Sunday, January 16, 2011

Antiques from the Amish Farm - getting down and dirty

An Early Amish Milking Stool - Straight from the Barn
Country Antiques are reputed to be the most popular area of collecting in the entire antiques trade. That may or may not be true but it certainly seems to be, when one pays attention to all the antiques trade magazines, popular home decorating magazines and the huge amount of antique shops and malls which seem to cater to that area of the market.

Spending much of our time at auctions, estate sales, and the like, my wife and I have watched this phenomenom grow over the past thirty or so years. What was once considered to be just plain junk, is nowadays treated with a reverence once only bestowed on 'formal' antiques.  But be that as it may, we cannot dispute the fact that it has happened and will undoubtedly continue in the future.

Which brings us to the subject of our blog .... Antiques from the Amish Farm, and why you sometimes have to get down and dirty, to find 'em.

We live in the midst of a Pennsylvania farming community, which I'll admit, certainly helps if you're going to look for these items. New York City ... not so much. Yet it's surprising just how many of our antiques, which originated on one of our local farms, will work their way up the food chain to major urban areas.

Some of the items we've acquired locally, we've sold over the internet and shipped off to upscale dealers in New York and New England. One can only imagine what they do with them, but it's a fair guess that the local Amish farmer who sold it to us at a barn sale, would keel over if he knew where his old milking stool wound up. (One of our primitive items appeared recently in a dealer's ad in a prestigeous national antiques magazine).

Most of our surrounding farms and farmers are Amish and they may live a spartan life but they sure have a keen business sense and can be hard bargainers. Nevertheless, we still manage to obtain things like stools, wooden buckets, and primitive old hand made tools. The Amish must surely think the English (non Amish) are odd, to actually collect these old things, but they do seem aware of the market and are keenly aware of the values. Some of them have even become dealers, themselves. (but not on the internet!)

Starting in the early Spring, we keep our eyes open for roadside signs announcing farm and barn sales. We've poked around several Amish farms way off the beaten track and have found a few treasures in the process. Last Spring we spent a couple of hours at an Amish sale and we were just about the only non-Amish folks there. Bit of a language problem, because they tend to not speak English when among themselves. But despite the handicap, we still managed to obtain a few farmantiques that have since found their way to homes throughout the Country.

Parked Buggies at an all- day outdoor Auction
We attend a huge all-day, outdoor Amish auction each Summer. Usually 5 or 6 auctions going on at once. Most of the attendees are Amish families, out for the day. It's a sight like no other. They sell everything from quilts and baked goods to old farm tools and equipment. Tons and tons of it.  They bring it in by the wagon load.  Most of it is junk, but a keen eye can always spot the wheat amongst the chaff.

And starting at the end of February, several Amish communities hold what they call a 'Mud Sale'   An all day affair with livestock auctions, farm equipment and some antiques. If you can stand the cold (and the mud) they're an occasion not to miss. The youngsters play Amish games and there are contests among the young men. Quite a festive occasion. Again, country antiques from the farm can be found scattered among the many offerings and the dedicated dealer will be there, searching.

We've always pondered the attraction that some city folks have for the primitive things that originate in the country. But let's hope they continue to do so, for as long as there is a demand, the country dealers like us, will continue to endure the hardships, sometimes necessary, to provide them ... while at the same time, enjoying (almost) every minute of it!

Amish Parking Lot at an Outdoor Sale
 It goes without saying, that the opinions expressed on this blog are our own.  If you would like to comment or discuss any matter relating to the antiques business or collecting, we'd be happy to hear from you.

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