Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Let’s Talk About Antiques
If you follow my blog, you know that I love collecting antiques. They fascinate me. I can lose all sense of time when I look at them. I love to talk to fellow collectors about them. I love to find pieces that need a little love; a diamond in the rough if you will. I love to take an antique others have written off and give it new life. When I am able to rescue an antique, I have a great sense of joy that it will survive to be passed on to another generation. I never see myself as an owner of antiques, simply a custodian until they can be passed to the next generation.
It has dawned on me that some of my readers might love antiques, if only they knew just a little bit more about them. Since I love to talk about antiques, I decided to do a series to spread my knowledge. I hope at minimum you will be entertained by my series. I would be honored if it inspired you to start collecting antiques yourself.
So let’s start with a definition. What is an antique? In simplest terms an antique is an item that is more than 100 years old. If it is less than 100 years old, it is technically a collectible. The only exception to this rule is a car, where it becomes antique at 75 and a classic at 25.
Now that we have the definition out of the way, the next question might be “Where can I find them?” Antiques can be found in a variety of places. A good place to start (I think) is with family. I feel family antiques are the best. One, if the item is passed down from generation to generation, you will actually know the history of the item (which I think is super cool). Secondly, it’s a great way to learn anecdotal stories about your family. Remember, once your older family members have passed, unless someone has taken time to learn your family’s oral history, it will be lost.
Another great place to find antiques is estate sales. These are sales where the family has decided to sell items that belong or belonged to a family member. I personally think anyone who would sell family antiques is crazy, but I am grateful that not everyone is into antiques. If some people didn’t sell them, there would be none to collect. The nice thing about estate sales is you are buying directly from the family. You don’t have a dealer mark up to deal with. The downsides to estate sales are that you have to have the time to travel around and attend them, and the family, while not wanting to keep the antiques, often feels they are priceless.
If you don’t have time to visit estate sales, you might want to look at buying antiques from a reputable dealer. There are lots of people out there who are trying to make a few bucks off of antiques; not all of them are actually knowledgeable. Over the years I’ve been to a number of “antique” shops where it was clear that the seller was not knowledgeable about the items. The best story I have to illustrate this is the time I found an “antique” percolator for $19.99. There were a few problems with this item. One - it was missing a few pieces (like the handle). Second – I knew it was not antique; it was in fact relatively new. Third – this particular “percolator” was in fact a cappuccino machine that you could buy brand new at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $19.99, with all the parts AND a jar of coffee. The term caveat emptor definitely applies here. The moral of this story: Do your homework; make sure the item you are considering buying actually is what it is advertised as being. Ask the dealer questions about the item if possible (where did you acquire it, how often do you come across an item like this, etc.). You may also want to check online auction sites to see if you can find a similar item. This might help you to gauge if the item is reasonably priced.
Of course there are many other ways to source antiques (auctions, Craigslist, word-of-mouth), but this blog is just an introduction, not a comprehensive instruction book. I hope this introduction has at least given you a little of knowledge and maybe piqued your interest.
We shall talk more about antiques tomorrow.
Until Then - Melissa
Empire style cabinet I purchased from my favorite antique dealer