Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's auction week.

It's auction week at Garth's, Saturday being our annual Memorial Day auction, part of which (for four years now) has been devoted to objects from the Ohio River Valley.

Today also happens to be our monthly walk-in appraisal day. Between the two events, it's a great time to "people watch" in the marketplace. The saleroom is full of dealers and collectors of all kinds....trophy hunters, price buyers (folks who go after things if they're cheap, sometimes disparagingly called "bottom feeders" but these folks sometimes walk away with a real gem that was merely overlooked), and serious students of material culture. We also get the previewers who like to ask a zillion questions, sometimes because they genuinely want the answers, and sometimes simply to show off their knowledge and/or stump you.

And then there are the folks who bring their treasures to be evaluated by our appraisers. You never know what is going to walk through the door...we look at LOTS of handpainted china that is "real old and valuable" (according to grandma), but we also see some very interesting stuff (like a 17th century Tibetan bronze buddha). Yep, every month there is one person who KNOWS what their object is and when we disagree, they KNOW that they are right and we are wrong. But for the most part, we get nice folks who just want to know what something is.

The record price for an object brought in during our monthly appraisal day is just over $43,000 (the aforementioned buddha). It's only a matter of time before something eclipses that....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Seeing things differently...

So a few weeks ago, I helped one of Garth's clients load up a piece of furniture that they had purchased in our March Americana auction. Here it is:

Not terribly impressive, right? It's only half a corner cupboard, is missing bits of molding, and has been badly refinished.

Well, the buyers, Dave and Jeanne Kessler, owners of Sandusky Street Antiques in Delaware, Ohio, had a good reason for buying it. Jeanne explained that when Dave first saw the thing, he thought, "Boy, that's just about perfect for a corner stand for a flatscreen tv." So, they bought it (very reasonably), Dave'll fix it up, and someone will get a good deal on a stylish, eco-friendly tv stand that will have resale value.

That's exactly the attitude and the vision we need in this business. In years past, you could find a collector that would happily purchase nearly every antique out there. These days, collectors are fewer and pickier. They've been convinced that they shouldn't be buying anything that doesn't fall somewhere on the good-better-best spectrum. As a result, there are truckloads of useful, attractive antiques languishing in antique shops, their owners frustrated because no one will give them a second look.

The trick, as we've said before, is to target non-collectors...users, folks who just want to live with interesting furnishings or furnishings that offer good value and aren't made in Chinese sweatshops. Dave and Jeanne have figured this out and are out there looking for the overlooked antiques that just might find a useful spot in a modern home. That's smart. That's the kind of flexibility that has allowed them to remain successful these past few years. And you never know...they just might ignite an interest in someone and turn a mere user into a collector!