Thursday, February 10, 2011

Antique Stores: Friend or Foe?

To me, antique stores are charming. Much like friends, booths have varied personalities. Some are quite tidy and organized, others are a casual jumble of happy colors. Some are so specialized that you can tell at a glance whether it's 'your kind of booth' or not. Other booths are so stacked, packed and knick-knacked that you fear even stepping foot in it, afraid that you will not just knock ONE thing over, but cause a tsunami of tchotchkes to tumble out every-which-where.

Digression: It's kinda funny I count these messy booths in the 'friend' category, but with some very careful & precarious, ballerina-like 'positioning', I have pulled out some of my very favorite treasures from these types of booths. I've come to think of it as American Pickers-style antiquing, but with air conditioning :-)

Also, like friends, you find booths that either wildly overvalue themselves as well as those who are on the shy side, price-wise. Generally, I find the spacious, well-groomed booths to be a good bit more pricey than their rumble-tumble brethren. Are they the equivalent of what we call "high maintenance"?

But on the whole, variety really is the spice of life. It just wouldn't be a good antique store without the mixtures and contradictions. A good antique store can feature finery behind locked and lighted glass display cases, as well as provide a welcoming home to kitchy kitchenalia.

Are you ready to rumble? Cause I sure am!
In no particular order, things I hate to see in a booth:

*Dishwashed to Death. There's almost nothing sadder to me than finding what was once a lovely, colorful vintage mixing bowl (think Pyrex or Hazel Atlas) that is quite obviously stripped of color and shine. I expect it at Goodwill, but when it makes its way into an antique store - Shame on you. I'm especially sassy about this because you tend to be the same people who price it as though it was still in mint condition. And you may not think much about the blogging community, but this is so common that we've coined our own term for it: DBD. Death By Dishwasher. Please don't do it.

*Reproductions and reissues not labeled as such. Now this is an issue where booth owners get cut miles of slack. Good-natured antique buyers assume the owners may not be aware that a certain depression glass patterns were commemorated in unique colors or styles. Or that "fantasy items" were produced and sold through places like or Cracker Barrel restaurants. A good booth owner should care about their items, research them individually, price and label them with fairness and honesty. Being "unaware" is a losing proposition for both buyers & sellers!

and finally, my personal pet peeve:

*Sellers whose booths seem like nothing more than a public tribute to their own personal collections. Please tell me I'm not the only one who has encountered this. Wildly overpriced pieces displayed gloriously and meticulously in spaciously well-appointed booths. Sometimes I halfway expect the booth owner to be sitting right there in a fine leather chair, black phone in hand, talking in serious and hushed tones to J. Edgar Hoover.

But if this isn't ringing any bells, maybe it's because it's not the right kind of rebel. This could just as easily describe the James Dean booth, filled with movie memorabilia. Or the Bruce Lee booth, filled with ninja stuff and swords.

Likely enough, it isn't even a rebel thing. It's a personal identity thing. Childhood toys and games, record collections, glassware collections, you name it. The tip-off here is not necessarily the content itself, but how it is priced. And when it's priced to stay forever, I tend to come to the conclusion that instead of paying booth rental fees, they should perhaps consider putting that money towards a safer way to enjoy and display their personal collections.


My rants are many. So many good things about antique stores. So many minor annoyances. But always, I will go back again and again. The thrill of the hunt! To me, antique stores are the perfect remedy to a disappointing patch of thrifting, and thrifting is the perfect remedy to antique store sticker-shock. But I've gotten so many good deals both ways, I will continue to love them both.

Happy Hunting!

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