So you want to become an antique collector? What makes a good antique collector, what characteristics does one need? Antique collecting, or hunting is an absorbing, exciting, and fulfilling pastime, or a full-time job if you’re doing it for a living, and you need five special attributes to become an antique collector.
The first of these characteristics is enthusiasm. With enthusiasm you can do anything. You’ll need enthusiasm to encourage you to learn as much as you can about your chosen field. The field of antiques is teaming with subjects – since just about everything will become an antique sooner or later – if it’s older than 100 years, by definition its an antique. But even objects less than 100 years old are also included in that genre if they are thought to be worthy of the label. Because the scope of the subject is so vast most antique collectors specialize in one or two aspects of it. They might collect antique clocks, or old paintings, books, period furniture, you name it, the list is endless. Or they might specialize in a particular period in time, like the Victorian era, or the early settlers period in the mid-western region of the States. Following your particular branch of the subject requires knowledge and you’ll only acquire this knowledge with enthusiasm.
Another antique hunting characteristic vital to your success is the ability to be inquisitive. Have you ever wondered what was up in your grandma’s old attic? Or what grandpa kept in that box in his bureau? One source of finding antiques is to attend house clearance sales. What’s in that pile of old papers in that cardboard box? Go along to auctions and snoop around. Go into antique shops, especially ones off the beaten tracks – many a treasure has been discovered by hunters being nosey.
Be a Detective
And having an inquisitive nature is no much good without having its sister characteristic – that of being a detective. Once an interesting item has been found there’s usually a good deal of detective work required to uncover its history. You’ll need to know at the very least when it was made or approximately the era that it was made in. Who owned it, is it rare? Can its background be determined with any degree of certainty? Can its history be traced? The provenance of an antique piece can add tremendous value to it. Provenance is anything to do with its origin or life history which is of great interest. For example if that recently discovered set of cutlery was once owned by George Washington then that cutlery would immediately achieve some notoriety – provenance – and be that much more valuable than cutlery for whom no famous owner or user could be determined. The detective’s expertise is extensive. You need to be able to tell the real from the fake; the restored from the original; and the repaired from the whole.
This expertise is only acquired through knowledge, which leads me to the next attribute – the ability to learn. You need to absorb as much as you can about your chosen field – it would be impossible to learn all about all antiques, so specialize on one area. Choose a genre – furniture, watches, old toys, farming implements, postage stamps, manuscripts – it’s an infinite list, and study the subject with a passion. The sources of achieving this knowledge are almost as endless as the subjects themselves. Books are an obvious mine of information but do visit auctions, house clearances, and antique dealers and ask questions – be inquisitive! The only silly question is the one you don’t ask!
Finally, be an adventurer. Explore your surroundings, go off into the neighboring town and walk around the curio shops, the old stores, the antique shops, the auction houses. Go into libraries and search out long forgotten manuscripts and books and search for information about local people and places. Find clues as to the whereabouts of the contents of old houses, or details about ownership of property passed down through generations – where are they now? Take the journey – search, be an explorer in the antique world.
With your enthusiasm, your inquisitive nature, your detecting ability and your intelligence born of knowledge you never know what you might find. Life is fun, history is thrilling, discovery satisfying, follow the antique collecting trail and enjoy it.