When out shopping, the last thing one expects is a history lesson, but that is exactly what is in store when one steps into Longship Trade Goods Too on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma—a store specializing in Celtic and Viking gifts, but carrying items from around the world and across the ages. Aside from authentic historical items, the store’s inventory also features contemporary items, including jewelry, books, pelts and swords.

Now what is surprising is that there are two possible reasons that a shopper might be fortunate enough to have some historical knowledge dropped on them at the store.

One is the museum-worthy items on sale at Longship – items over 1,000 years old – from various civilizations, including Celtic, Viking, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, European, Native America, and more.

Longship Trade Goods Too
There’s plenty of original jewelry available at Longship Trade Goods Too. Photo courtesy: Longship Trade Goods Too

The other reason is not quite as old and much more animated than the antiquities available at Longship and that is the people.

Owners Stella Brese and husband Thorir Goodwater, and volunteer staff member Northman (a man with the most impressive beard I have ever seen) are all brimming with knowledge of the culture and history behind the antiquities on sale at the store.

First though, they had to teach me the difference between an antique and an antiquity. “An antique only needs to be between 50 and 100 years old,” explains Brese. “While an antiquity must be 1,000 years old or older.”

Apparently not knowing the difference between the two is a common mistake. Not the only mistake people make when it comes to the people and events of yesteryear, but for those wanting to learn more about the days of yore, a stop at Longship is equal to a semester’s worth of history classes. In fact, the first assignment doled out to Pacific Lutheran University students enrolled in the Scandinavian History class is to visit the store, choose a historical item, and write a story about it.

Many people got turned on to Viking culture because of the television series Vikings which airs on the History Channel, but have no way to determine if what they see on the show is accurate or not. Well, actually they do – make a stop at Longship.

“Lots of people come in looking for drinking horns,” Brese explains, speaking of people finding themselves interested in Viking culture after being exposed to the show. “The things they see on the show that they think are real, are not, and what they think is real, isn’t.”

Thor's Hammer
A miniature version of Thor’s Hammer. Photo courtesy: Longship Trade Goods Too

One example she gave is about Viking men wearing eyeliner. “People see that on the show and think it is inaccurate,” she says. “But it’s true. They did wear eyeliner. It protected their vision from the glare of the ocean and other things.”

She adds that the Vikings were considered the peacocks of the world, citing an example from the show in which one of the female characters wears a hot pink fur coat. “People think that’s fake too,” Brese continues. “But the Vikings did have dye and did dye their clothes.” She explains that the Vikings were very, let’s say, colorful. “They loved shiny things,” she concludes.

Aside from the drinking horns, the sterling silver jewelry is also a huge seller, and the store has quite the inventory. There are over 3,000 rings on hand, and that isn’t counting the thousands not on display.

You will find all kinds of settings, stones, cuts, some of the jewelry handmade by local artisans, and all at incredibly reasonable prices.

Viking drinking horns
All kinds of drinking horns are available at Longship Trade Goods Too. Photo courtesy: Longship Trade Goods Too

Then of course you have the aforementioned swords, arrowheads, knives, ax heads, chainmail, books, beard beads, Thor’s hammers, mortar and pestles, massage wands, leather goods, and so much more.

It is pretty awe inspiring to hold a real Viking coin in your hand or run your fingers across the edge of an ax head used by an actual Viking.

This “hands-on history,” as Brese calls it, is only one of the many reasons to visit this family-friendly store.

Longship Trade Goods Too is located at 13118 Pacific Avenue S in Tacoma. Check them out in person or visit their website to learn more.