One of the most pressing issues in our industry today, and one near to my heart, is how to engage the next generation of auction goers and antique collectors. I have read a good many articles on how the younger generations; the millennials in particular don’t care about antiques. All too many times I’ve heard “kids these days would rather have a cell phone than a bedroom suite”. Frankly I am starting to take offense. I am a millennial. I am 25, and yes, I own an IPhone, but I also work for an auction house. I care about antiques, vintage, and preserving our material culture for the next generation. Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I don’t think so.
by Ken Torrino
Yet, we’d be wrong. Right now, these and other historical documents can be found on display in the Madison Avenue gallery of Douglas Elliman, a premier New York City real estate agency. It’s a week-long promotion that will lead to an auction consisting of 300 lots filled with personal documents that belonged to historical figures from King George III to Joe DiMaggio.
Over the last few years it seems like there has been an increased interest in collecting the bizarre and odd, particularly the oddities of yesterday. As collecting the artifacts of the carnival midways, sideshows and traveling medicine shows gain popularity, so does the popularity of these entertainments’ (only slightly) more refined cousin, magic. Although magic and illusion have been popular entertainments for centuries, the hey day of stage magic was arguably around the turn of the last century. This period has left us a legacy of beautiful advertising material, souvenirs and actual stage props. The problem is that magic, by its very nature, is secretive which compounds the normal problems that come with antique verification. Many items sold as magic props, such as puzzle boxes and two headed coins, are actually novelties or gambling items. If you are not a magician (and sometimes even if you are), it can be very difficult to spot a legitimate prop and even harder to tell something relatively old. However, props are only one of the types of magic related antiques you may find.
A decidedly interesting part of antiques and collectables is art. In years past there have been stories of paintings or other ephemera relating to artists that have sold for record sums. Some people may argue that it’s silly money, but others take a real interest in it. One aspect of artwork that very often gets neglected, but is just as valid and worthy as expensive paintings, is that of vintage cartoons and an upcoming auction on 18th October is going to be showcasing and hopefully selling, some of the most interesting ones from recent years.
Political satire and historical cartoons through the ages
The US is very lucky in that it is one of the few countries, alongside the UK, that can more or less trace it’s political history through the emergence of cartoons and satire. The very first political cartoon of its kind was one that was created by Ben Franklin in 1754. It was entitled simply “Join or Die” and showed a caricatured image of a snake which became a symbol of the revolutionaries. Since then, images such as these have been used to lampoon and send up authority figures.
During the nineteenth century, critiques would be made on the presidential elections via the medium of art and cartooning. Thomas Nast was considered to be the real founding father of political satire via cartoons. His work certainly pulled no punches and he made his feelings about anyone in the political sphere he did not like, patently clear.
By Michael Bernzweig
Growing up, my mother had a houseful of antiques—which I not-so-affectionately referred to as junk. I felt embarrassed when my friends referred to our house as a museum. Moreover, I had no idea that these items held value. My concern was that I had to help dust around all of these “trinkets” and field questions about their origin. My mom collected old medicine tins and bottles, tobacco tins, inkwells, kitchen spice tins and timepieces. She tried to explain what the colorful lithographs meant and why they were important: nostalgia, historical interest and face value. It was not until a friend asked me years later to join him relic hunting with a metal detector that my attitude toward antiques changed. Below is advice on selecting a relic metal detectors for locating antiques for readers of Antique Auction Forum from industry professional Michael Bernzweig of MetalDetector.com.
My friend was poking around on the shoreline searching for antiques (or relics)—in particular, antique rings and jewelry and antique toys. In the process, he came upon an old inkwell that looked exactly like one of my mother’s! His fascination with the history of the inkwell (everyone used them until there were fountain pens) and the fact that he sold it at auction gave me a newfound appreciation for my mom’s “stuff.” Now I regularly embark upon treasure hunts with friends with metal detectors and we’re creating lots of fun memories. On a recent hunt we’ve even recovered some valuable coins and an antique pendant.
