A Good Way To Finish Our Summer Auction Season!

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August 27, 2013
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…and some reflections on the local antique business

Thanks to everyone who attended our Sat. Aug 24 auction. Our final sale of the summer and we certainly wrapped up the summer season on a high note!  Good crowd…some very good prices! It proves to myself and many other people, that good quality, unusual pieces will still sell well!  That has always been the mantra in the antique/auction business, and it is very reassuring when you see it happen. It is the unusual accent pieces and the statement pieces that bring the money. Furniture prices still up and down. I sometimes wonder why a good piece of furniture may not bring a decent price, but then I have to remind myself of a few simple things. Is the piece practical?  Is it too large to accommodate the homes of most people who are in the market for furniture? Can you mix it in with contemporary furnishings and contemporary decor?  Not many people are filling their homes from top to bottom anymore with antique furniture. I sometimes get caught up in the age of a piece or the quality, but then don’t think about the piece in practical terms.  It may be well built and over 100 years old, but is the piece practical and saleable?  I have to look at a piece and say to myself…”who is going to buy this?”  If I can answer that question, then I will take it into the auction. Now, lets stray away from the auction business for a bit and talk about the antique business.   Currently I live not too far away from Cookstown, and I have lived in the area for most of my life.  I remember back in the 1970’s ( I was in high school), and Cookstown was one of THE places to go for antiques. The antique business in general was booming, and the baby boomers and their parents were on a buying spree.  There were at least 6 or 8 antique stores on the main street, and I’ll bet all of them were struggling to keep up with the demand.  On a Sunday you would be lucky to find a parking space on the main street, and the sidewalks were teaming with shoppers. At most of the local auctions, the dealers would be battling each other for the choice pieces.. and there were some pretty intense rivalries! I learned a few tricks of the trade from one particularly old and crusty dealer.  We partnered together back in the early 1980’s to put an auction together, and we both took a bit of a beating…but I learned a few things! So now, once or twice a week I drive through Cookstown, and what a different place it is today.  There are no antique dealers left on the main street.  Many of the stores are sitting empty, and there is no problem finding a place to park on a Sunday.  In fact you could easily park a tractor trailer on the main street and there would still be lots of room. Now, remember there is still a very good antique mall on the edge of town....The Cookstown Antique Market, and it is well worth a visit, but I am talking about the demise of the main street.  At least as far as the antique shops go. Schomberg was another hot destination for antiques, and back in the 80’s and 90’s there were three large shops in town.  I drove through Schomberg today, and once again, not a single antique shop. Unionville was a booming place for antiques 20 years ago, and I haven’t been there for many years, but I suspect it is a similar story as far as antiques go. With the creation of antique malls and the advent of ebay and other on-line antique shopping sites, the single dealer antique shops have almost gone the way of the horse and buggy.  And that has changed the nature of the antique business. I owned an antique shop from 1984-1994, and we had a good business. However, right now I don’t think I would survive if I had an antique shop and was trying to do business the way I was doing business almost thirty years ago. The auction business is where I am happiest. I really doubt if little towns like Cookstown will ever enjoy again the prosperity the antique business brought in during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Times have changed, and I don’t think we will go back to those days. The antique auction business has changed as well, but the technology has worked in our favour. Websites, good photos, inexpensive on-line advertising, TV shows, are all helping to bring out new people to the auctions. The antique malls attract many part time and hobby dealers and those dealers may come to the auctions for inventory.  There are challenges, but overall it is still a good time to be in the antique auction business. Perhaps towns like Cookstown will thrive again with speciality shops, good restaurants, ice cream and coffee shops, but at this moment in time, it is still pretty sad. I don’t think anyone could argue, that the glory days are gone for now. Rob
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