Sunday, March 6, 2011

Antiques are things one generation buys,

the next generation gets rid of, and the following generation buys at auction at amazing prices.

But, I am not sure the future auction goer will follow that mantra. Change has slowly crept into the antique world...antique being an antique word itself so much so that shop owners are afraid to brand their shops with the term antique...now it is vintage or retro or repurposed or recycled. The days of collecting 100 dolls or 200 glass hats or 300 salt and pepper shakers seem to have faded along with china cabinets and walls of "stuff." Not that minimalists are in, but it seems as if the new generation of collecting wants to see a purpose in an item beyond sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

And, in that es spirit de corp, the company that guided both sellers and buyers in their purchases, Collector Books, will no longer publish price guides. I received a letter announcing this, and it gave me pause...Schroeder's Antique Price Guide is a wealth of information along with suggested prices. I guess the internet has become the source for information...must be an app for that? But, with no "guide", what does that say about prices? And, if no one cares about worth based on research and market values, will it be buyer beware? Ever wonder why antique shop owner are called "dealers"?

But, beyond a book publisher going out of business is the underlying change in the antique/collectible world. It started with ebay years ago, and then, as the internet reproduced sites faster than Peter Rabbit, shops were facing the choice of selling online or closing. I have never sold online...I am not into mail order...I am into people...real live people...not emails and boxes. Many of the small shops like mine closed and dealers went to malls. Now, even malls have lost some of their glamour as TJs/Home Goods & Marshalls have caught on to the look without the cost of antiques. And, for the more upscale look, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, and Anthropologie will easily fit the decor.

But, I have always believed in researching the items that I offer for sale-it is the librarian in me. I hate going into a antique shop where the tag simply had a price. What justifies that price on that piece? Just because it is old does not mean it is worth money...if that were the case, I am approaching big bucks!

This company provided beautifully printed books. I am getting into vintage jewelry, and last fall I ordered books from them so that I could learn about the pieces. I know there is the mentality...like it, buy it...but with the Chinese being so clever at creating, I want to know what I am buying for resale. So, for example, here is one of the books I purchased.The price guides not only give you an idea of worth but also history.
And, yes, you can probably search online, but I am still attached to paper. Every book this company released had pages and pages of valuable information. At the back of this book is a detailed Appendix with manufacturers.
Kovels'...another price guide company is still in business, but they did not have near the variety that Collector Books had. Behind Kovels' was a husband and wife team, and Ralph Kovel died in 2008; his wife Terry has kept the guide going along with a newsletter, but for how long? So, as the end of the 20th century witnessed the demise of the small antique shops, the 21st century may witness the same for antique business itself. Or, maybe the going green generation will see the value of roaming through small shops, in buying furniture made from real wood, and, above all, in saving the creative spirits of the past. As life affirming and changing as they are, there some things a PC or Blackberry cannot do. Can you hear me now?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. It is terrible that books have fallen out of use in favor of some techno gadget that some of don't even have or know how to use. I'll keep the books I have for origins, history, etc. And of course, there is always your Blog!
The White Whale