Getting An Objective View On Your Antiques…

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November 7, 2014
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maybe ask someone who knows nothing about antiques?

I am fortunate to have a friend who is earning his degree in computer sciences, so he is my “go to guy” whenever I need technical support. Computer was doing strange things so he came over to help me out. He admits he really doesn’t have much interest in antiques, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to get some feedback about antiques, from the perspective of someone who has very little interest in them.  Also from someone who is in his early 30’s So I asked his impression of my place.  He told me it was filled with old stuff, and obviously things I liked and collected, but not the kind of things he would have.  I pointed to a gingerbread clock. He told me he couldn’t see how that would fit into the decor of anyone he knew.  I asked him about an early electric lamp (I had recently purchased for $200).  He thought it looked tacky. I showed him a few other pieces, and he said they were not something he would like, but they would fit into the decor of someone like me.  He then told me he personally would like old advertising pieces.  I showed him an original finish dye cabinet and a nice little blanket box, and his eyes lit up.  Yes he said, he could see people he knew, fitting pieces like that into their contemporary decor. That quick, 10 minute walkabout, summed up a lot of how I feel about the current antique market. Younger people looking for unique, smaller pieces, they use as decorator items, but they are not likely to fill the house with antiques. There are “old style” antiques and “new style antiques”. “Old style” antiques are Victorian furniture, lamps, clocks, jug and basin sets, epergnes, glass, china etc. I think “new style” antiques are wooden boxes, cast iron, deco figurals,  teak, mid century furniture, advertising, toys, vintage etc.  Usually what appeals to the younger buyers, does not appeal as much to people of my generation ( 40-60), and our parents generation. There is a glut of “old style” antiques coming onto the market, as people in that age group downsize, switch to modern decor, or sadly pass away. As an auctioneer, I have to look at antiques in an objective manner.  My friend looked at a gingerbread clock, and couldn’t imagine a place in the house.  I look at that same piece and see a 100 year old clock that is still running!  He looked at my early electric lamp and thought it looked tacky…I look at that lamp and see an 80 year old piece that looks great illuminated at night in my room full of antiques. The point is, when it comes to selling antiques, it doesn’t matter what I think…or what you think…or what your neighbour thinks…it is what the potential buyer thinks.  In an auction, if you don’t get two or more bidders who want it….it is going to sell cheap.  Currently there is an abundance of merchandise on the market right now, that does not command the interest or price, that it used to. I am a long time lamp collector, and often see lamps selling for less money than they did when I first started buying in the 1970’s.  Some pieces that sold for $80 or $90 a few years ago, now may sell for less than half of that now.  We have to accept the fact, that’s what they are worth now, and that’s the price you have to expect. Probably 80% of the antique market is decor driven.  People looking for whatever’s “hot”,, and whatever’s “hot” will eventually cool off. Chances are you bought what you liked, because at that point in time, it was “hot”.  It was trendy…and the demand drove the prices up.  Now you and I have to look at those pieces objectively, and assess a current and fair market value. That sometimes means totally disregarding what you paid for it, or what it used to sell for, and look at it in terms of the current market value.  At times that is not easy to do. So the point I am trying to make is…step back and take an objective look at what you have.  Try to imagine what the current buyers are looking for…how they are decorating…how it fits into or reflects their lifestyle, and then try and determine what would be a fair market value. Maybe ask someone with little or no experience with antiques…and see what they think of it! Rob
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