That chest of drawers has problems.
The chair is period, but is problematic.
Most of the stuff in that guy's collection has major problems.
Does this sound familiar? We hear comments like these all around the marketplace: at shows, at auctions, everywhere. What, exactly, are "problems" in the context of antiques? Generally speaking, condition issues and/or restoration. What we want to know is why something that is present in the vast majority of authentic antiques is a problem. If a 200-year-old blanket chest survives to today in totally original condition, without a bit of damage or repair, then it's a miracle and the price typically reflects this. But if it has a replaced back foot, all of a sudden it's "problematic." Why is this?
It seems to us that an authentic antique, even if it has significant restoration, is a good thing. So why do we condemn a restored object with a word like "problem?" Doesn't this make most antiques undesirable? After all, who wants to own a problem? (We do, of course, believe that fake or fraudulent objects, or those that have been "dressed up" or restored in a deceptive way can be problems, unless they are bought and sold as exactly what they are.)
It's only a word, yes, and in 21st-century America, we often get overly sensitive about words. But we're not talking about a misguided attempt to be politically correct, and we certainly aren't suggesting that we should start saying "the P-word." We are, however, saying that by using overly negative words to describe perfectly authentic antiques, we are demeaning them. We are not creating an environment in which these wonderful objects-objects that have lived lives and been used and even loved-are desirable. And aren't we, as auctioneers and dealers, suppose to be creating a desire to own these things?
What do you think?