In the Eyes of an Old Beholder
By Doris S. Axtell
In 30 years the whole picture of the antique business has changed. It has mushroomed to a multi-billion dollar industry. As we know, change is inevitable, and the evolution of the antique business has led to significant developments.
In the old days, Antiques Magazine existed as a beacon, along with a few mild competitors, publishing articles and ads involving only the dealers and collectors of prime quality antiques and artifacts. Today the publishing field is flooded with weekly trade magazines, both general and very specialized. If you deal in marbles, coins, toys, or art, you can subscribe to the publication that fits your need. The decorator magazines always feature antiques in their homes and room settings, so the increased interest in antiques spreads to the media, including television as well as publishing.
As people became aware of our past and our history, which necessarily encompasses antiques, the need to re-learn old skills, which counted for the individual production of beautiful things, becomes evident. Apprentices now attempt to learn quilting, weaving, making of samplers, stenciling of floors and walls, tinsmithing and blacksmithing. Our current craftsmen are now creating the antiques of the future.
For about 100 years we let lapse all the search for knowledge and pride in the handmade products of our ancestors, made without benefit of modern electric equipment, power tools and hand skills.
College Programs Available
Now if interested you can take college programs and obtain advanced degrees in antique-related fields. N.Y.U., Hamilton, and Williams Colleges offer great stepping stones to such degrees and work programs affiliated with Winterthur and other museums. These educational pursuits insure our knowledge of our historic legacy will be correctly perpetuated.
Now museums are springing up in small towns and local counties. Each state expands the inventory of its museums, and bequests increase to bulge the seams of existing museums.
Restoration of many old civic and municipal buildings, such as railroad depots, courthouses and bank buildings are being properly conserved and restored, each involving the uncovering of many interesting related antique objects. Never have the attics, barns, and cellars of our old homes been so explored in attempting to find items that would enhance a local historical restoration of some kind.
There remains the deep-seated acquisitive nature of man, which we count on to preserve in some nook or cranny more and many of the interesting collectibles that are associated with fond memories of our own younger years.
Flea Markets Emerge
Thousands of flea markets have emerged to display and sell memorabilia, which may or may not be valuable, but certainly give pleasure to collectors of what are now classified as later antiques. Baseball cards, Mickey Mouse watches, advertising signs, all such things now constitute a viable and large percent of the antique trade. That is a big change from 30 years ago.
So there eventuates the sound philosophy of not throwing away items from the 1920’s to the 1940’s. Even photographs of those periods are now valuable, as are the cameras that took them.
Summer vacations this year will include visiting some of the fine established museums. In our area, Cooperstown, with its Farmer’s Museum and Fenimore House are always worth even a re-visit. The Doll Museum in the Rochester area appeals to both young and old. Train displays and exhibits in the Scranton area attract the railroad buffs. Sherburne Museum, in Vermont, is great, a two-day education unequalled. Deansboro, New York is an area where you can find both a music museum and lamps unlimited. People with cars traveling on four-lane highways and good appetites build up our economy with their travel related to their antique interests.
When you think of it, America is only 215 years old, and the antiques of all kinds can only number so many. That explains why, as interest grows and magnifies among the young people, as well as the nostalgic oldsters, the value of Americana, accessories and furniture will continue to escalate.
On the other hand, the European market has not escalated in like manner. Their antiques are more abundant on all levels because they stem from more than 1,000 years of civilization. Perhaps they have the edge on us, but we love the challenge of such things as uncovering the Declaration of Independence behind a four dollar picture.
The antique business will flourish and, in the final analysis, the continued expansion and development of the antique business has at best increased our pride in the past and our confidence in the future. The Walton Reporter
Original article published on 6/26/1991