ABC of Antiquing
Franklin County Historical Society & Museum
ABC'S of Antiquing
My humble beginnings with antiques and collectibles kicked off with my first job out of college almost thirty years ago. My work with the Franklin County Historical Society and Museum (FCHS) provided me with a greater understanding of our past, present and future. It helped history come alive leaving me with a measurable time line for people, place and events. It’s difficult to find or, for that matter, follow a path or plan when we don’t know the historical facts, dates or details. The FCHS Museum is housed in an Andrew Carnegie Library nestled in the rural, agricultural community of Pasco, located in Eastern Washington. Pasco’s history is vividly described in a book written by historian and museum founder Walter Oberst titled, “Railroads, Reclamation and the River: A History of Pasco." Walter was a recognized scholar, historian and beloved friend who devoted his life to history and this city. His passion for history was contagious. As a result of Walter's influence I've written a personal perspective on history, antiques and collectibles that cannot not be bought, sold or bartered. It involves learning about our past through shared experiences and people who lived, embraced and survived to tell their stories for future generations.
A – Antique Facts
Forget about commercial programs like the Antique Road Show. Don’t bother with expensive books or magazines on antiques and collectibles pricing. Gather valuable information and learn about antiques and our past by asking questions and listening to people. Some of the most inspiring and memorable moments for me came from real people or the archives. The information gathered from old newspapers, magazines and photographs is priceless. One story that I vividly recall came from a series of letters written from a frighten soldier during WWII to his mother describing his fear, hunger and living conditions His stories told a story, depicted his fears and finally became a mother's worse nightmare after his letters abruptly stopped.
Books about antiques and collectibles provide relevant information and prices, however volunteering at your local historical society/museum or visiting an assisted care living or retirement home is priceless. Reach out and engage with seniors in your community. Learning about our past from those who lived during that era provides us with a better perspective and more accurate detail about those events, places and things. Enclosed are some unconventional ways to learn about antiques, collectibles and valuables to bring history to life.
B – Buying and Selling or Finding your Niche
Decide what your passion is - whether it’s glassware, jewelry or Toby Mugs. Learn all you can about it. That way it won’t seem like work. Be aware that antique shopping can be addictive; especially when you first start and discover that first ‘pearl’ in an oyster. Also be aware that finding a great deal can create grandiose feelings and lead to ‘garage sale mania’ or loose spending. Try to keep costs within your budget, remember specific antique/collectibles resale value and know your market. Just because you like it doesn't mean it will sell or maintain its value. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some keepsakes or collectibles maintain their value more then others. For instance, certain toys, dolls, turn-of-the century house wares or glassware including Depression glass are fine examples of collectibles that hold their value over time.
C – Cost and Shopping for Antiques
Some of the best places to find antiques include, networking through friends, relatives and acquaintances. Similar to a job search some of your best finds are unadvertised and found through private sources. Don’t overlook your local garage, private estate or thrift markets. Although the latter or thrift markets are highly overrated since most people running them know collectible or antique values and price them accordingly. Lastly, check out public or private auctions - especially when you’re selling in high volume - because it’s difficult to keep up with stock when you become successful at selling.
Selling – Rules to Live By
The rule of thumb when selling antiques and collectibles is to triple your price on the small stuff such as glassware and other collectibles or what we refer to as your bread and butter money, and double it on bigger items such as furniture or high-end jewelry. Many successful shop owners stayed afloat when others did not by pricing their keepsakes for their market and specifically considered factors such as supply verses demand. Start small but think big. My humble beginnings originally started with giving away antiques as gifts to friends and family, expanded to garage sales and ended with leasing space in a high tourist area.
In summary, despite our current recession we are still a want -instead of needs based society and if you have something that some else wants its valuable. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Happy treasure hunting.
How to tell if it's a Fake
Even the best of dealers get fooled so the best rule of thumb is to become specialized in one area and consult with experts in the field on other artifacts. I took a particular liking to furniture so it was easier for me to inspect furniture more dutifully. Pay close attention to details such as the dove tailing in drawers, hardware such as nails (square nails). Inspect the piece to see if it is married. This is when an older piece is updated or repaired with a newer piece of wood. There are companies that specialize in reproductions so it's easy to replace hardware but it's more difficult to replace an entire headboard or glass.