Ask About Antiques Starting Down The Road To Collecting Antiques I

by Budd A. Moore, Ed.D.

One of the most difficult things to do sometimes is to start out on some new venture in life. There are times when we have second thoughts about what we are about to do, but if it is something we love the second thoughts usually evaporate quickly.

I have had an avid interest in antiques and collectibles and have been a dealer and enthusiast for many years. People have asked me how I started in this hobby. I really can’t remember how it originally started, but I do remember the pride and joy that one of my friends had in obtaining a new piece of Americana. I was intrigued by this. I became interested in attending auctions and beginning to learn the obvious and hidden agendas of this American way to buy and sell goods of all kinds. I began studying pattern glass and was interested in how much of this antique category I could see sold locally. I began attending auctions regularly and reading much more about my chosen area. After this friend gave me a piece of art pottery as a gift, I became a real fan of this collectible and started looking intensely for art pottery pieces to form a collection.

Sometimes, the search reminded me of hunting “big game.” Each return from an outing to an auction or a trip to a flea market yielded a new “trophy” for my collection. I now have quite an extensive collection of American art pottery that has been painstakingly found locally in auctions, flea markets, and from dealers. I have branched out into other categories, but really regard myself as a collector of pottery. I would like to use my experience to give you a few hints about collecting. Collecting is a very satisfying pastime, but one should know some basics first.

What is the difference between an antique and a collectible? This question always arises when I talk to people about collecting. An antique, by definition, is usually an item that is 100 years old or more. A collectible, on the other hand, has several criteria that define this term. It must be massed produced and made in the twentieth century. The items usually cost between a few cents and several hundred dollars. Collectibles are made in America or are collected heavily in this country. An example of an antique would be a Mocha ware pitcher made in England around 1800. It is a heavy pottery with a distinct coffee-with-cream coloring. Designs of blues, brown, green, orange, black or white were added to the pottery and were given such names as tree, earthworm, seaweed, trail, or moss. It is a highly sought-after item in today’s market with some good examples valued at around $1000.

An example of a collectible might be an Orphan Annie Ovaltine shaker mug. Orphan Annie appeared in the comics in 1924. The little redheaded girl and her dog was a popular radio attraction in the 1920s, with the show sponsored by Ovaltine. The shaker mug was made of an early plastic called Bettleware and displays a decal picture of Annie and her dog, Sandy. It was obtained by sending in a premium label from the Ovaltine jar and a dime. This is a classic collectible and is valued at about $75 today.

Collect something you like. This is Rule Number 1. You are the one who is going to have to live with these items in your house, so collect things that you like and that you know something about. Maybe your grandmother left you some old Willoware dishes. This could be the start of your collecting life. Many people got started collecting things like Depression glass that was used by parents in years gone by. It would be difficult to justify collecting something that you find offensive or unattractive. Some people even use their items everyday. Having things around you that you are pleased with somehow makes home even more inviting. These familiar things sometimes were the items we associated with our homes. This would be a great way to start collecting. Collect something that you remember from your home, such as Depression glass or salt/pepper shakers. The categories you can consider are many, but make it something that you really like having around. You will have to live with whatever you collect.

Moore, Ed.D., is a specialist in the valuation of antique and collectable objects of the last 100 years. He is an educator, counselor, and avid antique enthusiast as well as a candidate member of the American Society of Appraisers. He has been a collector of antique American Art Pottery and has been a dealer for over 20 years. He is familiar with nearly all lines of American Art Pottery, twentieth century glassware, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau categories. If you have a question about antiques or collectibles, you can e-mail him at or drop him a letter at 8864 Lorford Drive, Chambersburg, PA 17201-9335.