Saturday, January 15, 2011

Country Antique Treasures - getting harder to find?

We're fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the country ...  rural Southeast Pennsylvania, with it's many Amish and Mennonite communities and the countless descendants of the early German settlers who first inhabited the area.  It's not surprising then, that many items reflecting this rich heritage are still to be found.  

Anything Amish is always popular
When scouring the local country auctions, farm and estate sales, even outdoor markets, we still manage to find many rarities which would be totally unseen in other parts of the country.  The Pennsylvania Dutch (actually German) brought their culture here and so did the Amish and Mennonites and their unique artistic touches are clearly visible on many antiques and artifacts if you know how to recognize them.  From the methods of construction of simple furniture, the elaborate designs on quilts and the hearts and tulip designs incorporated into wrought iron work and wooden ware, often point to the early settlers who brought them to our shores. The Amish, too, have had a profound influence on the popularity of simple and sometimes primitive objects.  Their homemade quilts, tools and toys are most desirable and with the Amish population ever increasing, at least the future availability of these and similar items seem assured.
 Items like this cranberry scoop are getting hard to find

But despite being able to find these treasures, and putting the Amish items aside, we know that the supply is diminishing.  Proof is in the steadily increasing prices across the board. Several of the local auction houses hold major cataloged sales of typical Pennsylvania antiques several times each year and the prices realized are truly remarkable.  Since some of the sales are now conducted simultaneously on the Internet, it's interesting to see how many items are sold to buyers around the country rather than in the sales room.  This surely reflects the growing interest in Americana and in Pennsylvania antiques in particular.  From our own Internet sales, we find that most of our sales of Pennsylvania Dutch or Amish antiques go to California and Texas with New York City a close third.

So what are the prospects for the neophyte collector who is unwilling or unable to compete at the top level

Think of the Americana antiques field as a huge pyramid  ...  with the paint decorated chests, the primitive portraits and truly rare items, all at the top or tip of the pyramid with the less rare items filling in the middle and the common items at the base.  As the items at the top become truly unobtainable, by going into major collections and museums, they disappear from the market.  Everything else on the pyramid moves up and the items on the bottom start to rise in value.  Things that are common today won't be, in the not too distant future.  They will increase in value and move up the pyramid,  to be replaced on the pyramid by things that today aren't even considered collectible.

Tin kitchen items are very collectible.  Still modestly priced
and still easily found
Having been in the business for almost forty years we've seen many categories of antiques rise from flea market status to important entries in auction catalogs today.  In our library of reference books we still have many old price guides from the 1970's and 1980's.  It breaks our hearts to think of what's passed through our hands over the years, but there you are ... If we knew then, what we know now ... The thing is, at some time,  if you want to get on the merry-go-round, now might be that time.


This is our first blog and we intend to do many more in the future.  We'll discus specific fields of collecting Country Antiques and good inside tips on how to learn about them and to acquire them.

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