Enjoy the thrill of hunting for old things, Antiquing Fun!

Published on Fri, 10/27/2017 - 10:21am

Enjoy the thrill of hunting for old things

Nothing compares to that first smell when entering an antique store: That peculiar mixture of dust, furniture wax, and now-unfamiliar materials like kapok and coconut grass. It’s the fragrance of “old.”

There’s also nothing like the thrill of finding something that adds to a cherished collection or will fill that corner in your home with a unique, eye-catching piece.

What’s your interest?
Often, extensive collections begin innocently, say with a gift from an elderly aunt, saying “Here, honey, I’d like you to have this since you have admired it as a child.” For others, it can be a persistent nagging that something is lacking in the home decor: “Surely I can find an antique that would be perfect for that space.” Or maybe it’s something you had as a child and want to recapture.

Collecting today runs the gamut from paintings to pills, tools to toys, games to guns, and from photos to pots-and-pans. What’s especially hot these days? Vinyl records (who’d have thought?), iron household goods like doorstops, typewriters, 1950s-era furniture and housewares; anything related to automobiles and gasoline marketing (called “petroliana”), and political buttons and signs. Depression glass is on an upswing, according to antique dealers.

Do you have a special interest of hobby? Chances are you can augment your knowledge by looking to years-past items for old-time knowledge or inspiration. If you like photography, for instance, there is plenty of opportunity with portable and bellows cameras, prints, photography developing equipment (for film, remember), and even old photographic magazines.

Where should you look?
Before you hit the road, hit your computer. In any given area, be it rural or urban, you can usually find antique stores, shops, and malls. Just Google “antiques in (city)” and take your pick.

There are some areas where success is likely:

  • Go where “old” is in the atmosphere, meaning cities and and towns that date back to the Revolutionary War or even earlier. The Northeast and the 13 original colonies can be particularly productive, especially for older furniture pieces. Boston, small-town New York State, rural Pennsylvania, and even Maryland and Virginia are virtually ripe with antique furniture.
  • Adamstown, Pennsylvania in Lancaster County bills itself as Antiques Capital, USA and hyperbole aside, this small town’s 16 malls and numerous specialty shops offer what can be called “a target-rich environment.” As many as 5000 dealers have shops and kiosks there. The town also holds Antique Extravaganzas three times per year.Verona, Virginia has the country’s claimed largest antique mall. The Factory Antique Mall is housed in the former Genesco Clothing Company factory, all 121,000 square feet of it. Located in Virginia’s picturesque Shenandoah Valley near historic Charlottesville, the mall’s more than 250 dealers have been helpful to period-piece film—like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
  • Other towns with a reputation for antiques include Galena, Illinois; Stillwater, Minnesota; Richmond, Indiana; Amherst, Wisconsin; Round Top, Texas; Hazel, Kentucky; Walnut, Iowa; Hudson, New York; and Clinton, Tennessee.

The hunt is on
There’s something rewarding about stumbling across a shop that has just what you were searching for…especially if you didn’t know you wanted it in the first place. While fun to explore on your own, there are a few things you can do to increase the likelihood of a successful antiquing experience. The website invaluable.com, an online marketplace for fine art, antiques and collectibles, offers several tips.

Find Main Street: Small-town America still exists, with rows of shops, restaurants and locally-owned businesses. These often have at least one great antique shop to explore.

Look for flea market fliers: Head to a grocery store or diner and keep an eye out for local fliers that could clue you in on some prime antiquing finds. Don’t rule out street fairs and county fairs.

Plan to include estate sales: This is often where antique store vendors get their best finds to sell. You not only get to search for keepsakes, but you’ll also get a truly insider take on how the residents make their home.

Ask the locals: If you find a spot that has some good pieces, don’t be afraid to ask the shopkeeper where else you might find similar goods.

Experience a live auction: There’s nothing quite like the excitement of a live auction: The auctioneer’s riveting voice, the thrill of placing your bid, and the adrenaline rush of winning a prized item just can’t be equalled. If you can’t make it in person, auction houses often offer live auctions online. Invaluable.com’s app for iPhone or iPad can hook you up with auction sales around the world.

In these days of even small shops being antique malls—many different vendors in one store—be sure to chat up the shopkeeper for insight on where to find what you are searching for. Be prepared to circulate several times since most shops tend to be crammed full. Your prize might be on a shelf, under some woodworking equipment that’s behind an antique Chippendale cabinet…with dishes and a bowling ball on top.

Bargaining tips

  •  It won’t hurt to ask for a better price—the worst you’ll get is “no”
  •  Take a lesson from the American Pickers television show and bundle—assemble multiple items and ask for one price for all. (Keep in in mind that most antique malls are made up of multiple vendors, so bundling may not always work)
  •  What does work is cash. Antique stores are no different from any other business that has to pay a percentage of each purchase to the credit card company. Start peeling off greenbacks and you can usually get some kind of discount.