Summertime: a time for drive-in movies, school-age children napping on couches, and road trips. On your weekend jaunts through nearby small towns, you might consider stopping at antique stores. Whether for shopping or putting your unemployed offspring to work cleaning Grandma’s attic, some basic antique education will prepare you for this season.
What drives you to find an actual couch from the 60s instead of trekking to the grand temple of some-assembly-required, IKEA? According to Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, an expert for Psychology Today, it turns out we all have a bit of pirate in us, and it is treasure that we seek. For all the teenage talk of being an original, we also like antiques because of the connection with stories past. Many of us are excited to be a part of something that has already been somewhere, with someone else. So, what are people buying? And what are the most sought-after antiques?
Treasures in the Attic
If you’re wondering what attic treasures are profit in your pocket, here’s some advice. Jim Plumer of Alex Cooper Auctioneers shares that some of the sure-fire hits of antique sales are fine and costume jewelry, oriental art, jade and fine artwork with a strong artist’s signature. Current trendy picks remain midcentury and modern furniture. Look out IKEA. Items you might not think of as valuable antiques are duck decoys, car hood ornaments and sneakers. That’s right, those Nike Air Max’s may have a second life as part of a rabid collector’s footwear entourage. This said, there are a few holy grails of antique collectors that float around like mythical stories collectors tell their children before bedtime.
If you have a suitcase of papers, an old baseball with no autograph or a flower vase whose potter looked to be in an altered state of mind while he was throwing it, well, you may be holding one of the major treasures yet to be auctioned in the world of antiques. A potter named George Ohr went unnoticed if not unheralded by the art world of his time—but his out-of-proportion pottery is now worth tens of thousands of dollars. Those crazy looking pots are only some of the treasures waiting to be discovered.
Check the older suitcases before you donate them! Can you imagine finding a 1920s era suitcase with the lost papers of Ernest Hemingway? Hemingway’s first wife meant to surprise him by bringing his prolific early work with her to where he was on journalistic assignment in Switzerland. The suitcase containing all of his short stories, some of A Farewell to Arms and items that were then in progress was lost in transit.
The baseball attached to “the shot heard round the world” is still at large. Did your great uncle catch it? Estimates as to its value surge upwards of $1 million. Did you stumble on a two-part dresser that stands upwards of eight feet tall? Resist the temptation to detach the two halves! The bottom halves of Philadelphia’s artisan furniture pieces from the 18th century are worth tens of thousands of dollars by themselves. Stumble on a matching two part set, and you could become three quarters of a million dollars richer.
More Tips from the Experts
–Don’t guess at the worth of something, but consult an expert who has experience with the particular type of item you’re interested in— Helaine Fendelman, national authority in the fine arts, antiques and collectibles field, owner of Helaine Fendelman & Associates.
–Turn over every piece of silver to look for “silver” or “925” on the back. This means the item is silver and not just silver-plated. Older pieces and those more likely to be of greater value have just the name of the country of origin as opposed to the newer “made in” designation. –from Charles Snider, antiques dealer in New York City who sells at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market.
There you have it! You’re equipped to join the treasure hunt. As an added bonus, when you find that hidden treasure, you can use it to pay for your unemployed offspring’s education—assuring that you will be the only one napping on your couch.
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