Pocket watches are something that have had a long and very varied history. As the saying goes “Tempus Fugit”, time flees. These items can be simply designed and functional, meant for every day use, or they can be intricate and ornate objects which are meant to be shown as a display of wealth, as well as serving a useful purpose. Timepieces are now amongst the most collectable items of jewelry for sale at auction these days and over the coming months there are two important and notable events doing just that.
Intricately designed pocket watch from the 18th century. Image courtesy of wikimediacommons
Thousands of years ago, man had literally no concept of time. Life was governed by the transition of the seasons and day moving into night. The notion of AM or PM just did not figure at all. Over the centuries, the need to be more concise and recognize how the day evolved became more necessary. The first recorded instance of pocket watches came during the later stages of the middle ages when people from the upper classes of society requested craftsmen to make them timepieces that they could hand around their necks, primarily as a show of wealth but also as a stylish means of being able to tell the time accurately wherever they were.
It was alleged that Queen Elizabeth I of England was one of the first people to own a wrist watch and other notable names in history who are said to have owned pocket watches are the Duke of Modena and the Ottoman watchmaker Meshur Sheyh Dede.
Until the Industrial Revolution they really were the reserve of the upper echelons of society only. The ordinary person would simply have to carry on relying on whether the sun was over the yardarm or not! Once the Industrial Revolution took hold, the trend for these pieces spread worldwide as trade broadened and important developments like the railways cropped up everywhere. In the United States and The United Kingdom it was made compulsory for men who worked on the railways to have about their person at all times an accurate method of telling the time, thus they were supplied with pocket watches to be able to do this. They only fell out of favour when technology moved on with the development of the Quartz movement which rendered the daily winding of watches obsolete.
People will always be fascinated with auctions of any kind. The passion for collecting and restoring antiques and other valuable goods is gaining in popularity as people’s interest in vintage items over new continues to increase. However, in terms of collectables, one man’s meat might be another man’s poison and a recent news story about an upcoming auction might just be about to further put this theory to the test.
Crime Scene Collectables
The public have always had a perhaps slightly grim fascination with anything crime or gore related and the interest in picking up items from crime scenes is not a new one by any stretch of the imagination.
A story published here in the New York Times tells of how a New Hampshire based auction room are preparing for a live sale at the end of September, selling some of the most interesting and perhaps macabre collectables that have been purloined from the scenes of some famous crimes US History.
Bonnie and Clyde. Image courtesy of wikimediacommons
I am an east coast gal. I was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and raised in Wells, Maine. I visit York, Maine often, it has always been one of my favorite places because it is part of the route ‘home.’ When I think of why I love the coast of Maine, York is always one of the reasons.
Recently the George Marshall Store Gallery contacted our business to be apart of the exhibit Accord VIII: A Pairing of Antiquities and Contemporary Art. Up until this point I had never visited the gallery, only heard great things about it. Before working with the museum I went to the site and was amazed. I had no idea the amount of history that existed on this very piece of property. The museum is truly a gem. The seaside setting is the icing on the cake. To smell fresh salty air while looking at art and antiques is what the tourists dream of and the ‘Maine-rs’ sometimes take for granted.
Many advanced collectors of early American glass bottles will tell you the category they first started collecting was ink bottles. Their diminutive size and alluring colors and shapes catch the eye of anyone with an appreciation for detail and a fascination with the early glass-blowing trade as it developed on this continent.
For a beginning collector, or an interior decorator in search of vintage accents for old cupboards and desks, a 120-year-old ink bottle will often fit the bill and is very affordable. For a few dollars, you have an authentic glass container that was used every day by someone with a quill pen, sitting at a desk, filling out bills or invoices, or carefully writing a letter by hand in cursive (which is becoming a lost art).
I have been a bottle “digger” in New England for 30-plus years, digging in the forest, in foundations, in old outhouse pits and even under water with the help of SCUBA equipment. If I didn’t have other responsibilities, this is probably all I would do; it is simply that much fun. Compulsive bottle hunting doesn’t lend well to raising a family and paying bills, however, as the following story attests:
by Ron Lawson
It seems almost everywhere you turn these days you do not have to go very far to notice a molded, pressed particle or stapled
flat pack piece of furniture, perhaps even in your own home. Certainly, It’s low cost appeal is foremost these days and it could be argued that it lasts several years.
