Thursday, January 26, 2012

GBE-2 Week 36 "An Investment in Time"

sideboard
base of dining table
Along with books, we also collect antiques.  Just sitting at my desk, and scanning the attached office, reception hall, and dining room, I get an eyeful--Maryann's desk is an antique walnut executive desk (mine came from a mass merchant), Bri's is a Mission-style oak desk from the 1930's (mine came from a mass merchant about 7 years ago), there's a 19th century cherry secretary in the reception hall as well as a display cabinet full of "salts" dating from the 18th and 19th century in a corner behind the door. The dining room is dominated by a heavy (oak, I believe) table that is massive in its base with lion claw feet (it has NINE extra leaves!) and a very pretty walnut sideboard with intricately carved panels for the cabinet doors, drawers, and skirting--all from the 1800's. The chairs are somewhat more modern--probably late 1800's or early 1900's--they have claw feet as well and most need to be reglued.  There's a smaller liquor cabinet/sideboard as well that is also intricately carved.  And finally a couple of small side tables and a rocking chair dating from the early 1900's (it's a good sized dining room--considering there is a 55 gallon fish tank in it as well).
Cherrywood Secretary

That's just really two rooms.  I'm not going to take you through a tour of the house.  We mix antiques with modern stuff.  Our decorating style is eclectic to say the least (note the guns in the above photo).

Collecting things appears to be something resembling a human instinct. Many people (like us) are almost natural hoarders and collecting all manner of items has been a common pastime for folks of almost every culture for a very long time. The innate desire to amass and to enjoy objects as well as to make money from them was what prompted many of today's collectors to begin antique collecting as a hobby.  Many folks look at antiques as a way to touch the past and allows them to intimately interact with history.  Indeed a number of our pieces have been in my wife's family for four generations and were old when they were acquired.  Don't tell my daughter, but Maryann's Mom was conceived on the bed she sleeps in (not the mattress).

floor stomper
One thing about antiques is their uniqueness.  Yes, you can go on Ebay and find the same or similar items you're interested in buying or selling but you rarely see hundreds or even tens of items that aren't particularly durable.  In a corner by our wood stove, we have something called a "floor stomper".  According to the dealer we bought it from in Massachusetts, it is from the 1700's and was used to stomp or tamp down dirt floors in pioneer cabins. In our years of collecting, we've never seen another and its rarity is the fact that it is made of wood and as they began to wear down, they were tossed in a fireplace and a new one was carved.  Antiques aren't Walmart or Target items.  They have endured for whatever reason for years and years.  Of course, generally, the older they are, the more valuable they are and some antiques are indeed an investment.  A recent car auction in Scottsdale, AZ had older cars selling for more than two million dollars (and that is in this lousy economy).  Some 17th century musical instruments ( Stradivarius violins come to mind) sell in the same range.  Even old jewelry and sterling silver has become very collectible--partly because of its precious metal weight-- and I often see investment grade estate gems being sold.

It's funny, as we get older, we begin to see stuff we played with as kids or saw our mom's use in the kitchen suddenly go up in value.  Toys are nostalgic and some fetch incredibly high prices.  Kitchen ware from the 50's and 60's is trendy.  I have a couple of boxes of new, in the box, Star Wars toy figures and accessories in the garage.  That stuff will eventually sky rocket in price (especially in new condition).  I guess I'm getting on to be an antique myself.

Vintage Breyer Horses
Collecting antiques covers the age spectrum.  There may be a cookie jar in a kitchen that belonged to someone's grandmother and a child grew up eating cookies from it and eventually started appreciating whatever the figure represented is. That child might end up collecting small things that are reminiscent of the cookie jar.  Young teens often find animal characters appealing.  My daughter has a significant collection of horses (what else?) that just appealed to her.  Most are older than she, some a whole lot older (Breyer horses, mostly but other things, too).  By the time kids are in college they are buying old, beat up furniture for their dorm rooms or apartments...they might, as I did, stumble on a gold mine of furniture from a house that needed to be cleared out after the owners, parents of a friend of mine, died for the cost of moving it.  Several apartments were furnished by that house.  My older sister still has a couple of pieces from that group and unless my brother doesn't have it anymore, I have several pieces in a storage locker in Boston.  I wish I knew more about antiques then...that house was indeed a gold mine.  By the time college years are over and setting up a house or apartment happens for real, old stuff is already ingrained in many minds.

