”

Walter has a passion for hats.

“The best thing about my hats is the smiles they bring to people’s faces when I wear them,” she said. “Sometimes, people even laugh.”

She spends hours on eBay and other Internet outlets, buying and selling everything from antique hats to styles by contemporary milliners like Nigel Rayment and Peter Bentley. Right now, she’s bidding on 10 hats offered on eBay.

“My husband hates it when the UPS man comes,” she said. “But for me, the worst part is having to say no to more hats.”

She owns hundreds, and those she doesn’t wear can be found around her north Carson City home, which is filled with hand-painted china and antiques.

Hats decorate the walls, lie on guest beds and are perched on the antique dresser. The rest are neatly tucked away in the closets and cabinets scattered throughout the house.

“Hats give a room a nice ambience,” she said. “It’s fun to think about their history and the people who wore them.”

When the spirit moves her, she donates them to the Salvation Army and gives them away to friends.

The hobby needn’t be expensive. Prices range from $5 to $500, the chief hallmarks being the quality of the hat and how rare it is. The Internet has made these collectibles more accessible to everyone and is creating consumers that are more discerning, Walter said.

“On the Internet, people are able to compare,” she said. “On eBay, a hat could go high or low, you never know. Sometimes you get burned, but that’s how you learn.”

Originally from Ohio, Walter received her master’s degree in communications from Ohio State University. She moved here with her husband, Buck, four years ago. Both are retired.

Contact Susie Vasquez at svasquez@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.