We are home after a wonderful President’s Day weekend in the Sunshine State, and I have lots to tell you about, including a celebrity meet-up (!), but first, I want to recount my annual visit to Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza in Mount Dora, Florida. And I’m going to start at the very beginning.
Recently I was asked by a new reader if I “antiqued” or if I “junked” or both. Good question.
Now, in my mind, the junker is someone who sees old (and usually not valuable) items and is able to envision creating something new from them. No doubt we’ve all seen headboards painted and fashioned into garden benches or window screens transformed into jewelry storage. I don’t junk; I’m not that clever.
So, I “antique,” although that doesn’t mean everything—or even much—of what I buy is in pristine condition. I have managed to accumulate some pieces that when delivered required nothing more than a light dusting, but that’s not always the case. And although, it is fun to buy something that’s “perfect” from an established dealer, who knows my taste and has become a friend of sorts, it is just as much fun to find something unexpected and perhaps needing a bit of work, say a good waxing. And, of course, it’s always fun to find a deal!
Wisdom tells the job seeker that opportunity favors those who are prepared. It’s no different for the antiques lover. Over the course of a lifetime of collecting, there are bound to be a few heart-stopping moments when one is at the right place at the right time and finds something wonderful at the right price, but, for most of us, it’s the thrill of the hunt that lures us into the strip center antique malls or the flea market fields with the same enthusiasm with which we attend high brow antiques shows and drive out of our way to visit renowned dealers. (As an aside, let me say that no matter how small your budget, it is always worth it to seek out the best and to talk to the dealers or their representatives. There’s no shame in explaining that you’re a new collector or that your budget is small. Most dealers are eager to talk about their wares and to recommend helpful books and websites.)
So, how does one prepare to antique? Study. Study. And continue studying.
My favorite resources, which I turn to time and again include:
The Antiques Book by Alice Winchester
This the 2007 edition of this classic. I have both the 1996 edition as well as the 1950 edition of the book that is often referred to as simply as Good, Better, Best.
Ralph Kovel’s Know Your Antiques as well as Thomas Ormsbee’s Field Guide to Early American Furniture and Know Your Heirlooms are wonderful references and, although out of print, can be found on internet auction sites as well as from used book sellers. Happily, I have found most of my resource books at estate sales. In addition to books on furniture, there are, as you might imagine, scores of books specializing in silver, porcelain, rugs, jewelry, and so on. Generally speaking, the older the book the more valuable it is as a reference. If you are seriously interested in collecting an object, don’t settle for merely studying price guides. Instead take the time to learn how the object was made along with all the history that surrounds the piece. You will be a more informed and discerning collector, and, as a result, your collection will grow in both aesthetic and historic and, possibly monetary, value. I believe that a true collection, thoughtfully built and edited over time, brings pleasure and warmth to a house in ways that the latest decorating trends cannot match.
Do you have any reference books you would recommend?