Unless folks are bound and determined to decorate (or dress) in things that are brand spanking new, antiques can appeal to just about everyone.  Things from the 50's and 60's are just as modern looking and impressive as that cookie cutter furniture in a local store and as functional, too-often much better built.  The popularity of reality TV shows such as "Storage Wars" or "American Pickers" have reignited interest in old stuff and some of the pricing on Ebay shows that significantly.

Antiques are an investment in time.  They link us to the past with beauty, function and memories.



14 comments:

  1. My daughter loves antiques,her house is filled with old and beautiful pieces, me not so much. I love to see them, but prefer the new cookie cutter stuff around me! My mom has a couple of items I will cherish always, more because they have been in my life as long as I can remember and I know how she came to own them. One is a delicate glass tray sitting on a delicate tea table. Beautiful and the other is a rocking chair, once cane bottomed, now upholstered.
    For me, the antique is only valuable if the memory it stirs is.

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    1. We have several pieces that stir our memories and that's why we own them. I didn't mean to be disparaging when I made the cookie cutter comment at all. Our house is definitely lived in--with all the dogs and cats and kids who come through. One thing about most antique furniture, it's pretty rugged and most of what we have my daughters will get and either love and cherish or sell.

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  2. Nice post, Larry; I love the last line, "antiques are an investment in time." The only things I have that come close to qualifying are a hutch and dry sink I got from my late aunt (made about 60 years ago) and, from my own childhood, a Shirley Temple and Miss Revlon doll from the 50s. I wish I had more and knew more about antiques. My mother had more "modern" tastes; she didn't want any old things around her, so much of what my grandmother had (which I don't remember) went to her siblings or to sale or donation. I regret that now. What I do have is a small collection of medieval coins. I love the fact that holding one of these connects me with people who held them as long as a thousand years ago. It's really mind-boggling to think about. I call them my own little pieces of history.

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    1. For the sake of brevity, Elaine, I didn't mention coins or stamps or cutlery or wine glasses...antiques run the gamut and what appeals to one person has none to another. I've often lusted over medieval and earlier coins and artifacts for the same reason as you-a physical connection to the past and for someone creative, it can stir all sorts of feelings and ideas.

      Oh and by the way, your hutch and dry sink ARE antiques--or at least on the very verge of becoming one. They are definitely vintage along with your dolls.

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  3. When my mother-in-law passed away, everyone was asked if there was anything from her home that they wanted. Our son, who was 18 at the time, asked for her cookie jar, and talked about how many memories he had of sitting with her at her kitchen table, the two of them talking and munching on cookies. I picked up the jar and before we gave it to him, we stopped at the store and filled it to the brim with windmill cookies--her favorites. :O)

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    1. See...and I mentioned cookie jars and children. My grandmother had one she kept pizelles in (sort of like a thin, sugared waffle cookie). I don't remember where that went. I would love to have it just to feed the memories.

      And what you did with that cookie jar--awesome!!!

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  4. American Pickers has just turned up on a channel over here and I find it fascinating. Now I'm waiting for our British version which should be a giggle (if it ever gets made)...We're not short of eccentric collectors on this side of the Pond *grin*

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    1. Enjoy American Pickers--I imagine a British version would be fascinating! Thanks for coming by.

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  5. LOVE antiques, very nice indeed.

    the word "collecting" makes me privately cringe tho, you appear to be doing a tastily job of it! WELL DONE

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  6. Thank you, Brenda. Collecting is a better word than hoarding, though (smile). We enjoy antiques.

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  7. Thank you, they are all loved. :D

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  8. Keeping a small number of loved antique or family pieces from another time - provided you don't really cross the line into hoarding - can be a beautiful thing.

    Sadly, I know more than I wish I did about hoarding, "As seen on TV." Though those people might like to call themselves collectors, and may, in fact, have some valuable antiques in with the garbage... hoarding is a serious mental illness.

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  9. Oh Golly, Beverly, how right you are. We collect lots of things but most have their place. Our garage is a mess now but that's because we closed a storage locker and have books, books, books. One of our biggest concerns is people who hoard animals...horses, dogs, cats etc. Note only is that an illness, it's cruel and abusive to the critters.

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