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Care and Repair of Antiques and Collectables
By Albert Jackson
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Albert Jackson
All right reserved.
Buying antiques and collectables
For some collectors, the excitement of finding a real 'gem" is almost as important as acquiring the piece itself and discovering a piece that has eluded them for years may assuage pangs of guilt at having paid a little too much for it. In order to maintain that level of pleasure and excitement, a collection has to grow--and finding accessible and reliable sources of supply is crucial to the process of building up a collection.
Nobody can advise you on what to collect--you are either drawn to it or you're not--but when you are looking around for things that could be of interest, you might consider opting for items that are plentiful and therefore are relatively cheap, rather than trying to compete with collectors who have been active in well-explored fields for years. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to go in for an area of collecting that is obscure or miss out on types of antiques that are popular--but it does involve doing some research, so that you can back up your own judgment as to whether something is worth collecting, rather than having to rely on catalogs or makers' names.
In any case, most people who are engrossed in their hobby find that research becomes absorbing and highly rewarding. Books and magazines constitute valuable and easily available sources of reference, butnothing can beat the firsthand experience that can be gained by windowshopping and browsing through markets and auction lots where you can handle antiques and examine them closely. In no time at all you begin to get a feel for what is available and whether you are likely to find enough items in restorable condition.
Buying from dealers
Whenever possible, any collector prefers to buy items that are in perfect condition, as long as the price is within reason--but the ability to clean and restore damaged antiques is a distinct advantage, especially as even minor flaws can reduce the asking price considerably.
Not all dealers stock damaged pieces, but frequenting a variety of dealers--ranging from high-class establishments to back-street junk shops--gives you a wider choice and also enables you to compare the difference in price between damaged pieces and those in perfect condition.
Get to know dealers who specialize in the types of antiques that interest you. You are unlikely to find bargains, but you will pay a fair going price as the dealer knows the market intimately. In addition, specialist dealers are invariably knowledgeable about their subject and are usually willing to share that knowledge with you--although it helps if you buy something from them from time to time!
Print dealers and small galleries are often a good source of restorable items. The best-quality material is usually mounted for framing or for display in the shop; but the majority of dealers also have folders full of torn and stained prints and other works of art, which they may be willing to sell cheaply rather than pay someone to restore them.
Book prices vary considerably from dealer to dealer. There are far too many subjects for a general dealer to keep track of, so there are frequently bargains to be found. Secondhand books can stay on a dealer's shelves for months, or even years--and a bookseller may be happy to do a deal with you, as long as he or she did not have to pay too much for it in the first place.
Junk shops that stock anything and everything are always worth visiting, but you have to be prepared to trawl through a lot of second-rate material to find the odd gem. Many of these dealers specialize in house clearances, and most of the good stuff is sent off to auctions.
It pays to visit your favorite dealers on a regular basis. You will, of course, see the same stock over and over again, but your persistence will be rewarded when you spot something special that has just come in and can snatch it up before anyone else sees it. Also, dealers soon recognize regular customers and are usually willing to reserve items of particular interest. By frequenting a number of outlets, you will have your finger on the pulse and may be in a position to spot a change in the market--certain items becoming rarer, higher prices being asked for items that once were commonplace--and take advantage of your knowledge to pick up a few bargains.
Most dealers are prepared to haggle. Indeed, some of them anticipate it by setting their prices at a slightly inflated level. A five to ten percent reduction is not unusual, but it depends on what the dealer had to pay for the item. So when he or she tells you that a lower price is not possible, accept it graciously--after all, dealers have to make a living. You will not usually get a reduction for credit-card transactions (except, perhaps, on expensive items), because the dealer has to pay a premium for the service. Most dealers will accept a check if you can guarantee it--but cash is usually preferable, especially for cheaper items or if you are haggling for a reduction.
Antique markets are mostly weekly events where dealers set up their stalls out in the open air or in halls or centers, but there are also permanent or semi-permanent markets in premises such as large warehouses and converted mills. The better markets are often supported by dealers who run antique shops during the week but bring a different stock to the market, where the lower overheads make for lower prices.
There is very little pressure to buy at markets, allowing you plenty of opportunity for browsing, comparing prices, and examining items at your leisure. Whatever it is you are looking for, you can be sure that there is a stall somewhere that has at least a few items of interest. Antique markets are an especially good source of unusual inexpensive jewelry, simply because it is portable. There are dealers who specialize in precious metals and gemstones, but the majority carry a wide selection of jewelry made from amber, coral, ivory, and other semiprecious materials. You may also come across collectable pieces made from early plastics.
Excerpted from Care and Repair of Antiques and Collectables by Albert Jackson Copyright © 2006 by Albert Jackson. Excerpted by permission.
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