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New Orleans Antique Store Sells Unique Historical Items

Eight months after Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans continues to struggle towards recovery. People from all over the country have an interest in that recovery because of the history and cultural vitality of New Orleans. Nowhere is that represented better than in the part of the old French Quarter where antiques are sold.

VOA's Greg Flakus has this report from New Orleans about the most unusual antique shop in the area.

The past always seems alive on the streets of New Orleans, but it is even more alive in James H. Cohen and Sons antique store on Royal Street.

Here, you can find items ranging from old cavalry sabers, pistols and rifles, to Etruscan coins.

Of course, you can also find many of these items in museums.

But Barry Cohen, great-great-grandson of the store's founder, says this place offers something museums do not. "You can hold these pieces of history in your hand and you can take them home with you and you can own them."

So if you are in the market for a sword or an old flintlock dueling pistol, this is store for you.

Barry says one customer bought a set of old European dueling pistols for a wedding present.

"On the box he wrote, or he had inscribed, 'until death do us part.' That is one of the most interesting gifts I have heard of,” said Cohen.

You can also spend your money here to buy money -- that is, coins and currency from times gone by. You can even buy one of the bills that gave the southern United States its nickname -- Dixie.

Down the street from the Cohen Antique store, on the corner now occupied by this drug store, there was a bank that issued notes with the French number for ten -- "dix," which was pronounced by merchants up and down the Mississippi like “diks” and later, Dixie.

At the store you can also buy coins from the time of Alexander the Great and other ancient artifacts. Most customers at the Cohen Antique store are visitors to New Orleans who just happen upon it, according to Barry Cohen.

"Eighty-five percent of our business is the tourism industry, people coming in and not realizing there is a store like this. We have been told by so many customers who have been around the country or around the world and they say they have never seen a store like this."

But tourism has slowed greatly since Katrina and walk-in business at the shop has also diminished. Still, Barry remains optimistic.

"We will get through it. This business has lived through the Depression, through two wars, three wars, we have lived through other hurricanes and we are going to make it through this one, it is just going to be a matter of time," he says.