Ask About Antiques Starting Down the Road to Collecting Antiques II
by Budd A. Moore, Ed.D.
As with any other endeavor upon which you embark, it is a good idea to survey the landscape and find some of the best sources of information you can about your newfound interest.
Learn as much as you can about the category. There is no substitute for learning about the category you choose. Being knowledgeable about a category of collectible or antique is like having an inside tip on a horse at the Kentucky Derby. Knowledge is power in this area as it is in many aspects of life. Antiques and collectibles are no different. Knowing the general history of an item and having a good handle on the approximate value of items in a category will enable you to easily spot “bargains” in your own “big game hunt.”
Price guides. I still have the first price guide I ever bought. It was a good investment for me at $7.95 and helped me educate myself about things I saw. I have bought a new price guide every year since and have a whole library of prices now to refer to. I highly recommend your investing in a general price guide or a price guide specific to the category you choose to collect. I like Schroeder’s Antiques Price Guide and Kovel’s Antiques and Collectibles Price List. These are very comprehensive volumes that are inexpensive and easy to use. Categories from ABC plates to Zsolnay pottery are included and give current prices that are obtained from a number of sources. They sell for $13-15, but they are well worth the investment.
Collector Clubs. These organizations are very useful in your search for information about the item you have chosen to collect. I have collected antique playing marbles for years and was gratified when I discovered that there was actually a Marble Collector’s Society of America. It is a great way to keep abreast of the collectible or antique that you have chosen to specialize in. It is also a great way to meet new friends and enthusiasts who collect the same item as you. Other collector clubs that are really hot are fountain pen collectors, Akro Agate collectors, The Hatpin Collectors Society, Collectors of Political items, postcard collector societies, and toy collectors. There is almost as many clubs and organizations whose members are devoted to an antique or collectible as there are categories of these things. Find one that centers on your interests and consider joining and taking an active part. Some of these organizations have conventions and swap meets that could be a way to increase and enrich your collection.
Periodicals. There are numerous monthly publications available for the collector. Most are a blend of antique and collectible articles and information. You can obtain copies of these monthly guides at your local newsstand or supermarket. Examples include Antiques & Collecting Hobbies and Collectors’ Showcase. Most have price guides and feature articles that will give a wealth of information about various categories of items. Weekly periodicals in newspaper format are a great way to see what is available out there for sale, and most contain articles about current hot items on the market. The Antique Trader Weekly and Antique Week are good examples of weekly guides and classified ads selling items of all categories. There are specialty periodicals that you may also want to investigate such as Antique Toy World and others. You can also pick up a variety of free periodicals at local flea markets and antique dealers. They are a good way to see some of the many items that are being offered for sale and can also be a source of dealers’ directories.
Museums. Museums are a great way to see many examples of fine antiques and collectibles. Many museums are capitalizing on the popularity of collecting and have offered displays with themes that would interest any antique enthusiast. The Renfrew Museum in Waynesboro, PA recently had an exhibit of antique lighting devices and had an open house this month spotlighting a Century of Christmas. Museums sometimes have special events that will enable you to learn more about antiques and collectibles. Lectures, seminars, and even appraisal days (such as the one held at Renfrew in November) offer the collector an opportunity to learn a great deal about things they have collected or have had in the family for some time.
Internet. Just as with many other aspects of life, the Internet can be a rich source of information and data on antiques and collectibles. Several sites are good places to start. I particularly like www.collectingchannel.com, www.treasuresinyourhouse.com, and www.kovel.com. These are great places to start. You may just want to go into a browser, such as www.dogpile.com and put in the name of the thing that you collect. There could be hundreds or thousands of sites devoted to the item that you are collecting. Then there are the online auctions. Just checking Ebay, I found there were 81,310 antiques listed for sale and 1,166,161 collectible items listed for bids. Almost any of the larger browsers, such as Excite or Yahoo, have auction services now.
Auctions and Flea Markets. If you have the time and the perseverance, auctions and flea markets are a good way to get a flavor for the local market. After all, you will probably be buying most of your items locally. They are a good way to determine local prices and values of things that you may have in your collection already. There is also always a bargain out there for the buying. You just have to be at the right place at the right time. It is a very satisfying feeling to find a new piece for your collection. For example, I had driven by this little coop flea market in Fairfield many times and never stopped. I stopped there one weekend and found a very unusual piece of the pattern of pressed glass I have collected for years. It was a great find. You never know when a piece will surface, so sharpen your knowledge of your chosen antique or collectible and develop a sense of value for pieces you are looking for.
A word about reproductions. Reproductions are a major concern. Most reproductions are unmarked; the newness of their appearance is often the best clue to uncovering them. This is all the more reason to become very knowledgeable about the category of antique or collectible you choose to specialize in. Many price guides will give you reproduction alerts and make items known to be reproduced for your information. Reproductions are one thing, but outright fakes are quite another. Some manufacturers produce things that never existed, so knowing your field will eliminate many of the disappointing incidents that have happened to some unsuspecting people.
Enjoy! Above all, enjoy what you collect! Enjoy the hunt for pieces for your collection and also enjoy getting to know the many people who have similar interests in collecting as you. Sometimes making new friends through antiques and collectibles can be the greatest treasure you will discover. Have fun and your hobby will be an enjoyable way to spend free time and enjoy the seasons of the year.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or drop him a letter at 8864 Lorford Drive, Chambersburg, PA 17201-9335.