Taking A Moment To Look Back….

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November 12, 2013
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reflecting on a changing antique market.

In my next auction I have a Trisha Romance print.  You’ve probably seen them many times. The old Victorian house, usually a winter scene with Victorian era children playing outside. Very nostalgic, and incredibly well done. It got me to thinking about how a Trisha Romance print is a reflection of what I believed the antique market was like twenty or thirty years ago.  Nostalgia. A romanticized, idealized version of the past. When I was in college in the mid 1970’s, antiques were starting to boom. Look at old 70’s sitcoms like Mary Tyler Moore, or Mork and Mindy, and you see antiques in the decor. Restaurants like the now defunct “Mothers” chain were filled with antique chairs, tables, etc. The Old Spaghetti Factory in Toronto (is it still around?), was  over-filled with antiques.  Even the big chains like Swiss Chalet incorporated them into the decor.  As a twenty year old I would go to “Fern bars” where plants and antiques were part of the look…and those places were the hot spots for college students! Can’t imagine too many college students now heading out to a bar with ferns hanging from the ceilings and stained glass part of the decor! When I opened my antique store in 1984 (Rob’s Place…some of you might remember), Trisha Romance prints were extremely hot.  Baby boomers and their parents were buying up antiques, and as a dealer, it was always a struggle to keep the store filled with good inventory. Folk art, crafts and potpourri scented stores seemed to be on every block. Towns like Cookstown, Schomberg and Unionville were booming, and on a weekend, especially a Sunday, you would be luck to find a place to park.  There was this incredible demand for nostalgia…even if it was glorified. I knew several people who bought restored Victorian homes, or in some cases restored them themselves. You filled the house with antiques, and in some cases, made your friends totally envious with your latest acquisitions. Your antiques could become a reflection of your personality. What you collected said something about you, and it seemed like most people were collecting something!  Not only antiques but limited edition dolls, plates, teddy bears, bells…whatever the manufacturers could put a number on and label it “Limited”. I was part of that as well. I started collecting coal oil lamps at age 14, and in several years built the collection to over 150 lamps. I even took the collection out on display a couple of times, and locally I guess I was known as “the kid with the coal oil lamps”.  It seemed to be a reflection of who I was. I still have many good lamps and probably will never part with them, and still have a soft spot for them. However, now I sense things have changed.  There doesn’t seem to be the feeling of nostalgia in our society now. It seems to be all about technology, and the marvels of the current time we live in, rather then a nostalgia for past times. Some of the hottest antiques right now are industrial pieces. Wrought iron pieces, metal lamps, metal industrial carts etc. I call it “antiques with an edge”. Not soft and fuzzy  Victorian pieces, but pieces that compliment the technology of today. Pieces that fit into a “minimalist decor” and make a strong statement. It’s not so much about grandma’s old rocking chair, but more about a piece salvaged from an old brick factory. Or a rusty street sign. Painted furniture. Antiques with an edge. Our auctions are still very busy and it seems like the crowds keep getting bigger. There is a demand for antiques, but the demand for certain items is changing. Mid century furnishings, industrial antiques, signs, cast iron, primitives and country furniture….I keep changing with the times and I hope our auctions reflect that. However, every so often, I still get a little nostalgic for the ” Trisha Romance” days. Rob
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