Collecting antiques is a passion shared by many people, from the casual collector to the serious dealer. Despite the modern “Ikea” age of convenience (or perhaps because of it), the enthusiasm with which people seek out these historic treasures remains undiminished. The items coveted and the reasons for seeking them out vary wildly. For many enthusiasts, it is difficult to say precisely what attracts them to an antique. It may be the historical significance, monetary value, or simple beauty… In any case, there is much to love about antiques!
What is an antique?
An antique is an old, valuable object with historical or cultural significance. It could be a piece of furniture, an everyday household item, or a work of art – silverware, art, toys, tapestries, lamps and vintage clothes are among the most sought-after objects. While technically an antique should be at least 100 years old, young collectors often seek out retro items from the 1960s or art deco pieces from the “roaring twenties”. While purists would probably consider these items mere “collectables”, the growing popularity of antiques and the forward march of time mean that what can be classified as an antique is ever changing.
Connection to the past
By evoking the essence of a bygone era, antiques bring us closer to the past. They help us learn about history in a formal sense, but also create a sense of nostalgia for another time. For example, a political poster can shed light on the social mores of a particular period, and rouse emotions not easily conjured by the written word. Similarly, a ring that has been passed down through the generations may have sentimental value that cannot be measured by the quality of the diamonds. Lovers of antiques treasure the historical aspect of their collection. They may wonder who sipped tea from this cup; who soothed their baby to sleep in this rocking chair. The ability of antiques to amuse, educate and tell a story is a powerful attraction.
An obvious reason for people’s interest in antiques is their monetary value. To know an object’s true value takes considerable knowledge of its age, condition and historical era. Collectors with this skill can identify an underpriced or inconspicuous item, and even make significant profits buying and selling on the antique market. Alternatively, they may prefer to keep certain items as part of their own personal collection.
Thrill of the chase
Finding a rare or valuable piece amongst the bric-a-brac of a flea market or garage sale is a source of pride and joy for your average collector. Antique stores and estate sales are other places brimming with bargains and coveted treasures.
You don’t have to be a serious collector (or seriously cashed up!) to enjoy antiques. Including a single historical piece in your décor can add character, romance or a personal statement to your home. Keep an eye out for vintage fabrics, interesting art and beautiful furniture. If you’re handy with a hammer or paintbrush, you can easily transform someone else’s junk into functional and funky furniture.
Antique lovers are a broad church. While some focus on a certain item (e.g. cuckoo clocks), others devote themselves to a particular era (e.g. the Victorian period). Others, still, have broad interests and eclectic tastes. Be guided by your taste, historical interests and sense of fun!