There is an old saying that had a wording similar to this: If it looks like a duck, it could be a duck. If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.

Well, there are times when our thought processes and feelings lead us to correct and appropriate conclusions that enable us to make critical and important decisions.

There are also times when our thinking and feelings, which seemed reasonable at the time, can eventually lead us to incorrect and inappropriate conclusions. That is true in many aspects of life including the times when one is deciding whether to buy or not to buy something at a flea market or a garage sale.

As our society and culture have become more advanced with more complicated policies, procedures and technologies, it seems that the incidences of missed communication and misunderstandings are increasing.

Ironically, a co-worker was just discussing that subject the other day, and he commented that sometimes he wonders what the word "advanced" really means anymore as it relates to our society.

Some words such as "right," "fair" and "justice" have always had different meanings to different people. However, today it seems like some commonly used words that used to have a common meaning to a majority of our society now have more different meanings. As a friend recently stated, "At times, it appears that everybody has their own dictionary."

For our purposes today, let me first define a sample term that I will be using so that we are both on the same page, so to speak. When I use the word "tool" in this article, I am referring to hand tools. One of the lessons I've learned through the years working as a school guidance counselor, in prison ministry and in antique appraisal work is this: One common mistake that is often made is to assume both the person you are talking to and yourself have the same definition of a term that you are using in your conversation.

Two commonly used terms in antique and collectibles conversations are "old" and "antique." When I was 10 years old, I thought anyone older than 30 years of age was getting pretty old. When someone indicates to you that an item is really old because it belonged to grandma, you might want to ask, "What year did grandma pass away?"

You have gathered some very relevant data if the person is honest, thinks a little bit and then answers it was in 1941. Or, they might respond by saying, "I think it was in 1997." Just knowing the fact that their grandma was 92 years old when she died doesn't provide you with any particular relevant information.

Grandma might have been very healthy up to age 91, and she might have bought an antique reproduction that caught her eye and "looked" authentic to her. She might have bought the item at a sale in 1996. Remember: Facts might or might not be relevant to your needs.

Even when you see a garage sale sign that uses the words "antique tools," it can still be a guessing game. Does that really mean rare and desirable antique tools that are in good shape? Or is it simply referring to old-looking, rusty hand braces and bits, hammers or wrenches?

Also, be aware that a specific advertiser might be very genuine and sincere because the word "antique" to that person simply means it was a tool that belonged to dad or granddad.

In next month's column, we will take a closer look at some specific pointers that can assist the flea market and garage sale shopper in making appropriate decisions concerning whether or not to purchase specific items.

Marvin Mann, Plainville, is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers. Send questions to him in care of The Hays Daily News, P.O. Box 857, Hays KS 67601.