Indeed, by design that was it’s very role, Ikea was founded in 1943 by 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad in Sweden In response to the explosion of human population and material expectations in the 20th and 21st century, the company implementing economies of scale, capturing material streams and creating manufacturing processes that hold costs and resource use down, such as the extensive use of particle board. The intended result is flexible, adaptable home furnishings, scalable both to smaller homes and dwellings as well as many larger houses. The products, widely once thought of as merely college age or dorm furniture designed to last through those years, has now become the staple for many of us.
Odd ideology when placed in comparison with the growing green movement and pertaining to the global saving of the environment.
These days, as with our widely disposable use of many items, quality is secondary to use and items are simply made to be discarded as and used only when needed. This begging the question, is it quality down the drain or is it baby and bath water out the window? What I fancy calling “The Ikea mentality”.
One of the side affects to this mentality certainly is the growing lost appreciation for actual quality and craftsmanship. People seem far less interested these days with whether a piece of furniture is antique, hand made, carved or of what wood than whether it will biodegrade or simply hold a playstation or just simply accent the new 3D plasma television.
This is by no means limited to furniture, but probably is an example the most readily noticed. I would question if there are very many 20-40 something’s out there with an eye towards ever collecting furnishings by Belter, Herter or Stickley & and of those how many are ever likely to be exploring classic period–Baroque, Nouveau or other pieces…even in the style.
I unfortunately see a day when other fine antiques such as that of Tiffany, Meissen, Daum, Lalique etc., are looked on as merely odd old trinkets in lieu of the local Target chrome plated centerpiece or faux resin bronze.
While not being an elitist by any stretch of the imagination, I have witnessed a constant and steady decline in the appreciation of antiques in general. Not just as a response to the present economy but also the fact that true style in general has declined over the last 40 years to such a degree that everything produced currently (with some exceptions) is now marginal. Here today and gone tomorrow so to speak, not intended to last generation to generation. Heirloom quality now, represents merely a descriptive marketing term most often associated with such firms as the Franklin and Danbury Mint.
Part of the love of antiques, is the appreciation of craftsmanship, it’s style and for myself…a preservation of history. The history that an item has survived and in some ways lives to speak to that time, an era or even a singular person. It evokes something deep within, as all antiques can and should. That the item will someday hopefully out last us and in some odd and perhaps romanticized fashion, we might impart a small bit of ourselves back into it. By understanding and caring for antiques, we in fact care for something, a memory far longer then the original owner could…but if able, would.
IF there is a continued loss of this appreciation, who will or could continue to preserve it?
How many of us take the time to simply spend a moment with our own friends or family and explain why an antique has meaning? For example, why grandmothers Chippendale desk is special (or at least special too you), why that Baroque inlaid bureau has such a design to it. Or, for that matter, why you still wear your late fathers vintage watch.
There is an enormous amount of passion to be found in antiques, whether you collect or sell them and there is also a responsibility to preserve and help perpetuate that same passion.
by Martin Codina
The value of gold and silver as pegged to the precious metals spot market price is now often times higher than the value of the gold or silver as …
There has always been a illicit market for looted and stolen antiques and history.
by Ron Lawson
Recently, I was given Mark Twain’s autobiography which was followed that same week by the news that a newly-released version of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” will substitute the word “slave” for the original N-WORD. All of which …
As Stated in a Speech given by Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions, August 7, 2010.
Click here for our podcast with Jeff.
At the FOHBC conference in Wilmington, Ohio.
by Dr. J. Darragh M. Elliott, M.Sc., Ph.D.
“AN INSATIABLE COLLECTOR – Part Three”
There are all types of auctions. The most famous being those of Sothebys and Christies. Other auctions include, auctions held in arenas, hotel ball rooms, homes, …
We decided that our weekly blogs are going to be informational. You will be seeing a lot of “How To” in regards to antiques, art and auctions. Your input for ideas is always welcome, just send us a message on …
Our Podcast with Phelps on the subject: Click Here
I think to get a better understanding of the antique advertising market you need to get some background on how product branding came about, and …