Sunday, August 23, 2009

Take this survey!

It'll only take 5 minutes and it's completely anonymous. Help us gather a bit if info on collectors!

Click HERE to take Andrew & Hollie's Antiques Survey.

And please feel free to pass this link on to your friends and colleagues, or post it to your own blog or site!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A New Trend?

Apparently being an auctioneer is cool and hip (or we'll say "phat" to those under 35). In the past few months, three new auction firms have sprung up, and their names are very familiar.

In June, Thomas Schwenke, noted dealer of American Federal antiques, held the inaugural sale at Woodbury Auction, LLC in Woodbury, Connecticut. Five hundred lots from various consignors, and it looks like the results were good...a Charles II japanned desk-and-bookcase leading the way at just over $23,000.

Then, this past week, we see two announcements, one from Krause Publications, publishers of Antique Week, that they'll be morphing their live auction platform,, into an auction firm, with their first auction scheduled for November 5. Also, MAD just posted an article on the May 2010 premier of Leigh Keno Auctions. Keno, veteran Americana dealer and PBS star, announced the auction company will sell anything and everything over $100.

With the current market, it may seem an odd time to start an auction company, but there is logic here. First, there is the ever-important cash flow. Dealers and trade papers have bills that need paid every month, so they need a reliable and regular flow of revenue to meet these expenses. A decline in print subscriptions or a string of shows with slow sales, and it can get tough. With auctions, you know that revenue will be coming in because the antiques will sell and you'll get commission dollars.

Additionally, these folks are capitalizing on what they see as opportunities. Antique Week is read by thousands of folks every week and they already have the technology in place for online auctions, so actually running auctions might be seen as the logical next step. For Mssrs. Keno and Schwenke, auctions might be a way to turn "no thank yous" into income. Because of their reputations, each probably gets hundreds of calls each year from folks wanting to sell single items or entire collections/estates. These guys deal in high-end stuff and thus probably only buy a teeny tiny fraction of what's offered to them. However, by offering an auction venue, they might be able to convert a high percentage of these calls to consignments, and thus commission dollars.

So...will these new ventures be successful? Too soon to tell, and there will be great challenges. Antique Week is likely to hear from their advertisers, many of whom are auctioneers who will now see the weekly trade paper as direct competition. Will AW continue to offer great ad spots to their subscribers/advertisers? Or will their own auctions take over the center spread of the National Section? Will Keno and Schwenke be able to maintain two busy schedules (that of a dealer, with shows and shop hours, and that of an auctioneer)? Will they be able to maintain consignment flow after the novelty of their venture has worn off? The competition for quality consignments is cut-throat, and it may be hard for a new firm, even with their venerable names, to compete long-term with the trusted names of Skinner, Northeast, Eldred's, Pook, Doyle, and others, including of course, Garth's.

We wish them all luck, and look forward to reporting on them as their auction businesses develop.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back from New England...

Five days and about 1,500 miles. That's a long trip. We saw lots of this:

It's a good thing we like each other because we spend countless hours on roads like this.

But take another look at the photo...beautiful scenery, no? Sure, a few gray clouds in the sky, and the orange signs signify that construction headaches may be coming, but we like to think more positively. This is a beautiful stretch of road...but what's just around that bend may be even better.

What's this have to do with collecting antiques? Plenty. We went to New Hampshire with a healthy amount of optimism. Maybe we still have a while yet in this recession, but the marketplace has shown some signs of an upward swing of late. And we weren't disappointed - New Hampshire has bolstered our optimism. Dealers were selling and prices at the Northeast and Skinner auctions bracketing the week were good.

What we found most interesting is something we've seen at other shows the past 12 months or so. Prices are down. We know that they are at auctions, but they are at shows, too. Dealers, at least those who want to make sales, are adjusting their prices. And it's working!

We don't expect prices (at auction or at shows) to return to what they were 5-10 years ago. But that's okay. In fact, it's good. (We even had one dealer express relief that prices have come down because "things were getting out of hand and unaffordable" for a while.) We're in a place where we need to attract new collectors, and it will be much easier with lower prices. Let's face it, if you're telling young folks that they should collect, it's hard to convince them if they need a big bank account. Now, it's possible to buy very good antiques at very reasonable prices. We, as dealers and auctioneers, could, and should, start talking about value when we talk about the antiques we sell. If you're talking to someone who needs a place to store their skivvies, you can talk to them about getting the most for their money. How about a new slogan: Antiques. Better style. Better value.

So let's look at bends in the road with some hopefulness. Even if the orange signs mean stop-and-go-traffic for a while, it might allow you to enjoy the scenery for a change.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Glimmer of Hope....

Andrew here...and I've been very busy. A successful auction last weekend, and a slew of consignment pickups. Could this mean that the market is starting to climb out of the pit we've been in? Probably too soon to say now, but it's allowing me to go into Manchester weeks with a bit of optimism.

Stay tuned....