Located in Chinatown, Tin Can Mailman is a must-see for all things Hawaiiana.
Image: Hideyo Kusano

Where to go when shopping for modern becomes mundane

In this modern generation where everything is hurtling forward, people rarely take the time to stop and look back. But some consider it an art form to collect and treasure the possessions belonging to history. Whether you’re an antique enthusiast or trapped in a web of nostalgia, here are some local shops that will give you a deeper understanding of what Hawaii was…way back when.

Hawaiian Islands Stamps and Coin

In 1857, a postman had to actually handwrite the number five on a Hawaiian stamp because he ran out of five-cent stamps. That stamp is now worth a staggering $12,000. Another Hawaiian stamp, dated 1859, cashes in at $17,500, and according to some of the customers at this coin shop, Hawaiian Islands Stamps and Coin is the place to go if you’ve got a seriously passionate hobby for coin collecting.

The small shop caters to a specific crowd of antique hunters: stamp and coin collectors. Located near Remington College, the shop has been open for 33 years and draws in both local and international customers. It’s a cluttered jewelry store of stamps and coins, where time is literally money for the featured collections brought in from all over the world. Glass counters showcase the goods, but the most precious stamps and coins are in the back and can be brought out upon request.

1111 Bishop St., [hawaiianislandstampandcoin.com], 531-6251

Tin Can Mailman

Also located downtown, Tin Can Mailman is a small Hawaiiana antique store that moved from Kauai two years ago. The shop fits right in with Chinatown’s underground vibe and has an entrance you can’t miss. A wall decorated with record covers immediately sends you back in time to an older vintage Hawaii, and you can’t help but admire them before actually entering through the door.

Owner Christopher Oswalt showed me a Dorothy Lamour doll from the 1940s that is currently worth $395. While he was talking, an old man who actually knew Lamour walked in and seemed to appreciate the trip down the memory lane. Next to the doll were two small Hawaiian figurines made by renowned ceramist Julene Mechler and priced at $450 and $375. According to Oswalt, this is the last line of the artist’s figurines to be sold to the public.

The rest of the shelves are filled with everything from postcards to vintage hula dolls. Take your time to peruse the shelves, rummage through thick piles of history, and if you look hard enough, you might find that one of a kind piece of Hawaiiana history.

1026 Nuuanu Ave., [tincanmailman.net], 524-3009


This interior décor store inside Kahala Mall has antique treasures hidden in plain sight. The beautiful, wooden furniture displaying accessories, dishes and other home furnishings are actually valuable antiques. “They are mostly from UK, but also Belgium, France and Italy,” says owner Maggie Parks, who handpicks the antiques herself on her trips to Europe. Some tables, desks and chairs are nearly two hundred years old, hailing from the 1830s to the early 1900s. The designs are decidedly Pride-and-Prejudice-esque, and prices range from the hundreds to the thousands. Parks also brings back vintage dinnerware, jars, busts and even porcelain pieces that are mixed in among the goods for collectors to find. And then of course, there’s the olive oil. Curious yet?

4211 Waialae Ave., #1160, [magnolia-hawaii.com], 734-2200

Bailey’s Aloha Shirts

Kapahulu Avenue draws in a fairly even mixture of locals and tourists, and Bailey’s Aloha Shirts is no exception. Local to mainland celebrities, Japanese tourists and local T-shirt enthusiasts, the shop is literally filled with vintage aloha shirts from floor to ceiling. Anne Lindsey, an employee for nearly five years, has seen the increase in customers after Anthony Bourdain featured the shop on his show No Reservations. “We were Hawaii’s best kept secret until Anthony Bourdain,” says Lindsey, “Someone should write him a thank you note.” A more recent celebrity visit was Alex O’Loughlin of Hawaii Five-0, who came in a couple weeks ago to purchase a $1,500 shirt that was featured on the show.

The shirts hanging from the ceiling range from $500 to $8,000 and are mostly from the ‘30s to the ‘50s. The $8,000 shirt is a long-sleeve, Kawaihau label from the 1950s with a hand air-brushed design of a hula girl. “There were only so many made, which is why it’s pricey. Also, the condition is almost mint,” says Lindsey.

Cases stacked against the wall are filled with Hawaiiana figurines, toys, collectibles and sheet music, but the pride of the shop is definitely the shirts. For people with a lower budget, there are shirts starting from $29.99. Oh, and while you’re trying them on, keep an eye out for E.T.

517 Kapahulu Ave., [alohashirts.com], 734-7628

Honorable Mentions

Mellow Antiques — Downtown

Nothing says “romantic” better than an 1920s Art Deco engagement ring. Starting from $2,000, Mellow Antiques sell jewelry from Europe as well as Hawaii, and the jewelers offer the option of custom casting for a unique design so you can add your own history to your purchase.

Davies Pacific Center 841 Bishop St. Suite 156 [mellowantiques.com]

Antique Alley–Kapiolani

A smorgasborg store selling everything you can think of– poi pounders, milk bottles, statues, cameras and soda bottles at the price range of $1–$10,000. Let’s just say there’s a slim chance you will not find what you’re looking for.

1347 Kapiolani Blvd. 941-8551

Alii Antiques–Kailua

One part is exclusively Hawaiiana, while the other holds Western vintage pieces. Located in Kailua town, Alii’s walls are beautifully cluttered and overflowing with pottery, glass art, statues and dolls. Treasure hunt to your heart’s desire in one store and then step out to browse through the other for an afternoon escapade.

21 Maluniu Ave. #B, Kailua [aliiantiques.com]

C S Wo Gallery–Beretania

Home furnishings and interior design are C S Wo Gallery’s specialties. Don’t let their high-end atmosphere intimidate you–they hold valuable Chinese antiques, from cabinets to Buddha statues, and prices range from $300 to $10,000.

702 S. Beretania St. [cswoandsons.com]